This past week was a media frenzy for FFG. After my research project was featured in the Edmonton Journal, the story was picked up by the National Post, and just this morning I was interviewed for CBC’s Q by the adorable, velvet-throated Jian Ghomeshi. Sigh. When his producer asked me to be on the show, I immediately blurted ‘Oh yeah, I have a big crush on Jian!’ [Edited in October 2014: I greatly regret writing this paragraph after learning that eight women have recently come forward to report their abuse by Jian. I believe these women and now feel only disgust for him].Other figure girls feel the same way, and my friend Fitbabe—I added her to the Glossary—wondered if he was single. I meant to inquire about his status this morning but completely forgot, becoming overwhelmed by my studio earphones, round microphone, and mug of water. I equally heart Stephen Colbert, so call me you uptight sexy hunk of manhood! I usually screen but will talk to you anytime. Or at least my publicist will.
It is very nice to have such interest in my work, including over 15,000 hits on my blog site and many personal messages filled with admiration. Not all of the feedback, however, has been positive. The comment section of the on-line version of the National Post included nasty insults about my appearance. To summarize: I am butt ugly and look like a man, and want to be a man, and obviously hate men, and clearly am a lesbian. Why yes, you clever nimble- fingered fellows, that all follows quite logically. But seriously, these assertions provide me with more great content for my book, indicating that my muscular build is threatening (at least to some) and resists gendered categories. Despite what I consider my girly looks—notice the long hair, high heels, delicate jewelery, heavy make up, and claw-like finger nails—my visible muscularity cancels it all out, transforming me into a category-defying freak. One Web site even reproduced multiple pictures from my blog, repeatedly pointed out my monstrosity, and then helpfully included an image of the body that any heteronormative male would prefer. The woman depicted is awkwardly posed with her ass out and huge breast implants pushed up. Message sent and message received, guys: off to the surgical clinic I go, to achieve this more naturally feminine look.
What’s funny is that I deliberately lost muscle for my competition, striving to achieve the ‘softer’ look required for figure contests. Those haters would have hated me even more about four months ago, as indicated by the photo pasted above. I am galled by the notion that they would approve of my body right now: I have gained at least 20 pounds during the past month. That’s right, my friends, the indulgent eating frenzy has not abated. Just yesterday, I was in line at the drug store buying more tasty snacks, when the middle-aged man behind me placed his hands over his eyes and began muttering: ”They have no intelligence. They are just robots.’ Maybe I am a little sensitive these days, but I assumed that he was describing me. Had I become robotically lifeless? I think not. No machine could feel this degree of unrestrained delight while eating a chocolately licorice log. Speaking of food, I finally made my Cajun feast-meal this weekend. It actually took me four days to produce and I have uploaded the menu to a new recipe section of this site, hoping to please the various foodies now subscribing as fans. I thoroughly enjoyed making enough food to feed an army—in the end I had 14 guests—relying on a down-to-earth cookbook that I had purchased in Lafayette (see the post entitled ‘Ragin’ Cajun’). It included home spun community recipes, with such directions as ‘prepare biscuits as you normally would.’ Hmmm. Okay then. The chicken dish simply said ‘Next, fire.’ With only a moment’s hesitation, I doused that poulet with brandy and threw in a match. Burn baby burn.
My favourite creation was the crawfish etouffee, but Ogre preferred the pecan pie. While I was making it, she crept into the kitchen and stuck her entire face into the softened butter, literally inhaling it. Afterwards, she had a stomach ache and needed a sponge bath. What a dumb ass.
Back to the important matter at hand, namely my body. This week my body officially went public; moving out of the private realm, it was offered up to scrutiny and judgement, even moreso than during the competition itself. I was reminded of a recent conversation I’d had with a fabulous women’s studies professor and mother of a two-year-old. When I expressed surprise about the way in which strangers would now address me, asking for fitness advice or offering their opinion about my physical condition, she said ‘that’s what happened to me when I was pregnant.’ As analyzed by Iris Marion Young, the pregnant body is considered more public than personal, more like an object than a subject, and people feel authorized to claim it. Anti-abortion activists are at the extreme end, wishing to revoke the legal rights of pregnant women, but other interventions are less radical, and include glances of approval, or hands that reach out to touch a stranger’s belly. Are male bodies ever treated in this way? This is a sincere question. Maybe when they are ill, in a hospital setting? With her muscular frame G-Smash is often objectified by others. Certain middle-aged men will even flex their puny biceps next to hers, a practice that I find puzzling. Are they making fun of her or of themselves, engaging in a comedic pose down to compensate for their flabby emasculation? This is making my head hurt, but it is enlightening to consider the status of my body and its shifting relationship with the category of ‘person.’ It is also enlightening (and saddening) to realize that fame does not always coincide with fortune.
Great post today. Your poor puss cat! Re Jian I do think he is single…I met him when he’d come to Mount Allison University as a guest speaker for the President’s Lecture series on the Arts. I sat front row eyeball to eye. I told him he had many fans who were mature woman. Better get in line! LOL
Kudos to Professor McTavish.
I applaud you, Professor McTavish, I admirte your commitment to the project of competing in the Edmonton show, and your sacrifice and dedication to the discipline of the preparation and I applaud your success – I did not catch your placing, but just making it to the contest without falling off the wagon is commendable.
The sport of fitness competition and bodybuilding in general, benefits from having someone of your academic standing participating and writing about it. Your experience lends credibility to a creative discipline that is often ill understood by hoi polloi, and particularly the media.
During the 1990s I published the Sporting Times in Alberta and included the newsletter of the Alberta Bodybuilding Association therein. I attended competitions, wrote about and photographed them for the magazine and met the men and women participants. I covered the first Alberta Women’s Fitness competition won by Carrie ** – and which included Milamar Flores!
I worked out in the U of C gym and watched Sue Longstaff workout daily (The overall winner in 1992 or 1993 (I forget .) I met all of the other competitors backstage and offstage. I met Kay baxter in 1983 when the IFBB staged a women’s comp. at the Paliser and my fav – Deb Diana. We’ve had Franco Colmbu and others who attained academic qualifications in dietary science – after becoming a bodybuilder, but you, Lianne were a Professor of Art History before she took up the sport – which goes to proving the case that adult, rational people can take up our sport and find satisfaction and reward.
Rock on, Professor.
Great interview on Q, by the way.
Geoff White, B.Ed
Thanks Geoff, Presening a fuller, more accurate, and more positive picture of bodybuilding is among my many goals for the Feminist Figure Girl project. During the past few years I have met great, encouraging and hard working bodybuilders and they deserve respect. I will try my best to rock on.
Great Job Leanne,
I just found out about your project, and am very interested in learning more about How you got to this point. I’ve just been trying to lose weight, and build endurance, thinking about weights now too for a new approach.
Congrats, and great job,
PS The haters can’t see past their own nose half the time, not worth the bits they type…
Way to get some (mostly) positive publicity, Lianne! So excited to hear about your interview on Q and resulting blog hits. (I wondered why your interview on my blog skyrocketed in hits last week…now, I know. 🙂
Can’t wait to read that book you are writing too.
Oh to your question regarding whether male bodies are treated they way pregnant or muscular women’s are, I would say yes they are. I remember many years ago after I started working out and developed some pectoral muscles I had a lesbian friend quitely ask me if she could touch my chest as she wanted to know what they felt like. I suspect most muscular men regularily have their biceps squeezed, shoulders touched etc.
Yes I often cop a feel of your chest when hugging you hello and good bye. Had you noticed? Not sure if I would dare to try it with similarly well-endowed straight male friends, however …
First of all I want to tell you how much I love the way you write. You have a way with words that makes me laugh. 🙂
I just wanted to comment on your thoughts about whether men’s bodies are objectified in a hospital setting. I can testify to my husband’s experience at least. He had congestive heart failure, and eventually received a heart transplant in January of this year. But back in the fall of last year we had numerous hospital visits, and at every one he was touched without giving permission, treated like he was a little boy, and was told ‘Check your dignity at the door”. One incident in particulat left him deflated- he underwent an angiogram to check for Coronary Artery Disease. This involves the piercing of the artery right by the groin, and afterwards you have to have a sandbag placed on the artery for a couple hours to stop the bleeding, and you absolutely must keep your body prone, and not lift your head up at all.. The sedatives they had given him made him nauseous, so he started vomiting, and this caused the artery to begin bleeding. The nurses came in, and without talking to him at all,one just tried to hold his head down despite his vomiting everywhere and the other gently dabbed at his privates to clean off the blood. It would have been funny if it didn’t make him feel so ashamed and weak. Thanks for being a strong voice for fitness and the “f” word.
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