Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past two years, or if you live outside of the United States and you don’t particularly care what happens in this country, most of you should be aware that very soon we will be bringing this God-awful presidential election to a merciful end and will choose who our next Commander-in-Chief will be.
I refuse to even name the two candidates who are running for my nation’s highest public office on the grounds that both of them have received enough attention from people like you and I. So perhaps this post will remain relevant four, eight, or twelve years from now. Who knows?
If this excruciating and painful election cycle has taught us anything – and it has indeed taught us many valuable lessons about the state of my nation and politics in general – it’s that qualifications for the job don’t matter to the typical voter when it comes to selecting the next U.S. President. So, in an effort to not get too political and keep matters civil, I will lay out a tongue-in-cheek argument for why Americans (and people from other countries who are blessed to live in a representational democracy, or at least a country that practices such style of governance in theory) should decide to vote for a female bodybuilder for president on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.
I will admit that I am embarrassed as a U.S. citizen to subject the world to watching our political theater play out in all its horrifying glory. Let’s hope 2016 is just one of those “weird” years that we look back upon decades later and proudly declare that we were fortunate enough to have lived through it (for the most part) unscathed. After all, we could do worse. And odds are we will actually end up doing worse sooner or later.
But I digress. I am no political commentator, but in my opinion the most significant reason why U.S. politics sucks right now is because we expect our politicians to deliver on promises that were unrealistic to begin with…which then breeds contempt, more unrealistic expectations, and more extreme candidates who can only get elected if they continue to up-the-ante and foster a whole new set of stupid promises. This means personality tends to matter more than qualifications or knowledge about the job, which explains an awful lot.
However, a female bodybuilder lives in a completely different world than politicians – but can offer said politicians a lot of life lessons that could go a long way in generating better public policies.
Think about the world a female bodybuilder inhabits. She’s working in an industry that persistently is trying to weed her out of it. The Ms. Olympia is dead and buried and doesn’t appear to be coming back any time soon. Other competitions may rise out of the ashes and attempt to take its place, but that doesn’t change the fact that the IFBB isn’t too keen on allowing hypermuscular competitors to be the “face” of the female side of the sport. They’d rather more “audience friendly” fitness and bikini competitors take center stage over the bigger and buffer ladies who’ve worked harder to achieve their physiques.
So, right off the bat a female bodybuilder has to endure working in a profession where the chances of cultivating strong career prospects are becoming dimmer and slimmer as time marches on. Yet, money doesn’t fall from the skies and she has to make an income somehow. This is where things like personal training, one-on-one online consulting, fitness entrepreneurship, and ahem, offering wrestling or muscle worship sessions to paying customers (all under the table and away from the prying hands of tax collectors, of course!) fit into the picture. She may not necessarily want to do any or most of these things, but as I mentioned before, money doesn’t grow on trees and food won’t miraculously appear on the dinner table out of thin air. So, a female bodybuilder who wants to pursue bodybuilding as a profession – more or less – must adapt to her present circumstances or face the inevitable option of having to choose a different career path.
Adaptation isn’t easy or seamless, but it does happen. People who live in the real world adapt every single day of their lives. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today and sure as hell won’t work tomorrow, so it’s foolish to remain stilted in one’s ways of doing things. One must always look for the next best opportunity or face the consequences of becoming poor, irrelevant, or both. This requires understanding the bodybuilding industry well, knowing what customers want (if you get my drift), and being willing to forge a new pathway if the current ones leads to a dead end. I didn’t say it’s easy to do this, but it can be done. We can collectively name hundreds of female bodybuilders from all across the world who can testify to this.
Another aspect to female bodybuilding that’s important to realize is the independent nature of the sport. Unlike team sports like baseball, football (the one that features tackling, throwing, and catching), basketball, hockey, soccer, rugby, and others, bodybuilding isn’t a sport that consists of teams, teammates, and being dependent upon others to win games. It’s solely on the shoulders of each individual athlete.
Of course, it deserves to be said that every single top-level bodybuilder – male or female – has a large team of coaches, trainers, nutritional experts, doctors, and assistants who aid them on their journey to becoming an elite competitor. No man is an island, and perhaps no woman is an island either. So a female bodybuilder isn’t completely paddling a single canoe. But there’s no denying that bodybuilding is ruggedly individualistic in nature. The panel of judges that decides who wins and who doesn’t win only looks at the individual competitors, not who they have standing in their corner cheering them on.
Muhammad Ali is known as the greatest boxer of all time – not Muhammad Ali and his army of personal trainers, physicians, sparring partners, promoters, advisors, and so on. Though every top athlete has help from a team of professionals, but only one person is in the ring fighting against his or her opponent. And the last time I checked, Ali was the only one in that ring staring down his hapless challenger.
Bodybuilders of all stripes understand this reality intuitively. If they make a mistake, they alone must answer for it. They can’t blame a lazy teammate, idiotic coaching, or an overall poor supporting cast for being a perpetual loser. They only have themselves to blame if they placed 3rd at last year’s competition but 10th this year. That drop-off can have plenty of rational explanations (biased judging being a prominent one), but at the end of the day every single competitor is responsible for their own training, progress, dieting, and outcomes.
Which leads us to the next point…
Female bodybuilders aren’t striving to achieve a goal that exists only in the abstract. Rather, they bust their tails every day of their lives working toward a goal that’s specific, tangible, measurable, attainable, and very damn difficult to meet. There’s an element of poetic beauty integral to this reality, isn’t there?
If a new and up-and-coming female athlete looks at photos of Alina Popa, Debi Laszewski or Brigita Brezovac and says to herself, “I want to look like that one day,” guess what? She can! Granted, it won’t be easy and the journey from Point A to Point B will be arduous, tumultuous, and full of plenty of doubt. But nevertheless, one cannot deny that the goal can be met if she sets her mind to it and educates herself on what is necessary to get there.
Unlike politicians who promise big and bold achievements that probably aren’t realistic and only will set their constituents up for disappointment, a female bodybuilder has a distinct goal in mind that’s specific and can accurately be visualized ahead of time. It doesn’t exist in a theoretical universe that looks great on paper or in a rousing speech but doesn’t actually work in real life. Bodybuilding is a sport where end results aren’t achieved by dumb luck or happenstance. It materializes when an athlete makes a definitive decision to take specific action toward achieving a precise goal.
Nobody will argue that it’ll be easy to look like Lisa Cross or Rene Campbell. That high degree of muscularity doesn’t come easily. But one cannot also argue that such objectives are impossible. They are quite possible to meet, albeit after one is eager to dramatically reorganize one’s lifestyle.
Point B isn’t a hypothetical reality that exists only in one’s mind. Building an impressive level of muscle mass is a concrete end that arises after participating in concrete means. Gaining x number of pounds of muscle or placing in the top five of a certain bodybuilding contest are measurable and quantifiable aims that are either achieved or not achieved. There is no middle ground. There is no ambiguity. Either it happened or it didn’t. Period.
And who is to blame if one sets out to gain bigger biceps and triceps and fails? You guessed it. The person who established these goals in the first place and nobody else.
One other facet of female bodybuilders that must be addressed is the fact that FBBs are, for the most part, not worried about being popular or widely accepted by society. A woman who chooses to pursue bodybuilding in any serious manner is opening herself up to a variety of different kinds of obstacles – many of which she would not face had she not decided to become a bodybuilder.
It’s no mystery that a woman with big muscles is an unusual sight to see. Simply put, these women are rare in our world. Yet, a small number of remarkable women are actively working to build big muscles despite the potential backlash that might come with it. Many will receive looks of repulsion or disgust. Accusations of being “too manly” or “becoming a man” will start to flood in. There will be those who will ask her “do you have to get that big?” Others will question her life choices and wonder if she’s hiding something.
But no matter what comes her way, a female bodybuilder must be tough-minded and relentless in the pursuit of her dreams. She must endure people looking at her differently. She must accept the fact trolls on the Internet will post nasty remarks about her. She knows the road to becoming a pro bodybuilder will be strenuous…but she does it regardless. That’s not easy to do. There aren’t too many of us in this world who are capable of breaking all those barriers, jumping over all those hurdles, and trudging through all those obstacles when the easier road is to not pursue bodybuilding in the first place.
She does what she wants to do knowing it won’t be popular with everyone. Yes, she will meet people along the way who will support her, but certainly that won’t be everybody. Doing the right thing – following your dreams – despite outside noise takes emotional and intellectual fortitude. Do you honestly believe some of our elected representatives share that same level of internal strength?
The final point I’ll make (although I could go on further) is that a female bodybuilder possesses a deep understanding of how the world works and must apply this knowledge practically in the quest of her chosen profession. She needs to be an entrepreneur, agent, marketer, business manager, scheduler, public relations specialist, nutritionist, athletic trainer, and personal ambassador all at the same time. As a small fish in a big pond, an FBB’s success or failure wholly depends upon how well she understands her circumstances and how she can cultivate an accomplished career from it (or despite it).
In this respect, female bodybuilders earn what’s coming to them. They aren’t “given” success. Nobody votes for them to have large muscles or a chiseled physique. They have to expel blood, sweat, and tears day in and day out to achieve their bodies. Granted, a panel of judges does elect how she places at a competition, but that’s an exception. For the most part, she wouldn’t have been able to reach that point of being on that stage unless she put in the hard work beforehand. Besides, actual competing is only a small part of the rewards that come from bodybuilding.
The biggest reward is the personal satisfaction of knowing that you’ve accomplished something grand. Nobody can take that away from you. Your opponents may have more trophies than you, but what every single competitor has is the sense of triumphant pride that comes with pursuing a goal with manic obsession. Truly, an FBB earns her success. That’s how the real world operates.
Presidents, prime ministers, senators, representatives, governors, MPs, city councilmembers, mayors, and other positions of elected authority do not always share these same traits. It seems rather odd to have a system where the power to regulate, tax, create new laws, authorize war, or incarcerate citizens are given to people who get that job simply by winning a glorified popularity contest. Very strange, indeed. But, that’s the system we have until something better replaces it.
Here in the United States of America, we give the nuclear codes to people we wouldn’t trust to manage the local Burger King. We trust those who’ve never ran a business to regulate businesses. We ask people who’ve never served in the military to send young men and women they’ve never met to a foreign country and die for an ambiguous cause. To summarize, we elect people who don’t understand how the world works to decide how the world works.
However, ask I’ve just articulated, a female bodybuilder does understand how the world works. She has to in order to survive. She must understand how to relate to people. She knows what it’s like to be a businesswoman…because she essentially is a one-woman business. She does what she does regardless of how unpopular it might make her. At the end of the day, a female bodybuilder shares these characteristics:
- Mental toughness
- Entrepreneurial savviness
- Knowledgeable about the real world
- Strength – both physical and emotional
- Ability to earn her success
As I’ve said before, the list can go on and on. But you get the idea. I’m not suggesting that we should actually elect current or former female bodybuilders to high positions of political power just because they happen to be current or former FBBs. However, what I do want to illustrate is that FBBs boast a unique perspective on life that cannot be easily replicated or transferred.
She’s earned her success. She’s forged her own path. She’s self-taught herself topics in areas like calisthenics, biology, science, nutrition, sports medicine, etc. She lives in an environment that can be cruel and adversarial toward her. She knows how to persevere through obstacles and come out better for it. She must adapt to her surroundings…or die refusing to do so.
That’s not an easy thing to do. It’s not for everyone. Certainly not people who’ve existed in an Ivy League-encrusted silver spoon-fed bubble for their entire lives. As Americans go to the polls on November 8 they should ask themselves, “How the hell did we get here in the first place?” It’s a perfectly valid question; one that doesn’t have any easy answers.
But perhaps the answer is simple. We, as a nation, don’t value the right things. We value what we want to hear, not what we should hear. We live in a fantasy world full of bright shiny objects, not in the real world where decisions have actual consequences.
Female bodybuilders, on the other hand, do not get to live in such a magical universe. They must always be on their toes. They cannot get lazy or entitled. They must continuously grind in order to reach the Promised Land – which nobody actually promised them at all. In short, female bodybuilders represent humanity at its best. FBBs don’t make empty promises about what they think they’ll do. They actually do it every single day of their lives.
I’d vote for that.