|The Artistic Body (TAB), a bodybuilding club in University of Seoul, has 65 members. They have won numerous competitions for bodybuilders over the years. Photo provided by TAB.
Society’s window into bodybuilding
People are constantly exposed to the media’s definition of beauty, skinny yet curvy women on high heels. This perception of beauty in many ways influences the bodybuilding community who are often regarded as too bulky by society’s standards. The student bodybuilders, however, have a different view.
TEAM LIFTERS, along with other clubs, emphasize that skinny is not always idealistic and that they view a muscular healthy body as more beautiful. However, they agreed that the fitness industry contributed in solidifying physical beauty standard.
“As bodybuilders, we have our own standards. We look at the people and admire their intricately made muscles,” said Lee Dong-wook from TAB. “Each bodybuilding competition also has a different concept. The theme of the recent competition I participated in was ‘beach guy’ where a broad and symmetrical shoulder was more emphasized than muscles in lower body.”
In general, well-rounded distribution and emphasis on muscles is optimal for overall health. This is the focus for YFC, as their main concern is fitness. Accordingly, they concentrate on developing all muscles and achiving overall harmonization of the body.
In addition to disagreement with society’s beauty standards, student bodybuilders reveal sexual objectification as one of the most mentally straining obstacles.
“My parents banned from entering into bodybuilding competitions,” said Yoon Jin-joo, a female bodybuilder from POWER. “They have been constantly worried that I would get hurt while lifting heavy weights. But their main issue was me showing my ‘naked body’ to other people. My parents thought people might misunderstand my intention of entering the contest.”
For Yoon, however, she did not regard showing her figure as sex appeal, but rather a venue to prove her hard work. She thereby secretly entered competitions.
“It is pitiful that the society fails to see us as bodybuilders, but is quick to judge us for our unintentional sex appeal,” added Yoon.
Both male and female bodybuilders suffer from messages and contacts that discuss sex and sex sponsoring. Also, due to the small number of females who focus on weight training, many have stalkers and diehard fans. Such perception and actions greatly undermine the time and work these bodybuilders invested into self-management.
“A body is just a body and posing on competitions is professional work,” Yoon said. “It is lamentable that athletes’ hard work are passed over and only viewed sexually.”