The Tanned and Butt Ugly: Photos I Cannot Resist Showing You

veiny hand food prep

Pre-competition consumption rituals are fleshly.

After finishing my book, which is now in the hands of external referees, I realized that many photographs—taken by the incomparable artist and designer Patrick J. Reed—could not be included in it. I think his images offer feminist interventions in the often heteronormative, individualistic, and sexist world of bodybuilding/figure competitions, revealing moments of intense effort, communal caregiving, vulnerability, gender confusion, and trust. I include a few of my favourites below, though I saved the best examples for the book. I especially treasure the images in which I look tired, bored, or hideous, since they offer a nice counterpart to the more typical photographs of the so-called ‘finished product,’ showing a body that is tanned, posed, shiny, and flexed. So what do you think of the pictures below? If you have any images of your own competition or other event (preferably of backstage interactions or training rather than the usual glamour shots), I encourage you to share them with the FFG family.

copy cat posing lesson

Trying to become the other takes lots of practice. 

some other caption

I like how this image portrays my posing lesson as a business transaction, revealing the bureaucracy of physique culture.

tanning care fffffff

The night before my show, I was painted with tanning dye by a gigantic floating arm. Thanks G-Smash.

Velvet wedgie.

Velvet wedgie.

It is difficult (but necessary) to contain such excessive femininity.

It is difficult but necessary to contain such excessive femininity. 

Ugh caption

There is nothing like a 6 am cold steak fat-load at the hair salon. You know what that’s like.


love this one la la la

Doubting T is reassured, and amazed. 

make up time

She is a beautician, not a magician. 


One Louis XIV special, coming right up.


I frankly found all practices of self-care, including having my make-up applied by a professional, to be tedious chores.

SPIT polish
Tanning spit polish.

Say why I love this one

This is one of my favourite pictures, because it shows how much the care, attention, and labour of others went into producing my body. Plus that’s my LSP in the background, so feast your eyes on more than his Lebanese man arms. It won’t be happening again. 

None of my helpers are responsible for the big galoot that awkwardly marched across the stage, as seen below.


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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 “The Tanned and Butt Ugly: Photos I Cannot Resist Showing You

  1. That’s the Alberta Winter Tan in the top photo?
    I don’t blame you, the process of being cared for *looks* tedious, just from a few photos.
    You’re right though, these images are a nice complement to what’s generally seen on stage, at least from the few competitions I’ve caught on TV. I’d never really thought about the support team each competitor would necessarily have.

    For what it’s worth, the other women in the stage photo look no less awkward and galooty. Is that a word, galooty? Well, it is now, I just added it to my dictionary. It thought I might have meant ‘galaxy’. Silly dictionary. Look at that galaxy of galoots! Perfect English.

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