In order to examine the sociological gender issues inherent in women's bodybuilding, it is necessary to utilize the concepts of "sport' and 'woman" as symbolically-loaded social constructs. The most useful paradigm for a clear analysis of the "masculine" and 'feminine" connotations of each is that of androgyny, both on a cultural and on an individual level.
Felsher (1982) and Postow (1982) argue that sport is a "masculine" social institution revolving around the inculcation and glorification of traditionally male traits and values, such as power, aggression, and competition. Felsher and Postow also agree that when sport is conceptualized in this genderized way, it is not surprising that female participation is considered aberrant and socially unacceptable. The social construct of femininity involves all the qualities antithetical to masculine sport, including weakness, passivity, and timidity.
Hoagland (1982) goes so far as to say that the societal concept of femininity is " a label whereby one group of people are defined relative to another in such a way that dominance and submission are portrayed as part of the biological essence of those involved." (p.95). Thus, she says that non-white men, as well as all women, have been subject to the burden of "feminine" characteristics and societal expectations.
In this highly genderized society, the perceived anomaly of women participating in sports is especially pronounced with regard to bodybuilding. That is, in its emphasis on size, maximum exertion, and sheer power, it is seen as the most masculine of sports. Weightlifting remains one of the minority of sporting events in which women are barred from competition in the Olympics (Ferris, 1980).
However, I think it is important to look at the motivations of the woman participating in bodybuilding before making a judgement about the feminist or anti-feminist quality of her actions. For instance, if she is engaging in bodybuil...