Flower power, 1970s—the fight raged for women’s rights and for freedom from the chokehold of male chauvinism. The churning happened in all preserves considered male, including the musculature pursuit of bodybuilding. Women began pursuing the art of shaping the body with deadlifts and squats. Another male dominion was conquered. Women with ripped muscles, grease-tanned wide shoulders, bulging biceps, flaring lats, and shredded thighs tapering down from a small waist competed in major bodybuilding events. It took some time, but Indian women too got into the act.
But the chiseled female silhouette never found widespread acceptance from a patriarchal society steeped in the idea that women with too much muscles are unattractive and gross. Some called them androgynous, man-face, and someone simply asked if one could tell they were a woman. All negative adjectives. “I got three words for female bodybuilders, ew, yuck & don’t!” screams a tweet, reprising the stereotype. Yet, female bodybuilding is flourishing in India and abroad. Mother-of-three Mamota, teenager Europa, schoolteacher Jinnie and many of their ilk are the beacons…
Text by Lachmi Deb Roy; Photographs: Jitender Gupta