Strength in Muscle and Beauty in Integrity: Building a Body for Her

Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 35 (2008): 43-62

27 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2017

Date Written: October 28, 2007


Although female bodybuilding has great potential as a liberating archetype for female beauty, judging standards within the sport reflect a masculinist aesthetic of female human beauty that subverts this potential. The organizational rules and the aesthetic of competitive bodybuilding are in need of reform. This article briefly describes the structure and judging standards of competitive women’s bodybuilding, explores the possible objectives of women’s bodybuilding as competitors currently pursue it, addresses feminist concerns about the objectification of women’s bodies that occurs in bodybuilding, and considers whether bodybuilding is an irremediably androcentric pursuit. Practical reforms that feminists within the bodybuilding community might pursue to advance a new aesthetic of bodybuilding are suggested. This article concludes by sketching a feminist aesthetic of bodybuilding based on a Kantian account of beauty, reaching beneath surface appearances.

Keywords: Human Beauty, Female Beauty, Femininity, Bodybuilding, Female Bodybuilding, Women's Bodybuilding, Strength, Kantian Aesthetics, Feminist Aesthetics, Objectification

JEL Classification: Z2, Z20, Z28, Z29, Z1, Z10, Z11, Z18, Z19

Suggested Citation

Bell, Melina, Strength in Muscle and Beauty in Integrity: Building a Body for Her (October 28, 2007). Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 35 (2008): 43-62, Available at SSRN:

Melina Bell (Contact Author)

W&L University ( email )

204 W. Washington St.
Lexington, VA 24450
United States

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