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.

Nude: A Muscular Woman’s Natural State (NSFW)

Emery Miller in her natural state.
Emery Miller in her natural state.

One year ago, I published a post titled “A Muscular Woman is Always Nude in Public, Even When Fully Clothed.” The basic gist of my article is that a woman with muscles cannot easily hide her muscles from the public. Even if she wears baggy clothing and acts as inconspicuous as possible, she can never fully conceal the fact that she is indeed a woman with big muscles.

So no matter what she does, where she goes, or who she associates with, her identity as a “female bodybuilder” is forever branded on her body – that is, until she decides to stop training and lets her muscles atrophy. She can run, but she can’t hide.

However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One does not pursue bodybuilding unless he or she is okay with, ahem, looking like a bodybuilder. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Yes, it is the whole point. No arguments there. I’d like to follow up this post with more thoughts on the concept of female muscle and nudity. Here it goes. Not only is a female bodybuilder always nude even when she’s fully clothed, when she is nude she’s actually in her “natural state.”

By “natural state,” I mean the way in which nature intended for something to be presented. As human beings living in human civilization, it is not encouraged to be naked in public. Nor is it natural for people to live clustered sedentary lives where they spend all their free time glued to a computer screen. In-person human interaction involving people actually looking at and talking to another human being has (nearly) gone by the wayside, thanks to the introduction of social media, texting, and other digital distractions. Life in the 21st Century may resemble a quasi-dystopian (and heavily exaggerated pre-apocalyptic) reality, but that doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally turn back the clock and return back to how we were supposed to behave.

Kathy Johansson showing off her best side.
Kathy Johansson showing off her best side.

As a particular sub-species of humanity, female bodybuilders belong in a unique category. Female bodybuilders are, in many respects, a prototypical 21st Century human being: Strong, independent, rebellious, entrepreneurial, and “feminine” by her own definition. Never mind the fact that female bodybuilders are not celebrated by our culture in quite the same way that pop stars and loudmouth politicians are; FBBs are women who are known to exist but aren’t given the adequate public space that they deserve to exist in.

So in a realistic sense, FBBs will forever be relegated to the backburner of greater society’s consciousness. Or more specifically, they’ll inhabit the backburner of the stove located in the shanty sitting 20 miles away from our culture’s proverbial kitchen. It’s a hard knock life, but a life that our beloved FBBs are willing and able to wade through.

But within the female muscle fan community – and to be sure, God knows how many of us are out there – the accomplishments of FBBs do not go unnoticed. In fact, we spend an inordinate amount of time experiencing these ladies as many ways as we can: Meeting them for muscle worship/wrestling sessions, watching their videos, looking at their photos, reading articles about them, following them on Instagram, etc. And if there is one theme that consistently comes up, it’s that we love seeing our gorgeous strong ladies wearing as little clothing as possible.

Granted, the desire to see a beautiful person without clothing isn’t particularly unusual. Adam didn’t notice Eve while she was wearing a nuclear hazmat suit. He noticed her when she was wearing…uh, nothing at all. I’m pretty sure if any of us were to see a beautiful person walking down the street wearing his or her birthday suit, we’d all stop what we’re doing and stare. If you wouldn’t so such a thing, well, I don’t know what to say to you.

However, in a strangely poetic way, female bodybuilders aren’t just beautiful women whom we would like to see naked. They’re beautiful women who should be naked all the time. A muscular woman should never be covered up. Her body should always be displayed in all its natural glory. A clothed muscular woman is a travesty. It’s an abomination. It’s unnatural, just like eating tropical fruit in the winter or listening to Christmas music in July.

The gorgeous Lindsay Mulinazzi.
The gorgeous Lindsay Mulinazzi.

As bodybuilders, FBBs dedicate their whole lives to developing their physical bodies to fit a certain desired aesthetic. It’s not a hobby. Nor is it just a career choice. It’s a lifestyle. What they eat, how they train, when they sleep, where they find themselves at any given moment, what they spend their money on; it’s all part of the life of being a pro (or exceedingly dedicated amateur) bodybuilder. In short, you don’t become a bodybuilder. Bodybuilding becomes you!

And the human body, when deliberately sculpted to look a certain way, deserves to be seen in its proper context. There’s a reason why bodybuilding contests feature contestants wearing almost nothing. Obviously, the competitors won’t wear anything that isn’t acceptable at any public beach, because “going commando” is still pretty taboo. It’s like going to the movies: Seeing hundreds of people get shot and blown up is okay, but seeing a bare female breast is totally wrong.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but plenty of things in life don’t make a lick of sense when you think about it.

So forget about this in a practical sense. I’m not suggesting female bodybuilders – and male bodybuilders, I suppose – should go around completely naked all the time. This is more of a philosophical discussion with regards to who female bodybuilders are and what they represent, not a call to action to defy indecent exposure laws!

Simply put, female bodybuilders should be appreciated in the nude whenever possible. Yes, it can be incredibly sexy to see a gorgeous FBB wearing frilly lingerie or a g-string bikini or a French maid’s outfit. But that’s all fun and games. I’m talking about how a female bodybuilder deserves to be seen.

What can you conclude by seeing Michelle Tuggle fully nude?
What can you conclude by seeing Michelle Tuggle fully nude?

You cannot fully appreciate her hard work unless you see every single square inch of her body. Her calves. Her quads. Her hips. Her butt. Her abs. Her arms. Her chest. Her neck. Her back. Her face. Her breasts. And yes, her genitals.

Her genitals may seem inconsequential, but they are not. Seeing a woman with big muscles and female genitalia proves the point once and for all that she’s a real woman. Whether her clitoris is small or abnormally large doesn’t really matter. What matters is the stark reminder that this hypermuscular human body is also a female body. Whether her breasts are small or large also doesn’t matter. They need to be seen. If her breasts are normal-sized, they serve as further reinforcement of her femininity. If they are flat, they could then be used to argue either that one doesn’t need breasts in order to be a woman or that “womanhood” needs to be redefined. Or more specifically, our concept of “womanhood” needs to be tossed out the window altogether.

The size of her muscles, the appearance of her genitalia and breasts, and the confidence in which she carries herself (or perhaps, lack of confidence if she’s self-conscious about anything) all tell us the complete story about her. If she’s embarrassed by her small breasts and large clit, this offers a clue to how she views her own femininity. If she’s damn proud of her big muscles, flat chest, and oversized genitals, we can surmise that she doesn’t give a damn what society says or that she wants society to dramatically change the way we view women.

As I’ve written before in a previous blog article, a large clitoris is beneficial for the perception of women and their sexualities. It proves that women are indeed sexually sovereign beings who deserve to experience pleasure whenever they desire to. The vagina is often (unfairly) mischaracterized as a passive bodily organ that only serves to receive a man’s penis during intercourse and to deliver a child during birth. Add to it a clitoris that is often too small to see (without zooming in very closely!) and you get a set of genitals that can be viewed as being submissive, dependent, and unremarkable.

A very sultry Desiree Ellis.
A very sultry Desiree Ellis.

However, that’s not even close to being true. But as far as perception goes, a big clitoris that resembles a very small penis can go a long way in proving the point that women do in fact possess an organ that exists solely to give her pleasure. We might know that in the back of our minds, but a larger-than-life clitoris that shocks you when you see it accentuates that point a hundred-fold.

Thus, yes, her genitals do matter. Every single inch of her body matters. You cannot truly understand who a female bodybuilder is unless you see her completely nude. But do not mistaken nudity with vulnerability. There’s a difference between being naked and being nude. “Naked” is when someone lacks clothing. “Nude” is a state of being in which one shows off all their skin. In other words, “naked” implies vulnerability, deficiency, and being unprotected. “Nude,” on the other hand, connotes an active choice to be bare.

Being naked is humiliating. Being nude is an empowering choice. See the difference?

A nude female bodybuilder is most likely to be in the “empowered” camp. But I guess that’s not always the case. In addition to being embarrassed by her genitalia or breasts, not everyone is comfortable being naked…regardless of the circumstances. Obviously, bodybuilders (male and female) tend to have fantastic looking bodies, but we all hold differing mores when it comes to showing off skin to the public.

There’s an undeniable difference between seeing a muscular woman clothed and a muscular woman completely nude. When clothed, we are reminded of her ordinariness. She wears shirts, pants, socks, shoes, and jackets just like the rest of us. It’s like she’s covering up who she really is, as if wearing clothes is just like Clark Kent wearing glasses to disguise the fact that he’s actually Superman. A female bodybuilder who’s wearing clothes is shielding her identity, albeit not completely.

Yes, you can still tell that she’s really darn muscular. Her tight jeans may generously show off her sculpted glutes and rock hard thighs, but it’s not even close to seeing the actual thing. I’m sure Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen suspected that Mr. Kent was actually somebody else, but who in their right mind would go all the way and suggest that he’s actually the Man of Steel? Preposterous!

Likewise, it’s not the same to look upon a fully-clothed female bodybuilder with a similar amount of awe and wonder if she were nude. That even goes for her wearing a bikini. She’s mostly nude…however there are still a few crucial parts still left uncovered.

Now, contrast that with a fully nude muscular woman. It’s as though you’re seeing her from a whole new perspective. She transcends her humanity and becomes a goddess. When you see her in her “natural state,” you truly are able to comprehend just how amazing her body is. You witness not just her physical beauty; you also get to experience her entire essence. Her personality, her hard work, her sacrifices, her lifestyle choices, her fears, her doubts, her dreams, her hopes; everything is right there on display. She hides nothing because this is who she really is.

This is how she’s meant to be seen.

You may be asking yourself: Does the same apply to a gorgeous non-bodybuilder woman? Well, not really. Without question, the sight of a beautiful nude woman is always pleasant to regard, whether she has big muscles or not. I’m only human. However, the major dissimilarity is that an FBB’s sculpted body is so crucial to her identity. Her chiseled physique is central to who she is as a person and what she’s dedicated her life toward accomplishing.

The real Jungle Woman: Rita Sargo.
The real Jungle Woman: Rita Sargo.

A beautiful non-muscular woman isn’t quite the same. A supermodel can wear a sultry black dress and make jaws drop to the floor (although I believe “slay” has become the currently accepted nomenclature). If a female bodybuilder were to wear the exact same dress, she could garner the exact same reaction…but it wouldn’t feel the same. Instead, the dress would seem like a burden. The dress becomes a distraction, an unnecessary diversion away from what’s really important.

And what is actually important? You guessed it! Her hard chiseled muscles.

Perhaps that’s the heart of this discussion. That’s my core message. Clothing seems unnatural when placed on a female bodybuilder’s body. And not just unnatural; it seems sacrilegious. A masterpiece by Monet deserves to be viewed by millions of people at a museum, not locked away in a vault somewhere in an undisclosed underground location. A grand piano deserves to be played, as opposed to serving as a glorified piece of furniture. A novel sitting on a shelf and doing nothing is degrading. It must be read and enjoyed, not relegated as common clutter.

In the same manner, a female bodybuilder’s body needs to be seen in its entirety. And that means she must be fully nude. I’m not suggesting every single bodybuilder must be forced to strip naked and pose for pictures. Heavens no! That’s the furthest thing that I would advocate for, trust me. Rather, I’m talking about this in a metaphysical sense.

A female bodybuilder’s body is maximizing its utility (or purpose) when it’s displayed in the nude. More than being athletes, female bodybuilders are also artists. And like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci before them, FBBs warrant having their handiwork displayed in a way that provides the viewer an optimal experience:

Nude. No clothing. At all. Just her beautiful body and nothing else shielding it. That’s the way she is meant to be seen. That’s the way nature intended it.

Anything else would be a disservice to all her years and years of shedding blood, sweat, and tears. Maybe I was wrong in my initial assessment that a muscular woman is always nude in public, even when she’s fully clothed. When she’s wearing clothes, she’s just like the Monet sitting in a dark vault or the masterpiece of a novel collecting dust. We’re in the presence of greatness; we just don’t know it. And this is perhaps the greatest tragedy of them all.

That being said, when she’s completely nude, our eyes aren’t the only things that become wide open. So do our minds, hearts, and souls.