BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: A Look at Support Between Competitors in Similar and Different Classes On and Off the Stage: Part 2
"Final stage group hug that rarely happens...No one has done this since I went pro... we had the best girls everyone had fantastic sportsmanship. Love u guys. xoxo Sheila" IFBB Pro Shelia Bleck
Females constantly compare themselves to other females. Be it hair, body, clothes, boyfriends/husbands, friends, jobs, make up, status etc., and the list can go on forever. Females tend to act a certain way in the company of other females and then behind their back, it can be a different story. Is it jealousy, envy, just the way females are or is it a build up of all pressures and expectations placed on females over the years on how they are seen to be and expected to behave that has many acting this way?
I am sure, each and every one of us has had an experience or two of a not so pleasant encounter with another female, where there is this underlying competition and 'fight' to come out as the top female of the situation or circumstance. You see it played out in movies or real life relationships all the time - the pretty girl vs. the plain Jane and the ex-girlfriend vs. the new girlfriend. Unfortunately, I have had this topic of competition between females brought to my attention more recently from fellow athletes who compete or those that train hard at the gym. Is there really that much of a divide and lack of support? Surprisingly, yes.
Now, I am not here to judge or put down any one class or competitor, I am just being the 'voice' of competitors that I have talked to and who have written me about this, and their wish of it being a topic featured in one of my articles. Funnily enough, I have had this type of competition and lack of support by several females, not on stage, but through my training at the gym and those that I train with.
I am one of a few at my local gym who goes into the gym to train and train hard and heavy and sweat and put it all out on the floor like the guys. I have calluses and cuts and I wear over-sized tops and pants to workout in. I don't care if I have a hair out of place and if I have make up on or not. If I lift heavier than most of the guys, not my worry. But I know that I have been talked about by a select few on my appearance and how I am not 'feminine' in their eyes, as well, I have been put down in these chats because of that. Similarly, I get a lot of attitude from other females because I train with a pretty 'popular' group of guys, and I am friends with mainly guys at the gym too. Is this something that I seek out to do, no, but does it seem to bother a select few of the females...yes. Now, this is just in the gym. What is it like for those who decide to compete?
Like many of us who follow the industry and watch the shows, we see that there is a distinct difference in the number of female competitors throughout the various classes and divisions. The look, suit and posing also varies and it plays to the idea of the divide females have made or place on each other. One thing we have to acknowledge first and foremost, everyone who steps on stage had to do some work to get there with diet and training. Depending on your class, this all varies in intensity and extremes. But does this mean that one class or group is less of an athlete or female? No. It should not mean a damn thing, but in reality it does. For example, it is seen that the females who enter bikini, fitness and figure are most likely going to be picked up by a sponsor or for photo shoots, and they are pretty much deemed the pretty girls of the sport - with bikini being the first pick. It is even obvious in their stage looks - hair and make up, sparkly suits, heels, jewelry and poses that are more of a suggestive nature. Whereas, the female bodybuilders are barefoot, plain suits so as not to drawn attention, minimal make up, minimal to no jewelry and hair up or above the shoulders, as well as poses that are all about showcasing the muscles and body, but not in a suggestive way. And this is just the stage expectations without even touching upon what behind the stage is like.
Now, do you ever wonder what it is like backstage where no one can hear or see what is going on between the competitors and athletes as they prepare to step on stage and compete against each other? The smiles and hugs that are displayed on stage when the prizes and winners are announced, how real and sincere are they? And why is there such a divide in how the competitors treat each other and the other classes? Now, I know that this is not always the case and not every competitor can be called out for doing this 'catty' type behaviour, but from what I have heard and seen and also from what others have experienced, it tends to be common at shows.
Backstage is the place where all the final prep and stage readiness takes place. This is where the last minute touch ups of hair, make up and tan occur, as well as the pump up and ever so popular, sizing up the others in your class and division. It is funny if you think about it...there is a divide and lack of support for competitors in similar classes and then the classes do not support each other?! Should we all not be proud on making it to said level of competition? Any athlete who competes wants to win. You put in the time, effort and finances, so it just seems like the obvious outcome. But realistically, you are one of many who all think the same way. There are many factors that determine who wins and what not, and all of these factors play into the lack of support that occurs on and off the stage. The smile that is not truthful, the talk about who they must know, or be sleeping with to have won all the way down to insulting the fellow competitor. Then you have the classes ganging up on the others because they do not think the look is what a female should look like, or that they are not really athletes, or how is that a class, or why do they want to look so huge and 'manly'...?
What bothers me regarding any negative aspect and support for each other in a sport or competition, is that we stress and encourage the idea of team work and sportsmanship to our children and youth as they participate in sports, that it is not always about the win, but on the improvements the individual athlete makes on their own physique and overall package. Yes it sucks to lose, there is no denying that, but to take that out on a fellow competitor? Or to voice your thoughts and opinions about another class of competitors just simply because you do not like that class or think that a certain physique is not feminine...who are we to say what is acceptable and goes? All of the competitors on the stage, and the fellow athlete who trains in the gym, is working hard to what works best for them. As females we should be out there supporting each other and our diversity. Be thankful that as females we have so many choices to display the variety of athleticism. Competition is hard and demanding and draining and emotional, but when you as an athlete go out there on stage knowing that you have support from your fellow peers on stage, win or lose, it takes the edge off by just this much.
The fitness industry is huge, but competing is still not as mainstream outside of the industry itself. It is not widely broadcast with the media and many 'everyday' people still are not fully educated or aware of what it all entails. Due to this, and the minimal outside everyday support, we, as female competitors need to stick together and be sincere with it. No one is saying that you have to love what the others are doing but leave the trash talking and fakeness out of it, and the comments and cattiness quiet.