Around the World is an occasional series celebrating the female bodybuilders of a particular country, and examining any issues peculiar to muscle women there.
Ashwini Waskar, Mumbai, 2015
Back in June 2015 when reporting on the success of Mumbai's Ashwini Waskar, FMS noted "the odd thing is that this competitor isn't wearing a posing suit but a plain black sports bra and shorts", but if we compare that to what Kerala's Majiziya Bhanu wore for her Bodybuilding debut a couple of weeks ago, Ashwini's outfit seems a lot less odd.
Majiziya, according to journalist Siddhant Pandey, is "a professional powerlifter". As she was returning home from a recent competition, by chance she heard about a local Bodybuilding contest, and, encouraged by her fiancée, decided to give it a go. Her powerlifting coach hastily sent her some pics of the compulsory poses "on WhatsApp", and, amazingly, she won, despite "exposing no skin [other] than her face and hands".
She's "a proud hijab-wearing Bodybuilder", you see.
Now Pandey's article may be unintentionally hilarious in places. I was quite confident of winning the championship, he reports Bhanu as saying, as I found the other women contestants to be chubby. In other places he makes claims that are simply ludicrous. "She changed the game," he writes, "she will change the way you look at the sport."
No she won't.
But then I did start thinking about the "skin-tight sportswear" she wore on stage "along with her headscarf". I thought about all those places in the world where this would be the only acceptable attire for a woman to wear whatever sporting endeavour she was doing, and I wondered if this really could "change the game" in those countries.
An Iranian FBB - in private
From places like Iran, where Female Bodybuilding is actually illegal, to places like the UAE, very much at the liberal end of strict Islamic obedience, where the sport isn't exactly discouraged, but there are no female competitors, "skin-tight sportswear along with her headscarf" gives women a way to make contests acceptable to the authorities.
Perhaps the only way.
Khloud Essam, Egyptian FBB & Personal Trainer
Ashwini Waskar wore what she had to wear to compete. Majiziya Bhuna didn't have to wear her hijab, it was a choice. But inadvertently she may have shown women throughout the Islamic world how they might realise their competitive dreams.
Suddenly, hijab-wearing Female Bodybuilders don't sound so ridiculous after all.