The muscular female body made its way into contemporary American culture as an ideal body for females. This American bodybuilding subculture had the power to influence popular culture and eventually was adapted into the mainstream. This thesis posits that between 1986 and 1990 the aerobic, thin female body type seen in magazines and mass media gradually changed into a stronger, more masculinized female body type. Case studies analyzed within this thesis include the films Pumping Iron I and Pumping Iron II; the magazines Cosmopolitan and Female Bodybuilding and Weight Training; and popular music celebrity on the rise during the 1980s, Madonna. Through these case studies, I will analyze representations of the muscular female in relation to the theories of Judith Butler, Susan Bordo, Donnalyn Pompper, Pierre Bourdieu and Alan Klein.
Key Terms: women’s bodybuilding, subculture, women’s fitness, 1980s, gender performativity, femininity, deviance, popular culture, masculinization, mass media.