Offensive and Retarded

Bikini contestants at the 2012 Olympia in Las Vegas.

Dear FFG,

I found your blog last year – loved! As a fellow workout geek, loved reading about the journey to physical transformation. My current conundrum, and the reason for this message: I am seriously contemplating entering a show in the bikini category. It’s partly motivated by vanity, the fact that I have a phenomenal trainer who’s well versed in this field, my hairdresser would be tickled pink to create a big mountainous ‘do; and as an Asian 46-year-old suburban mother of three, this is the last thing I should be considering. Like you, I like to subvert expectations, give the middle finger to social norms and dictates. But…how does one rebel while conforming to even more fucked up expectations? I’ll be judged on a toned but not too striated physique, my hair (no worries here), presenting myself as ‘classy’…how does an intelligent, educated, independent woman engage in something that’s inherently offensive and retarded? 

Sincerely, Delicate Asian Flower [DAF]

Bikini contestants at the 2010 Olympia in Las Vegas.

Dear DAF,

First of all, thanks for your adulation. I am not sure about giving advice, but I am definitely prepared to tell you exactly what to do. In my opinion, you should: 1) grow your ass; 2) shine it up; and 3) shove it in the judges’ faces while glancing coyly over your shoulder, perhaps adding a saucy wink to set yourself apart from the other girls. In other words, you should go ahead and do the fucking bikini not-so-much gun show.

Sometimes in life, smart, stunning people like us have to be both offensive and retarded. We need to see what it feels like, to try on the dunce hat for once, instead of always finishing our math worksheets early and then helping the teacher pin up the social studies bulletin board. Let the stupid kids in the class figure out fractions without your assistance; let them learn to tie their own fucking shoes. It’s time to be selfish. It’s your time.

Though in my experience drinking seven bottles of beer can accomplish a similar dim-wittedness, becoming stage-ready is much harder work, and is thus more memorable. Plus it provides you with glossy pictures that you can carry in your purse for years on end, eagerly displaying them to relative strangers without warning. I enjoyed this activity at an academic conference this past week, and let me tell you, yummy mummy, that it was a big hit, producing expressions of shock, confusion, and overt adoration. Why not take credit for pushing your diet-shrunken breasts into sparkly shell casings; for being entirely shorn of hair from the neck down? Those feats will garner you more attention and admiration than any other worthwhile thing you have ever done, like performing the endlessly grueling labour of raising healthy, happy kids. No one is going to stand up and cheer for that, my fertile friend. Luckily you have other options. But wait, there’s more! As a bonus you can become extra bitchy and demanding during the final diet down period, using such phrases as: ‘I am so tired that you will have to sex me while I just lie here. How about we start off with a nice back and glute massage?’ Oh yeah, it will be like a dream come true. Later on, when it is ‘payback’ time, just pretend that you don’t remember anything from the four weeks preceeding your show. Trust me. It will work.

Pissy pants self-satisfaction aside, there are some seriously good reasons to do a bodybuilding, figure, and/or bikini contest. I guarantee, my fecund follower, that you will learn a lot about yourself and your abilities. No doubt, you will have to conform to gendered expectations, something that I imagine would be challenging for an Asian woman saddled with extra layers of bullshit sexist stereotypes. I wonder what strategies you will use to subvert them, you sly fox? I can’t wait to find out. At the same time, I suspect that you will discover most of your enlightenment off stage, during your training and posing sessions. For me, the sheer physicality of contest prep was enjoyable. As you know, I did a figure show to undertake embodied research, but quickly found that the other competitors had a myriad of equally interesting reasons for hitting the stage. Pleasing men was not one of them, for that is, in the end, not very difficult. Some of these ladies’ incentives included: developing a measured relationship with food while recovering from anorexia; forging an independent identity after a particular disappointment, such as a bad break-up; attending to the self as a remedy for the ridiculous demands of contemporary constructions of motherhood; proving self-worth and ensuring future success by accomplishing something difficult. You might like to sit down and list the pros and cons of participating in a bikini competition. If you decide to go ahead, I recommend that you then explain fully to your family what kind of support you will need. After describing the mechanics and purpose of a hack squat, for example, you will want to show your partner how to press a clenched fist into your subsequently sore buttocks while making a slow, twisty motion. You might have to demonstrate the perfect pressure, movement, and duration the first few times, but we women are used to that, right?

So, in closing, dear DAF, I hope that you do the show, and then write about it in your own blog, or else send us regular updates. Despite the self-awareness to be gained, there will likely be a host of surprising and unforeseeable results. For me, they have included world wide fame and regularly being mistaken for a gorgeous superstar. Here is a recent story that I hope will inspire you: 

‘I have many friends who look something like Celine Dion, but you are spot on. She is, of course, a much older lady. Whatever you are doing, keep on doing it.’ I remain silent, waiting for the strangely accented man to check me into the hotel. He clearly has a French Canadian singer fetish. ‘Yes, you have Celine Dion eyes, and that is quite a compliment!’ he affirms, sensing my dubiousness. ‘Thank you,’ I say, before grabbing my mini-fridge key and making a dash for the elevator. Once inside the ocean-view room, all unpacked and wified up, I google ‘Celine Dion,’ only to discover that she is actually one year younger than me. That guy is super smart, I decide. ‘Could my life get any better?’ I ask myself, humming a catchy tune as I put on running shoes, ready to jog around the marina. Thank god I did that figure show last year.  

I can go on, DAF, because you loved me, because you loved me. 

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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.

3 thoughts on “Offensive and Retarded

  1. Thanks FFG for your sage advice – especially about my ass. Asia is a continent of assless wonders, myself included, and despite the fact that I have lunged and squatted to Montreal and back, to quote my trainer, ‘we’re gonna have to do something about your ass’. Hence, why my ass still aches four days after my lower body workout.

    Trainer-man wants to postphone my bikini debut until April because, despite his punishing efforts, let’s face it, I’ll be 47, see note about my ass, and I need to gain at least 10 lbs of muscle. And truth be told, I’ve not yet given up my white wine and ciggies – both of which have been my favourite individual sport for a while. I have devloped a hatred for quinoa, though, so I’m probably on the right path!

    In terms of subverting expectations, I’m thinking I’ll either play to them, shuffling shyly across the stage, giggling behind my cupped hand and serving the judges tea. Or, I’ll play to the Freudian reality of Yellow Fever and give em what they want – a Delicate Asian Dominatrix (Dad!).

    The Beautiful Tall Whiteboy who pays the mortgage is himself a nutbar and skates inline marathons so he’s prepared for the gruelling training and bitchery that will be unleashed; and I have told my kids they have to move out by March 2013.

    Again, thank you for your advice. I am going to do this because I want to kick some ass – mostly my own. Can’t wait to be mistaken for Lucy Liu!

  2. I couldn’t have said it better myself…no really. I couldn’t.
    This was brilliant!…you’ll find that I’ll be saying that a lot. I’m already addicted to you after reading only 2 posts!

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