As of this writing, the world is given the unexpected and ultimately thankless task of having to deal with the outbreak of COVID-19, a particularly nasty strain of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. We do not yet know how long this international crisis will last or what the ultimate cost will be in terms of human life, economic health, and social structures. What we do know is that lawmakers are issuing orders for citizens to practice “Social Distancing,” which basically means staying at least six feet away from people and living life as a government-imposed hermit.
COVID-19 knows no national borders, does not respect cultural norms, and can spread like wildfire if it’s not properly contained. This is why these drastic measures – which also include shutting down certain businesses, laying off employees who work at those businesses, and encouraging those who can still work to work remotely – are deemed necessary by our elected (and non-elected, depending on where you live) leaders.
Quite bothersome, this inconsiderate variation of the coronavirus happens to be!
“Social distancing” is quite the academic term for staying at home and binge-watching Netflix all day (even if you’re supposed to be “working” away from the office). Yet, this has become a commonly used colloquial expression that will no doubt show up on the list of “Word of the Year” when 2020 is all said and done. Assuming we all make it that far, of course. Oof.
For fans of female bodybuilders, these trying times add an additional level of turmoil. Due to travel restrictions, muscle worship and fantasy wrestling sessions are on hold indefinitely. Female bodybuilders and wrestlers aren’t able to travel from city to city…and many would-be customers aren’t allowed to leave the house unless they’re healthcare workers, heading to the grocery store, or going for a jog around the neighborhood. Like the restaurant business and other service industries, the Female Muscle Economy is going to experience a major financial recession in the coming weeks. Clearly, this is a no-win situation for everyone involved.
Yet, one cannot help but notice a striking similarity between feeling distant from co-workers, family members, and neighbors and actually being geographically distant from female bodybuilders. Unless you live in Southern California, parts of Brazil, or are lucky enough to happen to know a few FBBs personally, most of us are (unfortunately) not within close proximity to the muscular ladies we adore. We’re “socially distant” from them by default, not by choice. This is considerably frustrating for those of us who love muscular women, since our tastes for the finer things in life are not easily satiated.
Do female bodybuilders and fantasy wrestlers travel across the country to meet up with clients? Well, yes (in normal times, obviously). If you live in a big enough city, can you purchase a ticket to a bodybuilding competition? Once again, yes, this is an option. So our access to muscular women isn’t nonexistent, but they aren’t nearly as common as, say, the cute girl you meet at the bar drinking alone (or at least you think she’s alone). From what we can tell, there isn’t a designated watering hole where FBBs frequent in mass quantities. So the interactions you do have with a small number of FBBs will be few and far between by default.
This brings into focus the observation that female muscle fandom can be so frustrating at times because of how distant we are from our beloved ladies. Female bodybuilding is not mainstream. Female bodybuilders are not mainstream. They aren’t celebrities in the traditional sense of the word. Perhaps they are within the microscopic world that we inhabit together (including the readers of this very blog), but not outside of it. Our frustration isn’t major, but it’s ever present.
FBBs can feel like a rainbow-colored unicorn at times. Or buried treasure on a deserted island. Or a supernova. Or galaxies outside the Milky Way. Or Bigfoot. They don’t feel real in a practical sense. We know intellectually that muscular women exist in this world, but we have to proactively go searching for them in order to observe them. Theoretical quantum physics tells us that multiple parallel universes may exist. But no human being has been able to witness one outside of our own. That doesn’t mean the multiverse doesn’t exist, of course. It just means we haven’t been able to see it with our own eyes. Likewise, we know female bodybuilders exist because we have the Internet, old muscle magazines collecting dust in our attics, and Instagram feeds to scroll through. But can we simply walk our dog through a public park and casually see a few FBBs jogging alongside us? No. No, we cannot.
The Socially Distant Female Bodybuilder is the default in our lives. They are beautiful creatures who might as well exist in mythology. We should be reading about them in medieval literature classes or watching them in National Geographic documentaries. Before COVID-19 started disrupting our lives, you could easily go to the grocery store, gym, or nightclub and see lots of young women who look just as beautiful as Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift. Heck, I’m pretty sure I went to high school with at least a dozen girls who looked like Billie Eilish. So because of that, mainstream celebrities don’t feel as “mythological” because we can observe in our everyday lives people who (for the most part) resemble them. Their “normal” counterparts are a dime a dozen.
But muscular women like Amber Deluca or Theresa Ivancik? Yeah, they are not a dime a dozen. One does not simply (walk into Mordor?) go to a trendy sports bar and see a world-class female bodybuilder hanging out with her buddies eating chicken wings and nursing a beer while watching to see if her March Madness (may you R.I.P. in 2020) bracket gets busted. And if you do happen to stumble across that sort of scene, good for you. But that is not the norm for the majority of us. And because this is not normal, it’s easy to think of FBBs as being closer to unicorns than a celebrity sighting in Malibu.
Here’s a personal anecdote: I haven’t met with too many loyal readers in real life, but one time I did several years ago. He’s from a different country but was in town to visit relatives. He emailed me a few weeks before and asked if I wanted to grab coffee with him. I enthusiastically agreed. It’s not too often that you can have a candid discussion about female muscle fandom with someone who truly “gets” where you’re coming from! After work I drove 30 minutes to where his in-laws live. We met at a Starbucks located in a strip mall and talked for more than an hour. We discussed our mutual love for muscular women, our experiences participating in muscle worship sessions, and who some of our favorite ladies are. What a refreshing experience!
However, there was one thing he said that has always stuck in my mind. He said the first time he ever met an FBB for a session was a jarring experience. Yeah, I thought to myself, it is! He said he felt slightly disappointed that she wasn’t super tall. I thought that was a strange observation. Most women aren’t super tall. On average, women tend to be shorter than men. She was big in every other way, he tells me, but not nearly as tall as he was expecting. Huh? You actually think all female bodybuilders are tall? If you flip through old magazines or scroll through Wikipedia pages of prominent female competitors, most of them are between 5 to 6 feet tall, the majority of them on the lower end of that spectrum. Most FBBs aren’t as tall as NBA players because most women in general aren’t as tall as NBA players. FBBs weren’t born that way. They began life just like everybody else. So why would they be naturally taller?
Then it hit me why he would think that way. His whole life he’s cultivated in his mind a fantasy image of what an FBB looks like. In their photos, they look larger than life. A clever photographer or camera operator can make a short person seem huge if they’re shot from an upward angle. Especially if the FBB is the only person in frame. A short person is only short if he or she is short in comparison to the other people they’re around. The same goes for a tall person. Short and tall are all relative.
But my friend here, who up to this point had never actually met a female bodybuilder up-close in real life, thought all FBBs were tall because that’s what his fantasy of FBBs told him. To him – and to all of us – FBBs are larger than life. In every way imaginable. But in reality, they aren’t quite so big as we think they are. Don’t get me wrong! FBBs are really big ladies. But they aren’t gargantuan. They aren’t monsters. They’re human beings. They’re just as tall (or short) as most women you meet in everyday life. They just have a lot more meat on their bones. They’re bulkier, but not like the Incredible Hulk. They’re not cartoon characters. They’re still human beings.
Your typical FBB isn’t 6’ 5” and weighs 300 pounds. They’re probably more like 5’ 4” and 175 pounds. Does this disappoint you? Whether it does or doesn’t, that’s the truth.
This is true of every walk of life, but the more socially distant we are from certain kinds of people the more likely we are to develop cartoonish perceptions of them. This is especially true in the scumbag world of politics. Even a woman like Nataliya Kuznetsova, who comes the closest to being a “cartoon character come to life,” is rare among her fellow female bodybuilders. She’s in the 1 percent of the 1 percent of the 1 percent. In a past article, I dubbed her as the “Ultimate Real Human Photoshop Illusion.” This is still true.
Most FBBs will look more like Cindy Phillips or Brandi Mae Akers. If they wore sweatpants and an overcoat, you’d never guess that these ladies are bodybuilders. Nataliya, on the other hand, is so damn bulky that no matter what she does she’ll always stick out like a sore thumb. But that’s her brand. Her raison d’être is to defy scientific limitations. She strives to break our expectations of what is or isn’t possible. So my friend – and many of you also – expected the typical FBB to look like Nataliya…when not even Nataliya can look like Nataliya forever (I have my doubts about how healthy that lifestyle is over a long period of time).
These warped perceptions are a product of being socially distant from FBBs. It didn’t take a global pandemic to make this obvious. But this is the price we pay for indulging in a niche fetish. It is not readily available. It is a rare opportunity for us to satisfy our urges. Getting our “fix” of female muscle comes at a hefty price tag. But when we do get the chance to live out our fantasies IRL, it’s a treasured experience that we’ll never forget.
I have no idea when the COVID-19 crisis will come to an end. Hopefully very soon. And with a limited number of fatalities. But there’s no doubt that this has caused major rifts in our society that will take months – maybe years – to recover from. For now, it’s an inconvenience bordering on a major catastrophe if global markets become too volatile. The world economy will take a hit, a reality that applies to much more than the Female Muscle Industrial Complex. But when this is all over, it seems prudent that this will force us to wake up to the fact that a civilized society is one that is resilient, adaptable, and rational. We will get through this if we make the right decisions, stand up for our principles, and do our part (no matter how small it may seem) to stop the spread of this disease. Or any future disease.
Like female bodybuilders, we must be tough, persistent, strategic, headstrong, and arrogant in believing we can overcome this. While FBBs may be socially distant from us, their attitude towards life is something every single one of us can replicate. We don’t need to be in close physical proximity to them to learn the lessons they’ve taught us. Even if it’s from a distance.