To See Her is to Understand Her

To understand Yvette Bova, feast your eyes on her body. It’s the right thing to do.

“It’s impolite to stare” is a common piece of advice many of our mothers and grandmothers gave to us as children.

Whether the object we were staring at was a person in a wheelchair, a short person with dwarfism, or a man wearing a dress; the point our elder was trying to make is that by staring at this person for a longer than normal amount of time, we could be making them feel uncomfortable, singled out, or “freakish.” Nobody wants to feel like a social outcast, even if their outward appearance suggests the sentiment isn’t misplaced.

To not stare is to imply that this person should be treated as “normal,” even if they are not. Or even if they are intentionally trying to not be normal. You can’t tell me someone with a face tattoo doesn’t know this will bring additional attention to their appearance. If they get annoyed with people staring and asking them questions about it, why did they acquire it in the first place?

But the point is well taken. Very few of us want to be stared at because we don’t want to feel like an anomaly. We want to be accepted for who we are and not thought of as an outlier. People who appear abnormal on the outside – for whatever reason – just want to be accepted as normal. A small child stopping, staring, and *gasp* coming up to them and asking unwanted questions violates that very principle. So mom and grandma were correct (as usual). Just put yourself in their shoes (or high heels) and ask yourself how you would like to be treated.

This same idea, naturally, doesn’t always apply to female bodybuilders. FBBs, on the other hand, look the way they look by choice. They did not get there by accident or by happenstance. An FBB’s intentional choice to sculpt their bodies to look a certain way is etched into every muscle fiber. You see a female bodybuilder’s body and you can tell – with absolutely no ambiguity – who she is, what she stands for, and what her worldview revolves around.

Debi Laszewski has achieved her Final Form.

Can you tell who she voted for in the last presidential election or whether she prefers Elvis or the Beatles? Well, no. You can’t derive information that specific, but you can certainly deduce that she works out regularly, eats differently, and can probably defeat you in an arm-wrestling contest pretty easily. That much is really darn obvious.

Unlike a burn victim whose scars will forever tell the story of that tragic incident, a female bodybuilder proactively decides to be as bulky, sculpted, and aesthetically pleasing as she wants to be. It’s a choice, not a designation. Her muscles are part of her identity; an identity that she’s chosen to craft from scratch. And her hard work must be appreciated. After all, what’s the point of looking great if no one is around to look at you?

Whenever a female bodybuilder goes out in public, she knows that she will be stared at. And not just by children, but by everyone. Most well-behaved adults will try to be as inconspicuous as possible when they look at her. Some will be more successful than others at hiding their intentions. Whether you are intrigued by what you see, disgusted, grossed out, confused, curious, or uncontrollably aroused, we can all agree that one cannot simply look upon a muscular woman and not have any kind of emotional reaction. Unless you are so accustomed to being around female bodybuilders that seeing one in public is as mundane as seeing a Seattle hipster wearing flannel. If this is the case with you, please let me know where you live ASAP!

But here’s the difference. Whereas a person with a physical deformity or handicap deserves to be treated with respect and not singled out for being different, a female bodybuilder looks different on purpose…and wants to be looked at as being unique.

This, of course, doesn’t excuse rude comments, insults, or physical harassment. Then again, why anybody would want to provoke a strong female bodybuilder who could beat your ass to a pulp is beyond me. But I digress.

Go ahead. Look at Sondra Faas. It’s okay.

FBBs know they look unusual. They know their lifestyle (hours upon hours spent lifting at the gym, strict dieting, etc.) is out of the ordinary. They know not everyone approves of a woman having big muscles. They know they’re taking a risk. They know they could fail. They know they’re challenging taboos, social expectations, and norms. But these warnings do not deter them from pursuing their dreams. In fact, the desire to openly defy these realities may be fueling their life’s work.

So when an FBB goes to the grocery store (back before everyone had to wear face masks and carry around sanitizing wipes everywhere), she can expect that people will stop and stare at her. And you know what? That’s exactly the idea. Maybe not in every case, but generally speaking. Many FBBs talk about how fun it is for people to stare at them in public. They intentionally wear tight clothing because it shows off their muscles. They aren’t annoyed by the additional attention, but rather are flattered by it. Within reason, of course.

But more than feeding one’s ego, it’s important to remember why bodybuilders – both male and female – choose to do what they do. They build their bodies up to look a certain way because it makes them feel empowered, strong, dynamic, superhuman, and yes, freakish (but in a good way). This concept goes into overdrive when we’re talking about women who pursue bodybuilding.

Men are socially expected to be strong alpha providers. While technology, science, engineering, and innovation have made “strength” in the traditional sense somewhat obsolete for survival (we no longer have to hunt and gather our food, but instead patiently wait in line at Costco at least six feet apart from each other), the symbolic importance of physical strength still survives. There’s no practical reason for Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, or Phil Heath to get as massive as they are. But there are plenty of reasons to do so from a professional perspective. You know we’ve advanced as a society when people can earn a living doing impractical – but awesome – things. Gaining hundreds of pounds of muscle isn’t going to make it easier for you to pay your mortgage, but the product endorsement deals you get because of your muscles certainly will.

Kim Buck on full display.

Okay, okay, so men are expected to be strong. We are accustomed to seeing men look big, muscular, invincible, and dominant. But what about women?

There’s no need to go too deep into this, but women are taking a much bigger risk in getting super bulky than men are. Their unnatural muscle mass makes them more unusual because we don’t expect women to ever get that big. Not because they are not able to, but because our society doesn’t encourage them to. The “strong independent woman” trope is more about attitude than it is about practicality. We want to raise our daughters to be mentally and emotionally strong, as opposed to literally strong. Unless you want your little girl to grow up to be a millionaire MMA fighter who can subsidize your future retirement.

All of this is to say that a woman with big muscles is a woman who defies social norms, whether she intends to or not. A woman gains big muscles proactively, not passively. And in doing so, she’s opening up herself to the types of criticism and backlash that a male counterpart would not face. So, what does this all mean?

This means that she is meant to be stared at. Maybe not intentionally, but in principle. An FBB is meant to be looked at. Her body of work (pun intended) is meant to be appreciated. It is meant to be a spectacle. She is a work of art who deserves to be displayed at a museum, even if this museum is more symbolic than literal. In this case, the museum she is displayed in is the real world she inhabits. A supermarket. A public park. A gym. A church. A busy street corner. A nightclub. A library. A restaurant. A bar. An airport. And so on.

Look at Kim Birtch. LOOK. AT. HER.

Wherever she is, whatever she’s doing, she’s meant to be seen. Because to see her is to understand her. You understand her raison d’etre. Her life’s purpose. Her muscles aren’t meant to be hidden. Her muscles aren’t a secret. They should be proudly exhibited as openly as possible.

Here’s a great example. Watch this video of Margie Martin at the 2019 Wings of Strength Rising Phoenix World Championship. It shows a portion of the show where an interviewer speaks to all (or most) of the contestants in front of the whole audience. Watch and be prepared to be dazzled:

Whew! Wow!!! What a moment. What a time to be alive. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be there at that moment in time? I think many of us would have passed out if we saw Margie unexpectedly strip down to a bikini – or try our best to suppress an uncomfortable erection straining in our underwear.

This moment perfectly encapsulates what I’m talking about when I say “to see her is to understand her.” Margie’s beautiful body doesn’t deserve to be hidden underneath that dress (despite her dress leaving little to the imagination as it is). Her beautiful body deserves to be proudly presented in front of an audience of hundreds of screaming fans. Her body deserves adoration. She deserves those screams and applause. That single moment was when Margie was at the Peak of Her Purpose. When her body was being SEEN by everyone in plain sight.

Granted, it would have been socially inappropriate for her to have stripped completely naked. So sporting just a bikini was the maximum of how far she could have gone. But the larger idea remains intact: she was bare. Or as bare as she could possibly be. Her nudity (or near nudity) didn’t make her vulnerable, however. The exact opposite, in fact. Her nude state made her as powerful as she could ever be. Wearing that dress was a disservice to herself, her identity, and her very philosophical purpose. In order for her to fulfill her maximum utility, she had to be as naked as possible in front of as large an audience as possible. There’s no other way around it. It was almost a requirement. Anything less than that would have been an abdication of duty.

Once her dress came off, she had accomplished her personal version of Nirvana. She had reached her summit. Her peak. Her true self. Her real form had finally taken shape. Not just the fact that she had spent the last several months training to become as hypermuscular as possible. No, more than that. In that moment, her body was being seen by the public. By the world. By the whole universe. Even God Himself had to stop whatever He was doing and say out loud, “Damn! She looks great!!!” This was the moment when her final form had reached its zenith.

This is how a female bodybuilder fulfills her destiny. When she’s SEEN. When people are LOOKING at her. When her body is out in the open, almost as in-your-face as possible. When she’s not holding back. When her audience gets more than they bargained for. More than they wanted. More than they actually deserved. When people are staring at her, they are not only doing her a service, they are almost obliged to. We are obligated to SEE her body. We MUST stare at her because to not stare at her would be a sin. It would be a moral failure on our part.

In that moment, Margie was making a statement, whether she knew it or not. She was making a statement that her body must be looked at. Closely. Inspected. Judged. Appreciated. Loved. If you want to truly understand who Margie is and why she does what she does, all you have to do is see her.

See.

Her.

Look.

At.

Her.

Watch.

Her.

Observe.

Her.

Margie’s body isn’t just a part of her identity. It’s the very foundation of her identity. If you don’t look at her body, you will never understand who she is. You’d be a blind person trying to describe an elephant to another blind person. You can try your best but you’ll always fail. In this spirit, go ahead. Look at her. Stare at her. Feast your eyes on her. Make sure she is SEEN. When you look at her body, you aren’t just looking at her body – you’re looking at her soul.

Building muscles is her job. Seeing those muscles is yours.

The Scarcity Principle: What it Means, What We Can Learn From it and How it Relates to Female Bodybuilders

Cathy LeFrancois is the Holy Grail of female bodybuilders.
Cathy LeFrancois is the Holy Grail of female bodybuilders.

Let’s discuss a topic that’s relevant to both social psychology and economics.

The Scarcity Principle.

The Scarcity Principle refers to the belief that human beings tend to place a higher value on an object that is scarce and a lower value on objects that are abundant.

In other words, people are attracted to things that are in limited supply. We love anything that we consider to be “special” or “unique” or “available for a limited time only.”

We couldn’t care less for things that are readily available, accessible to the general public or are a dime a dozen. No sir! I want what nobody else can get.

If my cousin Bob and sister Jane can have it too…well, then count me out. I don’t want it anymore!

We can think of numerous examples in everyday life that confirm The Scarcity Principle. How about the Black Friday sales you see the day after Thanksgiving? If you think about it, any item that’s on sale on Black Friday is also available during the other 364 days of the calendar year. Yet, how can you say “no” to those low prices? How am I ever going to find discounts on washing machines this good anywhere else?

Or think of it in terms of the dating pool. Logically, we’d think that loneliness would never happen in a large metropolitan city. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Studies have shown (and I have no clue whatsoever who actually conducts these studies) that people have a harder time finding friends and romantic partners in a big city versus a smaller suburb or town. Why is this? Simple: When there are too many people around, you place a lower value on them.

Why date this particular guy or a girl when I have plenty of other options at my disposal?

Yet, people remain lonely despite these alleged “plenty of other options.” When you hear people say there are plenty of fish in the sea, it leaves a heartbroken person little comfort. Because, ironically, that’s the problem unto itself! There are way too many options out there for you to choose from. So, you get antsy and decide not to choose anyone at all.

The one and only Tina Chandler.
The one and only Tina Chandler.

It’s better to be safe (alone) than sorry (in a relationship that you ultimately find boring and unfulfilling), one rationalizes to one’s self.

According to census data, in 1950 the world’s population was approximately 2.5 billion people. Today, it’s well over 7 billion. That means in 64 years (which isn’t that much time when you consider how long humans have lived on this planet) the number of people on Earth has nearly tripled. Tripled! Think about that. At the end of World War II, for every person on the planet there would be two more today. If you killed (or magically transported to Venus) two-thirds of our population, you could return back to the days when Communism was considered the next big thing and poodle skirts were all the rage.

Oh, what a simpler time that was!

Yet, despite these statistical facts, we see worldwide an explosion of online dating websites, high divorce rates and loneliness in urban cities. With more people around, shouldn’t we have an easier time finding the love of our life? How can we not have enough friends when there are 7 billion potential buddies occupying this floating rock in space together?

Seem counterintuitive? It should, because none of this makes any logical sense. But, if you really think about it, all of this makes perfect sense.

Think of it this way. Imagine you’re about to have dinner at a restaurant. You’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary or just having a special night out on the town. You sit down (let’s imagine it’s an elegant Italian place), open the menu, scan your options and are dumbfounded. What do you order? I mean, there are so many dishes I could pick! I could get a pasta dish, a pizza, a calzone, a dinner salad, something from the seafood section…or I could sell out and get a hamburger.

I like hamburgers. Sure, I’ll go with the cheeseburger and fries, Mrs. Salvatore!

Having too many options makes people nervous. What if I choose the “wrong” option even though there probably isn’t a “wrong option” in the first place? Odds are every dish at this fine restaurant will provide you a great tasting dinner. But there’s that sliver of doubt in your mind that tells you one dish has to be superior to the rest. And you’d be a fool to pick the wrong one.

Monique Hayes is ready for her close-up!
Monique Hayes is ready for her close-up!

So do you ask your waiter or waitress to make a recommendation for you? Or do you close your eyes and randomly select a choice with your index finger? Either option would probably work equally well. Or you could simply order what someone else is having (“I’ll have what she’s having”), thus putting the decision-making pressure off of you.

The same goes for economics.

I don’t want the tablet device or smartphone that all my neighbors have. I want the newest model that none of these suckers have…even though they’ll eventually get it a year or two from now.

Because, let’s be completely honest here, who doesn’t want to be the envy of your pals for having the nicest and shiniest new toys?

Corporations and marketing teams exploit The Scarcity Principle to the point where it’s become a science. Figuring out how to maximize profit in a short amount of time given a limited supply of a particular product isn’t difficult to do. Create limited-time offers. Hype up a sales day. Intentionally release your new products slowly. Create an advertising strategy that implies that not everyone should use this product, but you can.

Everything boils down to making an object feel special even if it’s not. Conversely, when an object is in abundance, you don’t want it as much. Fifteen years ago it was cool to have a cell phone because no one else had one. Today, everyone and their grandmother has a smartphone that can call, text, surf the Internet and wash your car. Now it’s become mainstream. And nothing sucks more than something that’s lost its coolness and has become so damn ordinary.

A buff, beautiful Asian woman. Amanda Lau is scarce, indeed.
A buff, beautiful Asian woman. Amanda Lau is scarce, indeed.

So, let’s do a quick recap. We value things that are scarce. We don’t value things that are common. We get overwhelmed by too many options. We get underwhelmed when a previously rare commodity becomes commonplace. In a nutshell, supply (either the abundance or shortage of it) warps our perceptions of the actual value of said supply.

What can we learn from this? Simple. It is important to place a value on everything – using our own objective criteria – so we know what something is worth despite what external influences may tell us.

Don’t let clever marketing strategies or base emotions dictate how you view the value of something or someone. Your cute but shy co-worker who’s always around could very well be more valuable than that elusive hot blonde you see at the bus stop every day. You don’t need “new” gadgets when the “old” models work just fine. Too many options can be a bad thing despite what consumer culture tells you.

The Scarcity Principle tells us that the dynamics of supply and demand, while it has nothing to do with altering the intrinsic worth of an object, can manipulatively make us place artificial values on objects for no good reason. A slice of pizza from a shopping mall food court isn’t necessarily less delicious than a slice of pizza at a 5-star hotel. It could be, but don’t automatically assume so.

That guy who’s playing “hard to get” isn’t necessarily better “boyfriend material” than the shy fellow who lives next door to you who’s kind, sweet but a tad socially awkward.

So, what does this have to do with female bodybuilders?

Good question!

Female bodybuilders, like fine French wine or a blood red moon, are rare. Period. They aren’t available in everyday life. Millions upon millions of women in our society don’t look like Lora Ottenad or Kasie Cavanaugh. Oh, it would be sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet if that were the case, but sadly it isn’t.

The Scarcity Principle might explain why many men (and women) idolize female bodybuilders to the point of developing an obsession with them. We obsess over them because their rarity grants them God-like divine status in our eyes. We love them for all the traditional reasons (sex appeal, gorgeous bodies, stunning physiques), but we also love them because there’s this thing about them you can’t teach:

Mystique.

Female bodybuilders are mystifying. They pique our curiosity. Their mysteriousness titillates us. Muscular women are like a Rubik’s Cube. No matter how much you try to figure them out, they keep throwing more twists and turns at you to keep you guessing for all eternity. How do they look like that? Why do they want to look like that? What drives them to look like? When a female bodybuilder walks into a room, everyone’s attention instantly focuses on her. Some are aroused. Others are disgusted. A few are confused and conflicted. But the reaction that speaks loudest is this: Reverence.

We revere those whom we are attracted to but feel separated from. Female bodybuilders aren’t normal women. Technically, they’re no different from anybody else, but hot damn! How can you not become obsessed with Cathy LeFrancois or Catherine Holland?

Their ambiance is so captivating. And once you get your first taste of muscular women, you can never go back.

How much reverence do you have for Nicole Ball?
How much reverence do you have for Nicole Ball?

The deification of female bodybuilders is caused by The Scarcity Principle. There’s no other explanation for it. These women are beautiful rare specimens. Like a brilliant diamond sparkling on top of a museum pedestal, we fixate over them because they seem so far away from us. For most of us, a genuinely large female bodybuilder is probably nowhere to be found. I don’t know about you, but FBBs who look like Katka Kyptova aren’t exactly regulars at the Starbucks across from my apartment.

No wonder why many FBBs do “sessions” with their adoring fans. Where else are regular folk going to be able to touch the rock hard muscles of an exquisite muscular woman? Popular session providers can probably make a healthy amount of income (all tax free, no doubt) when all is said and done. One road trip across America, Europe and anywhere else a female bodybuilder decides to embark upon could put a lot of dough in her pocket – even after she takes travel expenses into account.

So there you have it. Now you have a better understanding from a psychological and economic perspective why we love female muscle so much. Their scarcity gives them power. Their uncommonness (yes, that’s actually a word) gives them the ultimate bargaining chip.

Female bodybuilders aren’t like ice cream flavors at Baskin-Robbins or used bicycles on Craigslist. Female bodybuilders are like The Holy Grail from the Arthurian legend.

A divine object that can make men go mad with obsession. Men will kill each other just to have it. She holds all the power. We commoners are powerless to resist.

Not that we’d want to resist, of course!