What’s Next for FFG?

‘Oh, you’ll do it again. After competing for the first time, you’ll be hooked, unable to stop.’ A number of competitive bodybuilders delivered this sage prediction to me, when I was in the midst of dieting down and training for my show. They grinned knowingly and winked slyly. ‘Absolutely not,’ I insisted. ‘I am participating in the world of bodybuilding for research purposes only, and do not give a rat’s ass about performing on stage.’ I made such declarations in a defiant voice, filled with bravado, but I was never completely certain. Would I become a figure addict, repeatedly drawn to the allure of sparkly tits, slippery muscles, and a purse full of cold, cooked egg whites? Now that my competition has passed—has it already been three weeks?—I have my answer. No. I will not. I did not enjoy my moment under the bright lights, wearing hard plastic shoes that squeezed gel toe nails. At the same time, I relished being backstage, meeting a diverse range of other figure girls and hearing about their sense of accomplishment as they became ‘stage ready’ despite obstacles that included recent car accidents, relationship breakdowns, and chronic illnesses. Perhaps that is why I volunteered to shine and sheen the athletes at the Alberta Bodybuilding Association Provincial Championships this past Saturday; I spent the day placing my plastic-gloved hands on the fine buttocks of numerous ladies and even a few men. I have to admit, however, that when a a couple of cheeky individuals challenged me to a pose down, I could not resist strutting my stuff down the cloth covered hallway at the Winspear, while bikini girls and ripped boys wearing stained thongs shouted the odds, betting on their favourites. I Iost every time. My main rivals were: 

Feminist Figure Gopher. My nemesis.

I was also beaten by Lamp.

Nice side pose, you illuminated hussy.

Aside: I first met Feminist Figure Lamp during the early hours of Sunday June 5, while drinking with friends to celebrate my show being over. Still dehydrated, I became quite tipsy on pedialyte shakers.

In my reflective and gluttonous post-competition state, I realize that I learned a lot about my body during the FFG project. On a superficial level, I discovered that I actually have a good body, without much cellulite or many stretch marks. It is well proportioned and ‘girly.’ That was news to me. I leaned out steadily, responding well to the regime so professionally provided by QMR. l confirmed that I am unusually energetic, surviving the strict dieting while continuing to work and function at a high level (others may disagree on that point). I accept that I also have many weaknesses, especially around food control. Foods that I love—and that includes practically everything—must be removed from my presence or I will cheat. How do bodybuilding moms make peanut butter sandwiches for their kids while restricting themselves to 100 grams of chicken and four brussels sprouts? They are my heroines. Moreover, I have seriously fused and defective feet, something I have always denied despite the CT scans, specialist diagnoses, and obligatory orthotics. Aren’t those fluffy socks from the Dollar Store good enough? I am wearing them right now, like an idiot, walking on the hardwood floors in my condo. And yes I am in pain. Another thing: I finally understand that unlike most women I do not retain water. I dehydrate easily, and shed my water load almost immediately. I had mistakenly assumed that it was my small bladder that forced my partner to pull the car over precisely 45 minutes after stopping at the Tim Horton’s. Luckily for him, I am a Canadian girl who was raised on camping trips. I can pee in the woods, or by the side of the road, anywhere, anytime. Other figure girls described the sensation of extreme dehydration as the worst part of their competition, but for me this terrible feeling was familiar. Though the ability to process and remove liquid from my body at an accelerated rate is potentially good for bodybuilding (if managed), it is not good for everyday life. For instance, if we are ever stranded in the middle of the ocean on a life raft, I hereby authorize you either to: 1) throw me overboard to make room for those who bloat; or 2) consider me food-fuel for your cannibalistic forays. Feel free to go all ‘Raft of the Medusa’ on me, for I will soon be dead anyway. Warning: I will also be tough and chewy.

Gericault, Raft of the Medusa, 1818-19, Louvre.

What a gloomy post! Do not despair, my friends, for FFG is not dead yet. Happily drinking diet lemonade, she has many future plans enabling her to blog on and on, forever. I can hear your heartfelt sighs of relief. I have already registered for a Can-Fit-Pro training course that starts in July so that I can become a ‘certified personal trainer.’ A minimally certified one, to be sure, but I will upgrade, specializing in the needs of middle-aged women. Their fitness needs, you dirty birds. Oh, I know what you are like. I plan to volunteer my services, training women who cannot afford to join gyms. I have also reapplied to become a Big Sister here in Edmonton, and will soon meet a fiesty 13-year-old. I am excited but also nervous, for I seem to recall that 13 was the worst year of my entire life. It is really hard to be a teenaged girl and I would never return to my youth. Ugh. Being a middle-aged, middle-class lady professor is much easier. Want to hear something really pompous? I have also started to write a novel. Guess where the first chapter is set? That’s right, backstage at a figure competition. It is, however, entirely fictional. I got the idea after reading The Power of One (1989) by Bryce Courtenay, for my partner’s man-book-club. Since my loveable partner was especially busy golfing, playing poker, and drinking beer, it was only fair that I read the book, summarize its themes, direct him to the best chapters, and suggest potential talking points. Though Courtenay’s best-seller has some great characters, it is repetitive and terribly written. After reluctantly finishing it, I thought: ‘Well if this jackass can become a popular novelist, I probably can too.’ And I won’t even have magically to transform the Boer war into an episode in which the British were the oppressed instead of the oppressors. Good work Bryce. 

To summarize: competing as FFG has changed my life, mostly for the better. Some changes are permanent. I will continue to eat lots of protein, lift heavy weights, use tanning beds—I know they can be harmful but they are so relaxing!—and do yoga. Other things are temporary, including those annoying gel nails, which I have already trimmed, much to the chagrin of Ogre. 

Rub me all over, and say my name bitch!

In fact, I am getting my first tat to mark this experience permanently on my body. I finally understand why people get tattoos, to commemorate traumatic or otherwise important life events, even as they defy belief in future skin elasticity loss. While at the Opera al Fresco fundraiser with 2DO on Friday, I noticed that one of the wonderful tenors—shout out to him!—has the Superman ‘S’ tattooed on the back of each hand. I wondered what his personal challenges and triumphs had been? I also wondered if the tats had affected his singing career. 2DO and I joked about his contract negotiations: ‘I can play only those characters who wear menacing gloves. Those are my conditions, and if you don’t like them you can kiss the Aquaman figure that adorns my sweet ass.’ Oh how we laughed before we cried while he sang the Pearl Fishers Duet with that tall guy. But enough about super-talented singers. Back to me and my first tat: I will have the FFG logo inscribed in the centre of my upper back, in a spot where I will likely not sag or wrinkle, at least not any time soon. Can backs be botoxed? This location marks the trauma of my ongoing back injury, my suit malfunction, and can be easily hidden by flowing long curly blonde hair whenever I am wearing tank tops while giving invited lectures about early modern medicine. It’s going to be great. Really great.

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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.

8 thoughts on “What’s Next for FFG?

  1. Lianne I found the Edmonton Journal article about you fascinating. I like your spirit and your sense of humour too ! I went on to read the final entry on your blog and was wanting to see if you would consider me as a possible candidate for some Personal Training sessions? I’m not in a shelter, but I’m in a tough financial situation. I quit my job in Vancouver, moved back to Edmonton over a year ago to help my aging parents continue to be able to live in their home. My parents are both 86 years old and my dad suffers from Parkinsons. They pay me a small amount, an allowance, if you will…lol but that doesn’t go far. I will be turning 60 on July 7th this year, and I can’t seem to get my body back to the decent shape it was several years ago, before the big M. As each year passes, it seems I gain weight no matter what I do. I’ve been concious of diet, and have exercised but need to be brave and enter a gym for the first time ever. Whatever happens, I admire your unbelievable “stick to it attitude” !

    • Hi there Lianne, I heard you on Jian during Q this morning. Wow! I sure do admire you determination and guts and balls, or should I say ovaries?

      As a mature woman, who was once very involved in body building, back in the day of Rachel Mclish and Cory Everson, it still hasn’t changed much in terms of being dominated my men who make up the “rules”. I am certain your amazing experience perhaps can contribute to some change around these issues and how they pertain to feminist concerns. Thanks for doing this and thank you for your entertaining blog and I look forward to your book! I love you sense of humour. Competitors your nemesis ,the Gopher and that Lamp woo stiff competition but no personality, just a bitch!

  2. Your future plans are very inspiring and awesome! I love the idea of helping women who cannot afford gym membership and I really love the idea of you being a Big Sister to a spunky girl newly teen-aged girl. I also, would NEVER go back to being a teenager again. Well, maybe the body – but that is it!

    I l-o-v-e that DAD’s logo is going to be your tattoo! Totally RAD!

    Also, could you please post the recipe for the “Pedialyte shaker” – I think I need to toss a few back after your post sent me into traumatic 13-year-old-girl flashback very-special-episode.

  3. I read about you in the National Post article. Just plain awesome. I’m 41. I did a figure competition in April (my first…and likely last… one). It was a bit of personal dare. I fell in love with weight traning and the effect it had on my body. And the competition was a huge motivator to push myself to new places of fitness. I, however, could have done without the scary orange tan, stage make-up, and stripper heels. I’m now looking for a competition where it is acceptable to show up on stage in my gym shorts, do some jumping jacks and burpees, flex my biceps and then exit stage left. All while being in my all-natural glowing-white glory. Great to have found your blog – funny stuff. Look forward to reading more.

  4. Hi Lianna,
    I heard your interview on 99.1 cbc radio this morning (10am) and I thought it was very fascinating and also insightful. Hearing about your research and your perspectives on bodybuilding.. I was on my way to work but when I got there I couldn’t leave the car because I wanted to hear the end of the show!
    I was wondering if there is any way you can post that interview recording online? I was trying to find it on the 99.1 cbc radio site but with no luck, even youtube. My sister is actually a bit of a feminist who loves basketball and also blogs about woman who love sports but “have to confront all the lingering stereotypes around women and their bodies”. (http://pickthegirl.wordpress.com/)
    Anyways, I hope to hear more of you and your thoughts in the future.
    All the best,

    • Hi Karen,

      I assume that a podcast will be made available on the CBC Q Web site and that you can access it there. I do not have one (yet) and have not had time to listen to the broadcast. I enjoying doing the interview though! Thanks for your comment.

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