Reclaiming Good Bodies At Any Age: The Feminist Power of Bodybuilding (And Inspo)
In a world that often seeks to confine women within narrow boundaries, it becomes a powerful act of feminist rebellion to redefine our own narratives. Feminism, at its core, is about choice, empowerment, and challenging the limiting beliefs imposed by society.
When it comes to aesthetics and physicality, one avenue that has been gaining momentum is bodybuilding, a practice that defies the conventional expectations placed upon women, particularly as they age.
We’ve all heard of these two stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Audrey Hepburn.
Looking at each of them, it does not seem like they could have anything in common. In fact, there might be an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like and an Audrey Hepburn-like beauty, each completely separate from the other.
But while these two celebrity idols may stand on different ends of the bodybuilding spectrum, what they have in common is an extraordinary sense of aesthetic discipline.
Aesthetic discipline extends far beyond the physical. It’s the act of taking control of one’s own body and aesthetic appearance, driven not by external pressures or societal standards but (much like aesthetic subcultures today) by personal choice and empowerment.
In the context of bodybuilding, it’s about challenging the normative perceptions of femininity and strength, redefining beauty standards, and advocating for body autonomy.
Aesthetic discipline is at the heart of bodybuilding and - when it comes to women - also at the heart of its controversy. As Joanna Frueh writes, the reason is that’s it’s more than just visible gains.
Her essay delves into the empowering world of bodybuilding and its feminist underpinnings. It explores how this practice challenges the harmful stereotypes that women should be passive, fragile, and invisible - especially as they age.
Instead, it champions a vision of strength, resilience, and autonomy. By examining the experiences of women who have ventured into bodybuilding, we uncover the ways in which they are subverting traditional expectations, rewriting their own narratives, and, in doing so, reshaping the world’s perception of feminine power.
So, aesthetic discipline in this realm involves women and gender-diverse individuals embracing their strong and youthful appearance, acknowledging that muscles can be both beautiful and powerful, and using their physical prowess to break free from traditional gender and age roles.
Here’s what causes the confusion: It’s a form of self-expression that aligns perfectly with feminist values, but it might make you look hot.
I don’t think that should be a problem - it celebrates the right to define one’s own body and beauty on one’s terms, all while dismantling harmful stereotypes about what it means to be strong and confident.
In this age of enlightenment, where women are reclaiming their voices, careers, and spaces, it’s time to extend this revolution to our own bodies. Embracing aesthetic discipline, such as bodybuilding, is not merely about sculpting one’s physique; it’s about rejecting the outdated narratives that suggest a woman’s worth is inversely proportional to her strength and physical prowess.
Prepare to be inspired as we spotlight those who’ve harnessed the feminist potential of bodybuilding to become living testaments to the fact that strength knows no gender, age, or societal boundary. It’s time to embrace aesthetic discipline as an act of self-love and defiance, a means to topple the antiquated notions of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.
IG @stephaniesanzo Stephanie Sanzo, trainer & fitness influencer
IG @sophiastrength Sophia Ellis, European & 4x British champion in powerlifting
IG @djessicabuettner Jessica Buettner wearing Raskol apparel, 2x world champion in powerlifting
IG @anarosacastellain Ana Rosa Castellain, 2x world champion in powerlifting ___
From improved confidence and mental clarity to better physical health and increased longevity, bodybuilding offers a population of motivated men and women the key to a successful lifestyle makeover.
Bodybuilding declares that looks aren’t everything. Appearances are important, but real beauty is within. While building muscle or pursuing a sculpted figure can result in an appealing physique, it’s also essential for overall health. With an increased ability to grow muscle, comes an improved metabolism and an inability to store fat. The end result is an increased ability to manage calorie intake and increase overall energy.
The discipline of following an exercise routine doesn’t just increase physical health: it also boosts mental health. Working out provokes more bloodflow to the brain, leading to improved concentration, clearer thinking and a heightened sense of self-confidence. This can directly impact work and social performance.
Aesthetic discipline is more than just a physical thing: it is a mental journey. The discipline of exercising and following a routine releases endorphins which promotes an improved sense of well-being and stability. Through this, men and women can become more in tune with themselves and their abilities, giving them the power to take control of their life.