As an athlete that grew up in a pretty feminine sport – figure skating, when I started working out at a young age of 14 to compete in a teen division for Figure (a division in bodybuilding for women), I was told by many kids my age as well as adults, not to become manly. I took a 6 year break after my two shows that year to focus on my skating career, but at 21, I got back in the gym and ended up competing in the Bikini class, bulked up and then did Women’s Physique, winning first place and overall in my debut a year later.
That transition from bikini competitor to Women’s Physique was one of the hardest mentally and physically challenging things I have ever experienced.
Not only from the effort I had to put forth, but also from the backlash of the general public. When someone is overweight and a person is rude to them, the public stands up and tells them they are wrong for being judgmental and cruel. However, the same cannot be said about women who enjoy working out and in return, building muscle.
Raw power lifting has opened many doors for women to get involved in competitive lifting. It has grown very large in the past few years with no sign of slowing down. As a former competitor in bodybuilding shows, who has now started competing in power lifting, I still get many comments from the public stating that I am either manly, gross, masculine [insert rude comments here], etc.
You get the point.
When Bodybuilding got very popular with the public, they introduced the bikini division to attract more women to workout and compete as well as bringing in the Women’s Physique class for the smaller WBB to have a place to compete but also for the larger Figure competitors to move up without wanting to be too big. This change opened the door in very similar way that the raw division has in Power Lifting.
Unfortunately, the agenda was to bring in these other classes so that the Female Bodybuilding division would die out. Now there is no longer a Ms. Olympia and many competitions don’t even have Women’s Bodybuilding. I see a problem with this because many women dedicated their life to this division and now what?
How can we females be taken seriously in whichever hobbies we compete in if our chosen sport and the general population are putting limitations on what we feel we can accomplish? I feel that the female bodybuilding was taken out so that bodybuilding would be more appealing to the public eye.
Many people are far too concerned with how we should look and feel but as women, we need to rise up and not let female power lifting slow down in any way. I feel most beautiful with chalk in my face from pulling my hair out of my eyes and baby powder clouds as I stomp my way to the platform. I feel like a Goddess holding 300 pounds in my hands with the most intense facial expression to ever be seen. I feel strong and powerful in the gym and THAT is what I feel makes me even more of a woman than ever before.
The fact that more females are starting to feel comfortable in the weight room is such a huge step in the right direction and the only way it can keep improving is if everyone can jump on the same agenda. To stop putting females in a box of what they should be and letting them decide what defines themselves as “woman” on their own terms. The only way that more females will be able to confidently get under a barbell is if the public stops using figures of speech that talk down to girls and teach their own children they can be whoever they want.
I still teach figure skating to children and when I tell people I power lift and used to compete in bodybuilding shows, they say that they can’t picture that because I am always decked out in pink. What does that have to do with anything? Cant a girl be girly but also not be afraid of getting some calluses on their hands? I also had a little girl tell me I had a ‘boys haircut’ because of my short bob. I quickly taught her that girls can wear their hair however they want – what is defined as boy or girl hair?
I am so blessed to come from a family that let me play coed hockey growing up but my own family has had their reservations before that I quickly stomped. I can’t fault the older generation for not wanting their kids to be dominant and take up space but that is why this new age generation of girls not being afraid to be stronger than the guys is an amazing movement and I don’t want to see it slow down.
We all need to show the public that femininity is not defined as a certain body type, nor is it defined as submissive and weak. It’s whatever we decide we are as females and that shouldn’t be scrutinized. Let’s keep spreading the good news about power lifting and how there is a place for females on the platform. The fact that USAPL Raw Nationals had over 100 women in several different weight classes is huge. It is not a man’s sport, anymore. Nor should it have ever been. Being an athlete is for anyone, any age, any gender. That includes bodybuilding and it most definitely includes power lifting. Don’t let the general public shut this down, too.
Victoria Betollati resides in Atlanta, GA and competes in powerlifting in the 63kg weight class. She trains once a week in Steve Goggins’ garage gym in Marietta. She previously competed in bodybuilding competitions winning the title Ms Georgia 2014 in Women’s Physique. Prior to competing in bodybuilding, she worked as a figure skating director in New York, NY. You can follow her on Instagram or email her by using the contact form below: