Bodybuilder’s Bitch

Picture a standard hotel room at the Hilton, with two double beds facing a flat screen TV. Brown stains cover a rumpled sheet that lies across the narrow entrance hallway. A heavyweight female bodybuilder stands on top of it, wearing only a g-string, arms outspread. Two women kneel on either side of her, spraying her skin with tanning lotion, smoothing the smears with a small foam brush. ‘I am going to open your ass crack now to paint inside it,’ says one of the worker bees. ‘Your baby monkey butt,’ jokes the other prone woman, for she is something of a smart alec. ‘Just do it,’ sighs the exhausted, dehydrated, ripped, and increasingly dark brown body builder. ‘Treat me like an object.’ The two painters shuffle the sculpted object into the bathroom to eye her from all sides, deciding that the ‘side body’–as yoga types would say–needs some attention during the next application. They pause to let the 6th coat dry by watching a compelling scene from Thelma and Louise

This is an accurate description of my Friday night. It was a strangely intimate and perversely feminist event. I was the smart alecy one, helping my friend prepare to compete in the Canadian Bodybuilding Championships, held this year in Saskatoon. The temporary object-woman is an amazing athlete who had trained hard all year, dieted down to a mere 135 pounds, and then water loaded before restricting liquids for two days and finally fat loading. Such competition preparation is banal to those in the bodybuilding world, but it was eye opening to a neophyte like me. I had baked cheese cakes for the fat load: one was banana with a blueberry swirl and the other chocolate with a cinnamon nut crust. They were fab if I do say so myself. After consuming bland chicken and egg whites for months on end, my muscular amiga was finally allowed to eat mixed nuts, peanut butter, cake, and rib-eye steaks–but without any appetite or hydration it all tasted like ‘ass.’ That was the precise description that echoed from her emaciated, bronzed face. 

I was in Saskatoon to support my friend and scream my guts out while she was on stage. ‘Just act like I’m your bitch,’ I suggested, though she preferred the term ‘roadie.’ I ran to get gravol to help with the nausea, and cheap towels for the post-competition shower mess. Mostly I applied layers of tan, without really knowing what I was doing. I was happy to perform these chores for I am occasionally servile and love to bake. I also learned a lot, and maybe even got a glimpse of what my own competition will be like in May 2011. Oh shit, is it too late to back out?

I can only assume that my experience will not be as extreme, for figure girls strive for a ‘softer’ look and do not have to be as ripped. It is rather ridiculous to consider my own body project in relation to that of my friend because she is in another league entirely and we have little in common in terms of corporeality. Still, she was my inspiration for Feminist Figure Girl because she is a smart, funny, strong woman with an assertive personality. She is huge, not meek or submissive. And she is definitely not obedient. Any woman who defies feminine norms and refuses the comfort of conformity deserves accolades in my opinion. (This statement is somewhat ironic considering that I spent the weekend baking and kneeling. Yet I am certain that baking can be a feminist political act, and will blog about that at some point).  

Some people always want to be comfortable. Do you know the type? They seek the familiar, going to the same places, and doing the same activities over and over again. Even when they travel, they cannot adapt to change but instead search for the recognizable while shunning the unknown or challenging. When I see people going to a MacDos in Paris I want to scream ‘What the fuck are you doing here? Why not eat some great French food at an outdoor cafe, or at least go to MacDonair or one of those crappy, overpriced pizza restaurants along the Champs d’Elysees. You can return to the standardized and always predictable when you are back home.’ Argh! I personally love change and confusion; I like feeling awkward; I savour discomfort, and I think that is part of my interest in developing Feminist Figure Girl. Bodybuilding is ultimately about discomfort, though the lifestyle is often repetitive and dull (well, at least the food on the diet-down menu). The Hilton had prepared a special menu for the event, which included the egg white omelettes that I ordered every morning. Quel delice.

I transported my friend’s bodybuilding swag bag home for her. ‘Help yourself to anything you like,’ she kindly offered, so I ate the protein crunchies and polished off a protein bar that already had a few bites out of it. I am now eyeing the package labelled ‘subcutaneous fat incinerator.’ Maybe I should have that for lunch. Bodybuilding is indeed a mad, mad world. I actually forgot to mention the pre-competition hemorrhoid cream/saran wrap ritual. Oh well, I will leave that to your imagination.

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 51-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. About eight years ago, I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

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