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Muscle on Women: An Acquired Taste?

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I was perusing Facebook a few days ago and noticed a friend of mine had commented on a photo of a figure pro who was a few weeks out from her show (it was one of those bathroom shots, post-workout…you know the ones). WOW! This gal had an 8-pack, rock-hard abs, literally bricks, and a huge pump on her shoulders, veins bulging. She was ready to walk on stage TODAY! Besides the incredibly sculpted body, what caught my attention were the literally HUNDREDS of comments on the picture. As I scrolled through, I noticed many said things likle, “she looks like a man” or “is that you, Jeff?” and other similar insults to an actual real person, whose page these people were a fan of. What???

Try as I might to get past the blatant rudeness and straight-up ugliness of the comments (social media etiquette is the subject for another time!), I thought about female muscle and how depending on where you are personally in your own physique journey, you may or may not “get it” when it comes to women having muscle. It brought me back to my own journey and how far I have come in the way I see it, and the point at which I have arrived now.

When I was in college, I loved reading magazines like Shape and Fitness. The women on the covers were skinny, supermodels (with great lighting and professional hair and make-up! :)). Who wouldn’t want to look like that?? And all I had to do was do the workouts in those magazines, and I, too, could look like that, right?? LOL Well, not short of growing a foot and being born in Brazil :)

[A funny side story: A couple years ago I was in New York City with Jade and Keoni as they met with publishers for their book The New ME Diet. I was a couple weeks out from my figure competition, and I happened to schedule a meeting with a top fitness modeling agency while there. Well, I wasn’t at the meeting but 5 minutes, when the owner (who hadn’t even seen my body as it was winter and I was wearing jeans and a huge winter coat) threw me in a cab for a go-see at Fitness magazine, meanwhile I was not even a signed model with the agency? lol Apparently one of his models had to cancel at the last second and I was right in front of him so I went. No comp card, no book, nothing. Oh well, what the hell! (PS a “go-see” is when a model goes to see/meet the client and they take some polaroids, look at the model’s book and chat. Then the client decides if the model is right for the job.) I remember walking into the offices at Fitness and walking by literally a 6 foot tall skinny-ass Brazilian model who was getting some snap shots taken. I was like, hmmm, “I am 2 weeks out from a FIGURE competition, I seriously DOUBT they will like the muscles I have under this coat!” so I went, we took pics and needless to say, I did NOT get the job, but I will always remember having the biggest muscles in the office at Fitness lol :)]

ANYWHO. As I got more into fitness, I started picking up Womens Health and Muscle & Fitness HERS magazines, which then, where a step up in terms of muscle, from Fitness, Shape, etc. I felt like I fit in with these–I was a huge exerciser and into health. Then I started picking up Oxygen magazine, and found the stage shots in the “Competition” section in the back incomprehensible. I couldn’t understand it, these women looked HUGE!! Whoa, I would never want to look like that! :)

Then, a year or so later I went to my first fitness competition to be a spectator and literally couldn’t believe how TINY the competitors where!! Where were the hulks from Oxygen?? LOL I soon learned that a “stage look” is very different (dark tan, oil, pumped up muscles, dehydrated, etc) from an everyday look for competitors and that they are, indeed, tiny, even though they have muscle like no other. WOW! More muscle and smaller??! I wanted to be smaller!! lol

Well, with a new appreciation for those physiques, I set out on my goal of competing, and I competed for years and had a blast. In that time, I was always trying to put on muscle and burn fat. Add some delts, chunk up my abs, add some width to my back, lean out my hips and thighs, add some separation to my quads, etc etc. I was a sculptor, applying all my energy to create the body I wanted with my only tools: weights. And I did it.

No wonder men are afraid of women with muscles! :)
Looking tough with Jillian during one of our “building phases”

I LOVED the look of muscle on women, despite friends and family calling it masculine. And I still do. But I realize now that the look is an acquired taste and many can only appreciate it when they too have undergone a similar journey. Either you are a women who loves to lift, or you are a man who is into fitness. If you are not, then chances are you don’t understand it, and it is unappealing to you. But, even if you don’t like the look, my advice to you is to a) recognize the amount of hard work, dedication and drive it takes to achieve is and b) if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all :)

A good example of this idea is the book, Fit Girls Vol 1, published in 2007 by photographer John Stutz. I was lucky enough to be a part of this book, though I was one of the least “hard” and lean women included in its pages. But the book itself is a work of art. It is a coffe table book filled with hundreds of color and black & white images John took of figure competitors, fitness models, bodybuilders, athletes, etc, all a few days out from their shows. The bodies captured so exquisitely at the height of their form is unbelievable and whether or not you think muscle is sexy or cute, it is hard not to appreciate the incredible hard work and literally sculpting needed to create those bodies.  I have included some of my images below and I am sure you have seen similar ones from other models and competitors. John’s style is unique, and he shot many, many well-knowns in the industry, like Monica Brant, Jamie Eason and others.

I am interested to discuss this. What are your thoughts? Have your “tastes” changed as your involvement in the fitness & bodybuilding world had increased? How do you handle friends and family who say it’s ugly (and it very well might be, TO THEM)? Do you try to defend it? Or it is just a matter of opinion or “agree to disagree?” I think it’s all relative and it’s all good!! :)
Love you all! ox Jill

Related: Why It’s Time to Throw Out Your Light Weights

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