There Aint No Shit in Bodybuilding

I am not referring to tbe pre-competition need for laxatives, when bodybuilders consume 400 grams of chicken per day, without accompanying carbs or fibre. I mean that there is no bullshit, no faking it, when athletes stand on stage practically naked. Every flaw, every oversized trap, is out there for all to see. Both judges and trained members of the audience know that your strangely swollen belly—GH gut—was caused by hormone overuse, expanding your organs along with your muscles. We see traces of cellulite that cannot be fully disguised by Pro Tan. Even if the extra skin hanging from your newly striated ass is held up by tape underneath your tiny purple suit, we sense that it is there. It definitely takes balls to expose yourself to this kind of scrutiny, whether of the lady or man variety. In keeping with early modern medical ideas, I believe that both men and women have testicles. Obsessed scientists got it wrong during the late eighteenth century, by distinguishing the categories of male and female, rather than focusing on their substantial similarities. Come to think of it, bodybuilding can draw attention to gendered sameness, and that makes some people and organizations—like the NPC and IFBB—uncomfortable, doesn’t it?  

There is a lot of bullshit in the academy. Just think about the dead weight that exists in many university departments. The most useless professor is usually the one declaring how busy he or she is, enumerating chores that are in fact about 90% fewer than those of the most productive person. That anxiously slow-witted professor has about 90% fewer publications too. Then there are those ‘intellectual stars’ who are constantly in the news because they have amazing skills of self-promotion. They are extroverts, who were probably gâté and told how smart they were from kindergarten onwards. Sans doute, vous êtes un enfant spécial [Radio Radio rocks my world on the step mill!]. Their actual scholarship is flashy but lacking in substance and originality. University administrators and deadline driven journalists love these types, but when you take a close look at the research produced by the megabucks megastars, it is repetitive and shallow. 

Just last week I was discussing the downside of the academy with a friend of mine who is currently teaching on contract, a situation involving heightened exploitation. She teaches five days per week, which is the same thing as ‘please shoot me in the head immediately,’ worse that any perky ass/water torture I can imagine. Not only is there no time for research or other creative work, there is little respite from being constantly ‘on’ in the classroom, ready to take charge and be looked at, for hours on end. I am sorry to say that many of today’s students are lazy and whiny. For the last time, fuckers, I will not be putting lecture notes online while you are holidaying in Mexico! Shout out to all the good students! Now, there are many great things about being a tenure-track or tenured professor, primarily the autonomy of the job. I don’t really have a supervisor and no one can tell me what to do, and certainly not what to teach. If I feel like encouraging my students to worship the devil, I will sure as fuck do that. Just try to stop me. Though this freedom is enabling it can also turn professors (ie me) into noncompliant assholes. I now resist all regulations, and even became enraged when the fire alarm went off last week, forcing me to get dressed and go outside for ten minutes. You’re not the boss of me, fire department!

It is striking, then, that I pay people to tell me what to do at the gym. My natural decisiveness fades away when I drop to the floor and perform pushups while DYT blows a whistle and calls me a bitch. Actually, she never does that, but G-Smash sure used to. And I loved it. That is the best thing about working out, aside from the endorphin rushes and dopamine waves. For once, I am not in charge: I simply obey. Although I am curious about physiology, I do not want to learn about it. While at the gym I long to educate my body, not my mind. There I am the student who watches the leader and feeds, leech-like, off her energy. It is nice to be on the other side. Let’s not get carried away, though. I don’t desire to be powdered and wrapped in a diaper, like a passive-agressive Wall Street millionaire. But if you click a stopwatch and call me a maggot, my heart will be full. Obviously, that is a totally different situation. 

Back to my dispirited friend and the shit of the academy. I call her ‘Two Days Off’ (2DO) because she insists on having ‘me time.’ We discussed her relaxation theories at length, while she downed 6 pints of grasshopper and a veggie burger with onion rings and cole slaw—this woman knows how to have a good time and my hat is off to her. I sipped on soda water with lime, being the tight ass (well not yet, though it is definitely springier) diet-down queen that I currently am. This vibrant doctor of art history demands 48 hours each week just for herself. ‘Do you mean that you do your laundry and grocery shopping and cooking instead of working on those days?’ I queried. She was incredulous. ‘No, numbnuts, I lay on the couch and watch TV and walk my dog and talk on the phone with my friends. This rest is both refreshing and necessary for future projects.’ And you know what, she is right. Yet I cannot achieve this zen-like state; it is beyond me. I am fully Taylorized, hell bent on efficiency as I move robotically around my condo. Why not watch the Wolfman movie on TV, indulging my furry fetish, while weighing chicken and polishing my sexy boots? Maybe I could delint the moderately priced Ikea pillows at the same time? Or bend down to stretch my hams while picking up the tiny pieces of cat litter scattered throughout my living room? And then suddenly it happens: Benecio del Toro looks up at the full moon, and sprouts chest hair so copious that it strains against his white dress shirt, forcing it to fall off in tatters. For a moment, I am mesermized, eyes wide open, breathing heavily, evenly. Finally, I am at rest. I think 2DO would approve.

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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.

2 thoughts on “There Aint No Shit in Bodybuilding

    • No, and why are there so many of them? Often when I reluctantly reveal that I am a professor to someone at the gym, that person will exclaim: ‘Oh so you are smart.’ I will respond, well in this case yes, but let me assure you that the role of professor and possession of intelligence do not necessarily go hand in hand.

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