Performing Femininity by Building a New Corporal Prison. The Female Bodybuilding Body on Stage

  • Abstract:

    The main focus of this paper involves the muscular woman’s body, and if it can be considered a subversive act, trying to break the patriarchal structure internalized by our society. A structure that in the sphere of passivity limits non-action, submissiveness and so on from women’s perspective. Looking for this new identity becomes a transgressive act, due to building a new body with which to be identified by stepping into a territory limited to the male sex, of action, strength, power, sport and muscle. The female bodybuilding practice transformed what had been always taken for granted, seeking control and power over our body, and also seeking to gain importance in the social structure. How was the emergency of this new body perceived? And what about the aspirations of this new female identity? How has this transgressive act now ended up being transformed through competitions in which muscular women’s bodies become a new sexualized object to analyze, compare, split and trivialize? What happen with this body when it is shown on stage? And how is it shown by the media? In this communication, I would like to show the comparison between two forms in which muscular women’s bodies in motion, are the focus. First of all, we will show how the female’s bodybuilder body moves, how it is analyzed and then shown at bodybuilding competitions. How objectivized and sexualised the female bodybuilder’s body becomes, how she –the woman who broke boundaries by building a new body–, once again ends up being caged under the gaze of men. We will also show how Heather Cassils (a transgender artist), using its body as material with which to work, will work on the relevance of this new built female body, the body of the ‘woman’ bodybuilder in several performances. Starting with two ways of capturing the muscular female body, we will be able to see how, while in bodybuilding contests the body has become a showcase object, in Cassils’ performances, the body is in tension and attacks us aggressively questioning us shockingly. The body of the female bodybuilder has been created with harsh violence, with difficulty and Cassils maintains this tension in the same way in which she shows it. Its body is the support and the work. We can observe that the original transgressor step of searching for a new identity through our body has undergone a development. A development that we can even consider to have turned against itself. What will happen or where will this step lead if it is taken to the extreme? How can we interpret this new body identity? Can the female bodybuilder be understood as a ‘cyborg’ (as defined by Donna Haraway)?