Andrea Shaw: Without Women’s Bodybuilding There Are No Other Divisions (2022)
Andrea Shaw made a perspicacious observation related to women’s bodybuilding and the other classes. Without open class bodybuilding bikini, figure, fitness, and wellness would not exist. Bodybuilding was the first division introduced . Multiple perspectives are expressed related to the classes of the sport. There are some who think open class bodybuilding for women went too far. Women got too large in size in their view. Others dislike the other classes, because they think they are watered down versions of a sport that was fine without them. An economic argument is put forward. The claim is that women’s open class bodybuilding is not generating enough profit. A more unique stance believes that the more classes the better. This provides women an opportunity to go professional faster or switch divisions better suited to their physiques. Andrea Shaw started in the physique class before going into the bodybuilding class. Now she is a two time Ms. Olympia winner. Fans and athletes should embrace all classes. There are more muscular women than ever and more women getting active in fitness. The notion of getting rid of a division is a mistake. The major error was cancelling the Ms. Olympia. It was revived in 2020 and female bodybuilders have a place to display their talents.
Andrea Shaw articulates her opinion about multiple classes. More respect should be given to open class women’s bodybuilding.
Andrea Shaw challenges the objections to women’s involvement and the accusations that lack cogency. A bias still exists against women with strong and muscular bodies. The irony is that this directed at women in a sport that embraces muscular development. Corporate gatekeepers and the general detractors conspire to undermine women in the sport. This is why it is critical for all divisions to unify in efforts to ensure equal treatment and fairness in bodybuilding.
Andrea’s argument is based on history. Before any other divisions, bodybuilding was the only one available. The physiques were different from what they were today. The early pioneers lifted weights when many thought this was unacceptable. Female bodybuilders showed that women were capable of being muscular and strong. Two views emerged. One faction believed that it should be about size, shape, symmetry, and conditioning. The other was focused on making more like a beauty pageant. Some erroneously thought bodybuilding was a beauty pageant equivalent for men. Women doing bodybuilder were therefore violating a the gender order. This reasoning is flawed. Bodybuilding is a sport and there exist no beauty pageant for men. The gender bias becomes clear when women are held to a more strict standard about appearance.
The female bodybuilders were the first. Then other divisions branched off from that. It must be understood that some were created, because factions thought women were getting too muscular. Fitness emerged in the 1990s as an alternative. A sport that is about building muscle appears to be uncomfortable about muscular women. The irony is that women in all the divisions are getting bigger.
A question arose about the popularity of the sport. One claim was that the Ms. Olympia was terminated was due to lack of popularity. Andrea Shaw challenged that position. Her speculation was that the managers of contests just did not want it to continue. There is a audience for female bodybuilders that the NPC and Weider Corporation do not target. Andrea explained that the Arnold Classic was the first to drop women’s bodybuilding. It might be unpopular to them, but not a section of fans who want to see it. The only way to determine popularity is to look at ticket sales and attendance. Reliable data is not has not been compiled. Other divisions are at risk. If women’s physique can be eliminated from the Arnold Classic, then no class is safe. A multitude of websites, blogs, and social media accounts feature female bodybuilders or muscular women. They can be marketable. The female athlete has to be marketed to the right demographic. Fans of female muscle need material for consumption. Doing this ensures that sport’s longevity.
Andrea Shaw discusses the biases faced by athletes. Women are either accused of being unfeminine, drug abusers, or some type of freak of nature. A large part of the vitriol comes from online. Andrea explains much of the vituperation comes from masculine insecurity. It is no surprise that more men express negative attitudes. The reason could be is that they do not like women stronger than they are. Physical strength is what makes some men feel they are superior to women. When a woman has bigger muscles than they do, that shatters a the myth. The more comedic commentary is when Andrea engages with such harsh critics, they ask for training advice. Accusations of drug use are made in these rude comments. Andrea explains that taking AAS will not produce an impressive physique. These comments come out of limited knowledge of the human body, sports science, and nutrition.
Some of the hateful comments could be out of ignorance, but others are pure hatred. Although it was not mentioned in the interview, there is a misogynist element. This operates at both the institutional and social level within bodybuilding. The sexism is so powerful that some men do not realize women are not doing this for their approval. It will take a longtime for women to get the respect they deserve in the sport. The institutions may not give it to them, but the fans remain more loyal than ever.
Support for all divisions is critical. There should not be hostility directed at women from other divisions. Many disregarded bikini as nothing serious. History reveals that before bodybuilding competitions for women, there were bikini competitions for women. These were held along side men’s bodybuilding competitions. The bikini women then were not as developed. Now the class has a particular look. Women can enter in any class and advance to a bodybuilding stage. Andrea started off as a physique competitor and got her pro card. Women have many avenues to compete. The fitness industry must stop ostracizing muscular women. The truth is women’s bodybuilding never disappeared; the Ms. Olympia did. Jake Wood’s efforts kept it going between 2014 to 2020. His ownership of the Olympia was a step in the right direction. It is time that female bodybuilding be fully embraced by the fitness industry. This requires that all divisions work together and ensure the common interest. Andrea Shaw could be that uniting spokesperson. She has the potential to be like Cory Everson, Lenda Murray, or Iris Kyle. Andrea is already taking on an advocate role for the sport and the future look bright. As she stated no sport stays the same and it is always evolving.