Seeing a really muscular woman in real life is not a pleasure I have had as often as I would have liked. In fact, I could count them on the striations of one of Christa Bauch's pecs. I've written about pretty much all of them on here at one time or another, giving a name to the intense thrill I've felt on each occasion: "The Madness".
And - unless you count a fully-clothed Andrulla Blanchette in the street one lunchtime and only realising it was her once she was well past me - I've never seen a real female bodybuilder. Like (I guess) a lot of other fans of female muscle, I've always admired them in a kind of second-hand way, seeing them in print and on screen, but never with my own eyes. It's probably for the best. Given the effect seeing a muscular runner had on me just over a year ago (the last time I got The Madness), I wonder if I'd actually be able to survive a real-life encounter with a proper bodybuilder!
I’m pretty sure that the reason for the strength of my reactions on these occasions is that these women are so different and I hardly ever see them in the course of my daily life. A woman with muscle looks very different from other women. Her muscularity makes the shape of her body different. And she carries herself differently, she walks differently. She radiates strength and confidence, not something that many, let's say, "conventionally-bodied" women do. She's a rare and uniquely beautiful sight.
This is perhaps best illustrated, for the vicarious fan anyway, in candids where the female bodybuilder is in a public place, where she literally stands out from the crowd. Perhaps the reason that this kind of shot is so beloved by female muscle heads is that it demonstrates her "otherness" so well. Often onlookers are caught gawping in the shot - look at the guy far right in the pic above, for example. That could be me!
While others cover up, her choice of outfit reveals the body she has worked so hard to achieve. And she's hardly going to choose a dull colour for that outfit either. She wants to be noticed, she wants to walk through the crowd and be the centre of attention. All eyes follow her. You've never seen anything like me before, she seems to say, and you'll never see anything like me again - so get a good look while you can.
And the otherness of female bodybuilders is also commonly (and enthusiastically) illustrated wherever female muscle heads get together with shots - often but not exclusively backstage or around show time - by the juxtaposition of competitors with female fans, backstage helpers, or even fellow competitors from other divisions.
In one-to-one shots like these the difference seems even more marked, jarring even. It's not so much that the female bodybuilder is a stronger, superior woman and more that she is a completely different species altogether. A superior being, if you like. And this is especially true of those female bodybuilders - like Tracy Argo, above - who are big (and somewhat butch!) even by the standards of their female bodybuilding peers.
Less common but no less exciting for fans is an on stage mis-match such as the one at last year's NPC USAs when Aleesha Young blew away the rest of the heavyweight class before her sheer size made the overall posedown a very one-sided affair!
This doesn't happen very often, partly because there are so few shows with posedowns between winners of different weight classes these days. Nevertheless, the appeal of a massively muscular woman outsizing a much smaller (even if muscular) one has been acknowledged by, among other websites, HerBiceps and Muscle Angels, both of which have produced clips like those starring Megan Abshire (getting those big arms worshipped, above) and a rightly smug-looking Lisa Giesbrecht (below).
One female muscle fan has taken this kind of juxtaposition even further. On his Tumblr, ZIMBO, he has posted female bodybuilders next to size zero models. And not just any female bodybuilders. He chooses some of the biggest female bodybuilders there have ever been - like Cornelia Brandt and Renee Toney - to shocking effect.
There is, of course, an argument that neither of these two extreme bodies is quote unquote healthy, but there can be little argument that it's the muscle freaks and not the zeroes who have sculpted their bodies into an ideal that comes from within themselves. And I know which of the two I would prefer most women aspire to.
They do remind me of some of the before and after/transformation pics, even more so because there are numerous famous FBBs who initially employed weight training as their way of overcoming disorders like bulimia. Lisa Cross was one (see Cross Is Back: 500 to 5,000), as was Suzy Kellner (see C.Moore Glootz's Fun from Rear).
But transformation pics don't have to be so extreme to be effective, and among the most famous and loved by the female muscle lovin' community are those that show an attractive but unmuscular woman who made herself into a bone fide beast of a muscle goddess. That's another one for the team, we say to ourselves.
What's not to like about these comparisons? They were certainly pretty before, but there are hundreds, thousands, millions of young women almost exactly like them. After, they are one in a million. They are beautiful, and truly exceptional.
But much as I do love the fact that Shannon, Teresa and so on have come over to the muscle side, and much as I do admire how women like Lisa and Suzy have turned their lives around, my absolute favourite transformations are of the fat to fit variety.
Wendy Watson (above), Miava Nelson (below), and previously on FMS Tarna Alderman and Alana Shipp are four examples of women once overweight and unhappy about it. They lost that weight, became inspirations to women in the predicament they once faced, and became sex symbols for the discerning male in the process. And best of all they did it while eating more food than ever!
No comparison then between the female bodybuilder and other, more traditionally shaped women, even if that other woman was the FBBs former self! And that's rather ironic, I think, given that the sport is all about comparisons, both on stage and in the progress pic, where the muscular female charts her own ever-growing journey.
On and on she pushes herself to be bigger, stronger, better... Not everyone can summon up that kind of single-minded drive. And all to the end of building a body that is at odds with the norms dictated by society. She's really not like everybody else, is she? And isn't that, dear reader, precisely what makes her so wonderful?