Date: Tue, 9 Jul 1996
From: Murray Drummond
Subject: Bodybuilding as sport
I have recently completed my doctoral thesis on the social construction of masculinity of men involved in elite sport. My participants came from triathlon, surf lifesaving and bodybuilding. I understand the notion of bodybuilding being perceived along side of beauty contests however we must give credit to these men (and women) who partcipate in a sport that does not display physical activity. All of the strenuous activity is completed prior to going on stage in the months, or in some cases years, before. Simply because they do not display physical exertion on stage , as we have been socialised to expect, must we relegate this to a mere freak show. I would suggest there is more sport involved in bodybuilding than being gifted with beauty and displaying it for everyone to admire.
If people start challenging the subjective sports such as bodybuilding, wherein the aesthetics of the static human body through physical effort are judged, maybe other sports such as gymnastics, diving and synchronised swimming can be challenged as well. After all, aren't these subjective activities aesthetics of the human body in motion ? And then think about motor racing ?
Good to be involved in an active list.
Date: Wed, 10 July 1996
From: Dan Lerner
Regarding Murray's remarks Re bodybuilding:
>...I understand the notion of bodybuilding being perceived along side of >beauty contests however we must give credit to these men (and women) who >partcipate in a sport that does not display physical activity. All of >the strenuous activity is >completed prior to going on stage in the months, or in some cases years, >before. Simply because they do not display physical exertion on stage , >as we have been socialised to expect, must we relegate this to a >mere freak show. I would suggest there is more sport involved in >bodybuilding than being gifted with beauty and displaying it for everyone >to admire.
Although you acknowledge the rigorous training these individuals do, I would suggest that you are failing to recognize that bodybuilding competitions require *tremendous* muscle control while performing. The human body, no matter how amazingly developed it might be, doesn't just jump and bulge on its own...that's the skill of the competitors. It's nowhere near as passive as you suggest here - they don't just walk out, stand, and get judged. Bodybuilders sculpt themselves, then manipulate the results on stage with amazing skill. Further, considering the unusual/unhealthy diet many bodybuilders have(high protein, no fat, little water, etc.), especially in the weeks before a contest, it's amazing more of them don't cramp up or pass out on stage. While it may appear "freakish" to some, I don't think there can be any question that this is an athletic endeavor. It may further "the beauty myth" in ways some find distasteful, but it _is_ a sport.
>If people start challenging the subjective sports such as bodybuilding, >wherein the aesthetics of the static human body through physical effort are >judged maybe other sports such as gymnastics, diving and synchronised >swimming can be challenged as well. After all, aren't these subjective >activities aesthetics of the human body in motion ?
Yes, these are subjective activities, but what's being judged is the individual's ability to control his/her body in incredible ways. It isn't just the "aesthetics of the human body in motion." Gymnastics' "iron cross" exercise for the rings, for example, is perhaps the most impressive display of strength and balance in all of sports.
>And then think about motor racing ?
Once again - race drivers must develop physical skills which enable them to compete. Most people know race drivers must have very sharp reflexes and excellent coordination. What is less known is that most drivers maintain themselves in excellent overall physical condition. Formula One racers, for example, may enter a curve at 130 mph, slow to 80 mph, then exit the curve at 150. That all happens in the blink of an eye, and drivers can receive 3 or 4 G's of punishment in the process. Not only is it not easy, it requires strong, physically fit individuals.
Generally, you seem to be operating from a perspective in which "it's not a sport if the outcome is reached by subjective(i.e. judging) means." Is this what you mean to say? All sports have some sort of referee and thus, some element of subjectivity affects the outcome. I'd like to hear a little more about the thrust of your dissertation. Did you assert that bodybuilding, unlike surf lifesaving or triathaloning, incorporates a "destructive" social component by furthering outrageous images of masculinity?
Department of History
Michigan State University
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 1996
From: Don Morrow
As one who has witnessed entire PhD courses structured around trying to "define" sport/play/games, I'd like to offer the suggestion that it is a futile task. In the final analysis, one has to consider that sport is not a thing, not a category that embraces some activities and not others depending on who makes the criteria for the category. To me, sport is an attitude, nothing more, nothing less, and that attitude can be brought into a host of human behaviours regardless of the presence or lack of the element of physical prowess or any other qualifying criterion. Perhaps the most seamless discussion of this is my colleague's article, "On the Inadequacies of Sociological Definitions of Sport" in International Review of Sport Sociology, vol 2(16), 1981, 79-100. Disbelievers will, of course, want to define the sporting attitude; like play, sport defies "logical" analysis since it is a way of being. Food for thought, I hope.
Dr. Don Morrow
Faculty of Kinesiology
The University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, CANADA
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 1996
From: Richard C. Crepeau
Don Morrow's posting on the inability to define sport and his suggestion that it is an attitude incapable of definition is an interesting notion, but I would like to hear a bit more. Attitudes may not be susceptable to definition, and I think I would agree with Morrow on this point, but they should be capable of some description. Perhaps Morrow could provide some description which might then push the discussion a bit further. Description unlike definition would have the virtue of not being exclusionary.
University of Central Florida
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