Two women, dressed in bikinis, stand on a stage. One woman’s muscles bulge from every part of her body. The other is voluptuous with a perfect hourglass figure and a fat gluteus maximus. The first woman is a bodybuilder, flexing, flaunting, and celebrating her body for an audience. The second woman is a video vixen, also parading and celebrating her body. Similar in wardrobe and performance, these women’s bodies are the center of their careers. Yet, the commoditization of black female bodies remains a controversial topic. While the video vixen would receive the cast of shame for promoting her figure for profit, the bodybuilder gets a clean pass for doing the same, simply because she’s in the fitness industry. It’s the same for high fashion models using their figures for profit. Why do certain women receive callous judgment for pursuing careers centered on their bodies?
Bodybuilders train for years to get their bodies in shape for competitions. It’s a combination of strict workout regimens and diets that create muscular hypertrophy. Each contestant is judged on a stage by a panel of judges while flexing, entertaining, and showing off their bodies for an audience. Although black women are a minority in the sport, they do exist and make careers out of competing. Surprisingly, this career decision is rarely met with complaints that echo the politics of respectability, unlike video vixens. Perhaps, black female bodybuilders are less threatening because they are muscular and thus, desexualized according to mainstream desirability. Muscular is connotative to masculine and therefore, unattractive in the context of the female body. But truthfully, bodybuilding competitions and the performances of video vixens have remarkable similarities. Simply put, one is considered sexier than the other because video vixen bodies are more desirable by mainstream standards.
While it may surprise most, video vixens also train to stay in shape and preserve their hourglass figures. Of course, some indulge in plastic surgery, as do bodybuilders, but regardless, it takes effort to maintain a video vixen’s body. These women also flaunt and entertain for a living on stages and in front of cameras. However, this work is met with extreme disdain because of the politics of respectability that consume the black community. It is not “respectable” to be black, female, voluptuous, and sexy on a stage for profit, but it is perfectly acceptable to be black, female, muscular, and “unsexy.”
Is this double standard acceptable? Is one profession truly more sexualized than the other? Speak on it.