A central theme of the film Pumping Iron II, released in 1985, is the debate in the sport of female bodybuilding over women and muscles. That same year, the recently-crowned Ms. Olympia Cory Everson (the first of her six consecutive title victories) addressed the issue of muscularity versus femininity in Flex. The tensions of the controversy are apparent throughout Everson’s column by the various questions that she poses—questions she gets asked “again and again” and those she rhetorically asks in defense of her bodily ideal. Here she advocated “feminine muscularity,” or a level of muscle size and definition that is not extreme or fueled by steroids. It was a logical middle ground position in the debate and an important part of what made Everson such an impressive champion from 1984-1989, enabling her to be a popular standard-bearer for female bodybuilding at a key moment in its history. Yet the tension seems to remain when you read her words, for while Everson was never the biggest competitor on stage in those years, she was larger and more muscular than previous Olympia winners. That trend of increasing size and muscularity carried on into the 1990s. Perhaps instead of seeing Everson’s balanced aesthetic and Olympia reign as a bygone “Golden Age” unconnected to what came before and after, it would be better to fully appreciate her place in sport history and the active role she played in reshaping the female body in the late twentieth century.
1: Cory Everson, “On Being Female and a Bodybuilder,” Flex, June 1985, 20; 99.
Author Bio: Richard Ravalli teaches History at William Jessup University. He can be reached at Facebook (www.facebook.com/richardravalli1) or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an additional bonus, here is the original Flex magazine article below!