INTO A BEAUTY CONTEST?
This letter was sent by Jim Manion, in his capacity as Chairman of the Professional Judges Committee, to the IFBB pro women competitors. It raises a few questions:
(1) Exactly how will the judges be able to reach a consensus on such subjective criteria as healthy appearance, face, makeup and skin tone? Isn't this likely to turn the shows into beauty contests?
(2) How will the competitors know in advance what this consensus, if there is one, will be?
(3) What will the IFBB do if each of the judges decides to apply these criteria in an individual way that does not conform to any consensus?
(4) How do you define the "extreme" when it comes to muscularity? What is the consensus on this going to be? Isn't it possible that a competitor could be penalized for showing up in great shape while the others in the lineup are not in good shape and therefore seeming to be "extreme" simply on a relative basis?
(5) WHY are these guidelines being established? What problem are they intended to solve? Are they intended to make the sport more attractive to the ticket-buying women's bodybuilding fan?
Even more significantly, what do these rules have to do with the sport of bodybuilding? "Overall assessment" has ALWAYS been a part of bodybuilding judging. To what degree are they being emphasized more now than they were before? And why is it the IFBB feels it needs to keep women bodybuilders from developing an overly "extreme" degree of muscularity? Isn't the sport of bodybuilding, for women or men, about creating a physique that is the most extreme possible according to the traditional aesthetic requirements of physique competition?
Which competitors from the past few years are these guidelines aimed at? In the past two Ms. Olympias Kim Chizevsky, the reigning champion, improved her overall aesthetics dramatically, and in New Jersey last year looked lean and symmetrical ("carved out of ice", as one observer put it), her face was smooth and unlined and her makeup was fine. If Kim, as the winner, supposedly represents the highest achievement in the sport, and she ALREADY imbodies all the qualities outlined in this letter, why is the IFBB bothering to introduce "guidelines" that are likely to introduce an unacceptable degree of subjectivity into the judging and throw pro competition into chaos?
There is a famous quote that those who don't remember history are condemned to repeat it. Doesn't anybody in the IFBB remember 1992? When Bev Francis almost won the Ms. Olympia contest on live TV in 1991, undeservedly in the opinion of certain officials in the IFBB, a new set of guidelines was introduced the following year intended to introduce the concept of "femininity" into judging women's bodybuilding. With few exceptions, both the amateur and pro contests in '92 were a disaster. Non-muscular women won titles, women who should have won or at least been in the top two or three were placed as low as 11th. Finally, when genuine bodybuilding fans refused to buy tickets to the Ms. Olympia in Chicago, not wanting to witness a "beauty contest," the IFBB changed the rules back and the sport returned more-or-less to normal. Isn't anyone concerned this is exactly what is liable to happen in the year 2000?
Are the people who buy tickets to women's bodybuilding contests complaining that the women are "too muscular"? It doesn't seem so. Bodybuilding fans LIKE extremes, that's one reason they are fans of this sport. Is anybody claiming that Kim Chizevsky is too big or too muscular? Or Vickie Gates, all 145 pounds of her? Or Laura Creavalle, who placed third at the Ms. Olympia looking the best, but not the biggest, she ever has? It doesn't seem likely. Instead, this would seem to be just another ill advised political attempt to interfere with the natural development of the sport of bodybuilding for women. And it is sexist. Who is telling the men they can't become too "extreme"? Who is saying that to Ron Coleman? Isn't anyone aware that there are policies in all sports nowadays supporting gender equality, ESPECIALLY the IOC? How many times are we going to have to go through exercises like this before the IFBB catches on - LEAVE THE WOMEN ALONE! They're doing fine - or would be if the federation wouldn't keep attempting to stifle them and the physique magazines would stop ignoring the women champions in favor of fitness "models," some of whom look as if they had never seen the inside of a weight room.
And, by the way, who doesn't realize that having the Ms. Olympia and the Fitness Olympia together on Friday night in Las Vegas would have resulted in a sell out instead of a little more than half filled auditorium? Obviously, the decision NOT to do this was not based on economic motives or any considerations for the wishes of the fans. Anyone one else who shares these opinions is encouraged to contact the IFBB and make themselves heard.