Are Female Bodybuilders Actually Men?

Kim Buck is ALL woman.
Kim Buck is ALL woman.

The answer is simple.

No.

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Oh, were you expecting me to elaborate further?

Alright, I can do that. Judging from what WordPress tells me, the question “Are female bodybuilders actually men?” is a question that frequently brings people to my humble blog. That also includes questions similar to it such as “Are FBBs really men?” or “Do female bodybuilders become men?” Aren’t you glad we have tools like Google at our disposal in this curious age?

This curiosity is unto itself curious. Is there a small group of people in this world who genuinely think female bodybuilders are actually male bodybuilders in disguise (or female bodybuilders who’ve magically transitioned to a different gender)? Or is this meant to be a joke? Or, these folks do know female bodybuilders are actually female…but they just want to make sure? Hey, the world can be a confusing place. It never hurts to ask, right?

Uh, right. It doesn’t hurt to ask. I’m totally in favor of people quenching their thirst for knowledge. Human beings are curious creatures, which means we constantly need our curiosity taken to its rightful conclusion. Ignorance has never served anyone well, as far as I can tell.

So I have no beef against anyone who does an innocent Google search in regards to this question. It may seem silly, but I don’t think it’s spiteful. Biology can be a fascinating area of study. How can a translucent jellyfish with no discernable internal organs survive? How can some creatures like Komodo dragons and hammerhead sharks reproduce asexually? Not all of them do, but scientists have observed many of them being able to. How is that even possible?

Well, it is possible. Life is full of mysteries. This is especially true when our worldviews are perpetually being challenged, poked, and prodded. You don’t need a degree in Gender Studies from Oberlin College to know that our traditional male/female dichotomy may not always accurately describe all of us. Postmodern philosophy has broken apart our black and white way of thinking about the Universe, for better or for worse. I’ll let you decide which it is.

But what cannot be argued is the existence of doubt. Are we human beings truly born male or female? Are these the only two categories that can possibly exist? Could there be more? Or, is gender unto itself not a real thing, but instead an artificial social construct created for arbitrary reasons? To tell you the truth, I will not take a stand either way. How the heck am I supposed to know?

How can one actually think Ava Cowan is maybe a man?
How can one actually think Ava Cowan is maybe a man?

At the heart of this discussion is the concept of doubt. There are many truths that we think are true…but in the back of our minds we know that there exists the possibility that they may not. Unless we’re not terribly self-reflective, people should consistently challenge their own beliefs so that they can continue to grow and mature. It’s not a sign of moral cowardice or intellectual fraud, but rather an admission of humility. We do not know all that there is to know, and what we think we know we may not actually be right about. To admit that is to convey wisdom, not foolishness.

People who are familiar with female bodybuilders but are not closely connected with them are right to be curious. Those of us who are intimately familiar with FBBs – we either have met many of them for muscle worship/wrestling sessions or we pay close attention to them from a distance – have no doubts as to the gender identities of these gorgeous ladies. They’re women, simple and plain. Of course, they’re women whose physical appearance is unusual. But that doesn’t change who they are as people. They may not behave like “normal” women and could perhaps accomplish feats of strength that surpass that of many men, but that still doesn’t make a difference whatsoever. Female bodybuilders are female, period. There’s no argument there. However, one could frame this debate in terms of how we define “gender” to begin with.

Simply put, is “gender” a purely biological trait or is it an indicator of one’s personal identity? Without getting too deep into the weeds, let’s just say that there probably isn’t a definitive answer to this question that will satisfy 100% of us 100% of the time. We don’t live in that type of philosophical atmosphere anymore. We have far too many diverse ideas and viewpoints out there to establish any kind of universal understanding. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it could be when these differences are used to intentionally divide and conquer us.

A better angle to take is to analyze who female bodybuilders are and what makes them so special. In addition to reading every single one of my previous blog articles (which, um, you should), let’s gain a better grasp of this topic together by establishing this concept:

Female bodybuilders challenge the way we see the world.

More than anything else, this nugget of truth cuts to the core of the matter. This is the meat and potatoes of our discussion. Female bodybuilders cannot help but turn our worlds upside down. They may not intentionally try to do so, but they do so nevertheless. It’s nearly inevitable to start to rethink how we view the world when we see photos of a woman with big burly muscles. The sight of them goes against how we view femininity, masculinity, human potential, and sexuality. All our lives we’ve assumed that women are the “weaker sex.” Is this not actually true? Are women indeed the weaker sex, or are they just at a natural disadvantage? You know, sort of like a sprinter who begins the race 20 yards behind the other competitors. The sprinter can still win, but it’ll take some extra effort (and perhaps a bit of luck) to do so.

Diana Tyuleneva wearing a hot BDSM outfit.
Diana Tyuleneva wearing a hot BDSM outfit.

The presence of a woman with muscles also challenges how men view themselves. If she can get that big, why can’t I? If I’m struggling to bulk up at the gym, what excuse could I possibly have when I’m scrolling through Instagram and notice some Finnish chick named Minna Pajulahti deadlifting more than me? Female bodybuilders can, understandably, create feelings of inadequacy in guys who are already somewhat insecure about themselves. This is not an indictment. It’s just the way things are.

Seeing a woman with big muscles also begs us to ask the question: Is there a limit to what humans can do? And to be clear, this goes for both men and women. Can human beings slowly but surely evolve to be able to swim under water for hours at a time? Or fly through the sky? Or become as strong as an ox? Or upgrade our intelligence level to unprecedented heights, where we will be able to teach advanced physics to grade school children? I cannot say yay or nay, but how one cannot stop to ponder such possibilities is beyond me. After all, seeing a female bodybuilder be able to lift heavy weights at the gym is like a smack in the face. If that doesn’t wake you up to challenge your preconceived notions about the Universe, I don’t know what will.

But more than anything, female bodybuilders force us to move the goal posts in terms of what is possible and what is not possible. Don’t say that certain physical feats are impossible because the moment you do someone will come around and shatter that opinion into a million pieces. Don’t say that a woman with muscles can’t be sexy. I can provide you with a list of hundreds of names that will test that belief. Don’t doubt the fact that female powerlifters can’t surpass the accomplishments of male powerlifters. Just do a Google search of Becca Swanson. You’ll be glad that you did.

What we thought we knew we need to reevaluate. What we were taught may be wrong; even if it was taught to us in good faith. But in addition to beliefs, female bodybuilders also change the way we view sexual attraction.

Before, we assumed that people who are attracted to women are attracted to just, well, “normal” looking women. However, the discovery of muscular women (and to be fair, other nontraditional-looking ladies) throws us for a loop. We ask ourselves how we can possibly be attracted to a woman who has bigger muscles than most men. Does that mean I’m secretly gay? Or is this perfectly normal? How can I tell either way? These questions abound, much to our consternation.

Eventually, many of us will reach the conclusion that it’s perfectly fine to be attracted to muscular women because…they’re still women. Obviously, they don’t look like most other women you encounter in everyday life, but that’s not an indicator of anything unnatural. It’s unusual, but it doesn’t cross any forbidden boundaries. To repeat the answer provided at the beginning, female bodybuilders are not men. Not even close. So why is there even a debate?

Well, there deserves to be a discussion about this topic because of the initial, involuntary gut feeling we received when we first encountered the world of muscular women. Due to all the reasons listed above, the presence of muscular women triggers in our minds an adverse reaction. Like side effects from taking prescription medicine (we’ve all wondered whether vomiting, cramps, and possibly death are acceptable trade-offs for alieving us of the sniffles), it’s like our brains are fighting off a foreign agent when we look upon an image of a woman with big muscles. We feel repulsed. Or confused. Or extreme cognitive dissonance. Or maybe, unexpected and uncontrollable sexual arousal.

Denise Masino may be well-endowed, but she's not even close to being a man.
Denise Masino may be well-endowed, but she’s not even close to being a man.

These reactions are unexplainable. They’re inconceivable. They’re not normal, yet we’re intrigued to learn more. The sight of a muscular woman stirs up in our imaginations all sorts of thoughts and feelings. We begin to question our previously held assumptions about, well, everything in the damn world. We feel compelled, for no logical reason, to do a Google search about whether or not female bodybuilders are actually female or if they’re somehow “male” by some perverse definition.

We realize it’s silly. We know in the back of our minds that female bodybuilders are definitely women. But we can’t help but feed our curiosity. We must know for sure. In the dark recesses of our imaginations there’s a tiny part of us that thinks that maybe FBBs are not really women in the traditional sense of the word. Or maybe they’re women…sort of. Kind of. Maybe they’re men…sort of. Kind of. Or perhaps they’ve transitioned into a third option. Uh, right?

Yikes. What the hell am I thinking?

You want to slap yourself in the face, but resist the urge to do so. That’s good. No need for self-flagellation. At the very least, you can smile to yourself, look into a mirror, and whisper to no one in particular: “Hey, what I Google in the privacy of my spare time is my business and no one needs to know about it!”

Which is true. Of course it is. No one will ever know what you choose to Google, unless you believe all sorts of wacky conspiracy theories. Do search engine crawlers count?

There’s nothing male about female bodybuilders. There are plenty of FBBs who exhibit masculine qualities, but that’s a whole other story. Masculine/feminine are behavioral and physical signifiers that have no biological connections. A man can have a “feminine-sounding” voice and still be 100% a man. A woman can have “masculine-looking” facial features but still be 100% a woman. Biology is more objective than arbitrary gendered descriptions that societies have used for centuries. Whether these identifiers are good or bad is up to you to decide. Volumes of books have been written on the harm produced by gender roles, so I don’t feel too obligated to rehash these ideas at this time.

Suffice to say, it’s not a bad thing to have questions. Being inquisitive is a sign of wisdom, humility, and practical intelligence. Nobody knows the answers to everything. That’s simply impossible. Heck, as incredible as this sounds, despite all the breakthroughs we’ve made in recent generations in regards to theoretical physics, we still don’t know even a fraction of a fraction of what there is to know about the Universe. Theorists like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking are like the One Eyed Kings leading a pack of blind subjects. But in this case, they have one eye that’s peering into the world through a coffee straw. They are able to speculate about the world at levels that most of us will never be able to comprehend, and even they can’t manage to scratch the surface. Far out, man!

Makes you not feel so guilty about wondering if Denise Masino is secretly a dude, huh?

I can assure you that Denise Masino is not a dude. Despite the impressive amount of meat dangling between her legs, I can assure you that it’s all feminine meat. Nothing masculine about it. She doesn’t have a penis. Though her phallic-like clit sort of resembles a really tiny penis (especially when she uses a clit pump), there’s no doubt that it’s a clit, end of story. Beneath her impressive feminine endowment is her vagina, an organ I don’t believe too many men can say they also have.

Maryse Manios isn't everybody's cup of tea, but there's no doubt that she's a lady. No doubt at all.
Maryse Manios isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but there’s no doubt that she’s a lady. No doubt at all.

As far as I can tell, it is not possible for a woman to become a man without an intricately planned series of hormonal therapy sessions administered by trained medical professionals. I am no expert about the female-to-male or male-to-female transition processes, but lifting weights at the gym (and yes, even taking synthetic steroids to help you bulk up more) will not do the trick. Of course, I don’t think too many folks actually believe this. So to reiterate, it’s hard to not question your assumptions when you’re faced with examples that challenge them.

Female bodybuilders are not actually men. I understand why someone would allow their minds to drift in that direction, but at the end of the day there’s no evidence to suggest that such a phenomenon is even scientifically possible. But that doesn’t mean we should mock people who do dare to Google such a titillating question.

There’s an old saying that “it never hurts to ask.” Well, that’s not entirely true. It can hurt if the person(s) to whom you’re asking the question retaliates in any sort of way. However, that’s the beauty of the Internet. You can ask away with little risk to your reputation or ego. I may not have all the answers, but I am qualified to provide a small degree of insight onto the issue of female bodybuilders and their gender identities:

Female bodybuilders are female, not male. You can take it to the bank and bet your life’s savings on it. But if even a slight hint of doubt creeps into your mind, remember this: That’s perfectly okay.

The Year That Was 2016: Muscular Women Will Bring Us Together

Debbie Leung would like to wish you a happy new year!
Debbie Leung would like to wish you a happy new year!

If you were to ask a random person on the street whether 2016 was a good year or a bad year, I’d wager a guess that the vast majority of respondents would say it was an atrocious year.

What would prompt someone to say such a thing, you might ask? Let’s count the ways why 2016 could be considered a disappointing year for all of us:

  • Beloved celebrities passing away
  • Political and social unrest
  • Undesirable election outcomes
  • Mass shootings, riots, bombings, terror attacks, and random acts of violence that threaten our sense of safety and stability
  • International conflicts like war, famine, genocide, territorial disputes, religious conflict, etc.
  • Terrorism, despotism, and rising civil conflicts
  • Technological advancements that threaten the job prospects of working class people
  • Uneasiness about environmental issues
  • Eroding distrust in governments, media, and academic institutions
  • Economic insecurity
  • Rumors of war, belligerence, and frightening socio-political trends
  • Dissipating freedoms of speech, choice, religion, and association
  • Disintegrating sense of “national unity” and “common culture”
  • General feelings of anger, anxiety, and cynicism on a global scale

Yikes. You may not necessarily feel all of these things, but certainly if you’ve been paying attention to the news – regardless of where on planet Earth you live – you must recognize at least a few of the tribulations listed above. Some historians (and quasi-historians) compare the times we’re currently living in to the 1930s when we were on the cusp of World War II, which caused devastation on a scale never before seen in human history. I tend to not buy into a lot of that hype and fearmongering, but I sympathize with people who do. That’s not me being snarky or dismissive.

I’m not an expert in international relations, social psychology or foreseeing the future. However, I am someone who is keen on attempting to clarify the unexplainable. Perhaps this is why I started my blog in the first place. Yeah, I wanted an avenue for publishing my fiction writing, but as it turns out my essays are what drive traffic to my humble website. My audience spans the globe, a reality that still has not set in yet. Can you believe that? Wow!

Wow, indeed. So in a futile attempt to wrap a somewhat positive bow on the year 2016 Anno Domini, which hasn’t been so positive for far too many of us, I’ll try to talk about how muscular women can bring us together. Maybe not all of us, but certainly some of us.

Muscular women are, in many respects, the ultimate symbol of postmodernism. In case you need a quick refresher, “postmodernism” was essentially a social, artistic, and cultural movement in the 20th Century that rejected and challenged previously held assumptions about the world. It’s unfair to think about postmodernism as being over, because it definitely is not. Even in the 21st Century, we’re still questioning how we traditionally think about things like gender constructs, science, political movements, sexual identities, philosophy, religion, aesthetics, and social cooperation. So postmodernism isn’t dead and buried by any stretch of the imagination.

I hope Annie Rivieccio becomes famous one day.
I hope Annie Rivieccio becomes famous one day.

If you want to point to one facet of modern life that encompasses so much of the conversation surrounding postmodern thought, it would be the world of female bodybuilding. The existence of muscular women challenge so many of our previously held assumptions about gender, biology, sex roles, femininity, masculinity, identity, and lust. A woman with big muscles would have been unthinkable 200 years ago. Or 100 years ago. Even today many of us have a hard time believing a woman can get that muscular without freakish genetics or a comical amount of steroids.

Let’s spin this another way: Consider the way our culture celebrates the concept of the “strong independent woman.” It’s a motif that we see everywhere: novels, movies, comic books, television shows, music, political campaigns, social media, and everyday casual conversations with friends. We saw Britain appoint its second ever female prime minister. The United States saw a woman run for president for the first time. Tsai Ing-wen was elected Taiwan’s first female president, a country that exists in the shadows of an increasingly confrontational China.

Yet, the concept of the “strong independent woman” has more or less been watered down by pop culture to mean a woman who uses the right hashtags and properly criticizes Donald Trump. It’s more of a rallying cry than an actual archetype that’s justifiably acknowledged. Most of the women in the world who are creating significant social change are scientists, teachers, engineers, data analysts, and investors whom most of us have never heard of before. The visible “strong independent women” celebrated by pop culture are usually pampered celebrities who don’t actually deserve such accolades.

How funny it is that real “strong independent women” like female bodybuilders are largely ignored by our society while a pop singer like Beyoncé is heralded as the lady version of Alexander the Great or William the Conqueror. I have nothing against the Queen Bey (her music is okay), but being a major celebrity isn’t that much of an accomplishment considering there are countless anonymous female scientists out there who are working to find cures to cancer.

Isabelle Turell is a genuine strong independent woman.
Isabelle Turell is a genuine strong independent woman.

Likewise, female bodybuilders are, for the most part, anonymous. Not to readers of this blog, of course, but to the general public. It’s too bad that women like Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande will always be more famous than Shawn Tan and Annie Rivieccio, but that’s the way it is. There’s no use complaining about something that’ll never change.

However, that’s not something worth fretting over. Seriously. Muscular women may not be able to change the entire world, but they can definitely change our world. As we transition from 2016 to 2017, this is a fantastic opportunity to remind ourselves that at the end of the day, we are in control over our own destinies. It may not always seem that way, but it’s true for the most part. Consider the lessons female bodybuilders can offer us:

FBBs live in a hostile world. They are women who break convention, defy our traditional definitions of femininity, and forge their own paths despite what others say. They face obstacles that are both seen and unseen, spoken and unspoken, obvious and not-so-obvious. They are at a biological disadvantage, as well as a social disadvantage. How many times have FBBs heard the pestering question “do you really want to look that way?

Well, yes they do. They do in fact want to look that way, thank you very much. But despite the peer pressure to resist building up muscle mass, there are plenty of women in this world who ignore the noise and pursue their dreams regardless of what others say. We should applaud them, as many of us often do. Let this be a crucial lesson to all of us that you can do whatever you dream of doing – no matter how many people tell you it’s unacceptable, irresponsible or improper. I completely understand that there’s a fine line between doing foolishly stupid things (like dreaming of becoming a world famous stunt motorcycle driver) and things that are merely “frowned upon” in polite company. I get that. But there’s nothing terribly risky about being a bodybuilder, unless you recklessly put God-knows-what kind of chemicals into your body to get “gains.” That’s a whole other matter.

Female bodybuilders don’t aspire to attain the impossible. They strive to attain the possible, though far too many of us think it’s impossible. There’s the difference. It is possible for a woman to be both irresistibly sexy and ridiculously muscular concurrently. Most of us don’t think it’s possible, therefore we look down upon those who pursue this path. That being said, no matter how rocky the road will be and how choppy the waters will seem, FBBs prevail at the end.

Kim Perez is like she's from my dreams.
Kim Perez is like she’s from my dreams.

They exist. Female bodybuilders exist. And that’s all they need to do to defy an unsympathetic society that treats them with unfair skepticism. In this regard, FBBs personify a thought-provoking paradigm: Muscular women aren’t supposed to be real. But they are. Period.

This is the essence of the postmodern worldview. Whatever assumptions we previously held about the nature of femininity, biology, and human sexual attraction must be questioned and subsequently tossed out the window. Not only do muscular women exist, but they should exist. They need to exist. It’s critical that the world be able to bear witness to a group of human beings who’ve chosen to ignore thousands of years of conventional wisdom and cultivate a new reality. There isn’t a logical reason why a woman (or man) should choose to build superhuman-sized muscles, but there doesn’t have to be. People do things because we can. We create goals and try to reach them even though it doesn’t provide any apparent utility.

We climb Mount Everest because we can. We sent a rocket ship to the moon because we can. We landed a spacecraft on Mars because we can. We don’t need to, but we want to. Want. That’s all this is about. The desire to accomplish something awesome and the will to go for it.

I’m not naïve. Female bodybuilders won’t become more popular in 2017. I don’t know if they’ll become less popular (as if such a standard can be adequately measured), but certainly I don’t foresee muscular women popping up everywhere in the media. But that’s irrelevant to this discussion. FBBs will never – although it may be imprudent to use the word “never” – achieve a high degree of popularity in our mass culture. However, they’ve been able to carve out a fine little niche with folks like you and I. It’s better to have a thousand passionate supporters than one million casual onlookers.

This is how female bodybuilders continue to exist. The support from their tiny army of rabid fans will sustain their lifestyles more than being featured as a token extra on Game of Thrones or the next Avengers flick. This business arrangement won’t be radically different in 2017 than it was in 2016 (or 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and so on), but that’s just fine. It doesn’t have to be. Economic prospects for female bodybuilders could always be better, naturally. The same could be said for any industry. But until we reach a point of financial unsustainability, I wouldn’t sweat it too much.

Will Jennifer Thomas be a breakout star in 2017? One could only hope...
Will Jennifer Thomas be a breakout star in 2017? One could only hope…

The truth is, the changing of years don’t really matter all that much. The universe won’t look profoundly different on January 1 than it did on December 31. A year is just an artificial benchmark we use to signify when the Earth makes a full rotation around the Sun. So for as bad as we think 2016 was, it makes no difference whatsoever. Events (both good and bad) happen to us regardless of what day, month, or year it is. That’s just the way it is. The concept of New Year’s Day is just a fun excuse to party too much, drink too much, and watch a crystal ball drop in Times Square. For what it’s worth, that’s okay with me.

Contrary to the title of this blog post, muscular women won’t actually bring us together. At least, they won’t bring billions of people across all cultures, languages, religious convictions, and skin colors together. Realistically, they can bring hope and joy to certain individuals who are feeling down on their luck. Sadly, there are way too many folks in this world who are feeling that way. Perhaps when it seems like optimism is lost and everything is spiraling out of control, we’ll suddenly remember ladies like Denise Masino and Brandi Mae Akers who are unapologetically sexy and don’t seem to be ready to quit anytime soon.

Remember what they have to go through every single day to achieve their dreams. Keep in mind how emotionally and physically strenuous it is to maintain a muscular body – especially for a woman. When the going gets tough, FBBs worldwide don’t just get going…they look damn good while doing it.

Oh yeah, they sure do. So here’s to another year of female muscle fandom. May 2017 bring you peace, love, joy, and unbridled sexiness.