Hardcore Truth: Women’s Bodybuilding Is Still Underrepresented Despite Ms. Olympia Return

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Johnnie O. Jackson believes that the Women’s Bodybuilding division is still being snubbed by the pro league.

In 2020, the bodybuilding world rejoiced upon the return of the Ms. Olympia competition to the Olympia weekend. This came after the competition was discontinued for six years – with many believing it would never return. This is all part of Jake Wood’s passion and respect for Women’s Bodybuilding – and his plan to bring it back into popularity across the sport. While this is a great start, other massive competitions, such as the Arnold Classic, still refuse to put on a Women’s Bodybuilding competition. In our latest episode of Hardcore Truth, Johnnie O. Jackson comments on the lack of representation for Women’s Bodybuilding and the Ms. Olympia not being enough.

Johnnie O. Jackson was very pleased when the Ms. Olympia returned to the Olympia weekend back in 2020. But he was also disappointed in himself for not realizing that Women’s Bodybuilding has yet to return to the Arnold Classic stage. He literally didn’t even realize it was missing until he had a conversation with a Women’s Bodybuilding competitor this past week.

This exact situation represents the issue Johnnie O. Jackson sees with Women’s Bodybuilding in the IFBB pro league. Jackson even accepts that he is a passive part of the problem – which is why he spent this week’s episode advocating for more Women’s Bodybuilding competitions across the year.

Johnnie O. Jackson believes that the pro league still has a long way to go in order to full support the Women’s Bodybuilding division. The Ms. Olympia is not enough if nearly every other high profile show of the year does not include them. The Arnold Classic, Indy Pro, Boston Pro, and many other major shows still do not feature Women’s Bodybuilding. The Arnold Classic in particular is the second biggest show of the year and contains the largest expo in the sport. Why do we not see Women’s Bodybuilders on stage?

It should also be noted that Johnnie O. Jackson also mentions the New York Pro in his argument. In fact, the New York Pro does feature Women’s Bodybuilding in their lineup of competitions. While Jackson may have misspoke on including the NY Pro in his argument – the overall sentiment still stands.

Johnnie O. Jackson believes that part of the reason the division slowly fell in popularity was due to a dislike of the massive physiques. Much like some of (but certainly less damaging) criticism about Men’s Open getting too big. Jackson believes that, overall, the judges are responsible for what kind of physiques they want to reward. Jackson states – if the fans are unhappy with the state of physiques for Women’s Bodybuilding – it’s the judges responsibility to ensure the right kind of physique is rewarded to bend the trajectory of the division.

Of course, the solution is never quite as simple as it sounds. While putting responsibility on the judges is part of the puzzle – there may be a wider variety of factors at play here. Judges should not always 100% bend to the demand of fans – that’s a dangerous precedent. Also – the criticism of Women’s Bodybuilding physiques could also be based in unfair expectations outside of the judges control.

Many have stated that Women’s Bodybuilding is “too masculine” but there is also a point to be made that the show is not a beauty pageant. The women should be judges the exact same way the men are – femininity should not be a criteria at all.

Another problem may be pure roster issues. Perhaps many of these larger shows cannot get enough competitors to sign up for competition. This is a snake eating it’s own tail type situation. If there is not enough support for Women’s Bodybuilding – there will be less interest by the athletes. Thus less sign ups for the few shows that exist. Thus less shows across the year to build interest. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Regardless, Johnnie O. Jackson’s main sentiment remains true. The Women’s Bodybuilders that do compete are sisters in iron. They deserve the exact same respect and opportunities as the Men’s Open division. Jackson believes a concerted effort must be made to prioritize getting Women’s Bodybuilding back to the Arnold Classic and other major shows across the year.

You can watch Johnnie O. Jackson’s full argument in our latest episode of Hardcore Truth above. Make sure to visit each Thursday for new episodes every week! What do you think? Does the IFBB Pro league need to prioritize more Women’s Bodybuilding representation?

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