Console-ing Passions 2018

Title: Building a Body: Bodybuilding Vlogs and Crafting the Self

Abstract: Women’s bodybuilding has been explored as a site of cultural struggle
around societal expectations of femininity and female bodies. In recent
years, women’s bodybuilding has grown in popularity as a result of the
new visibility brought to the sport through online and social media
representations of these competitors. This study seeks to further to
understand the impact of social media on how women understand
themselves through the bodybuilding process. Utilizing fitness vlogs
from competitive bodybuilders from the platform YouTube, I examine
the narratives of these women as they prepare for bodybuilding
competitions. These narratives are riddled with contradictions: while
they display deeply personal experiences of transformation and
empowerment, they also conform to and participate in the
promotional industries of health and fitness. By exploring the ways
that women navigate these contradictions through their vlogs through
feminist theory and affect theory, this research seeks to highlight the
possibilities of new subject formations in this space. I suggest that the
centering of female experience in these bodybuilding vlogs creates an
opening for discourses that go beyond the contradictions of the
physical transformation in bodybuilding. Through the circulation of
these narratives, affective networks of support and care are forming
around discourses of women’s bodybuilding and strength training
online—allowing women to construct new narratives and make
available new subjective positions through their negotiation of the
competing demands of femininity and strength.

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