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CutieFace
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Who Killed Women's Bodybuilding?
Source: Article Source

FLEX Magazine – March 2003
FEMALE TROUBLE

The most positive force in the global bodybuilding community just may be its women. Too bad they aren't treated that way.

Consider this exchange between magazine editors in the offices of Weider Publications.

Editor 1: "Who killed women's bodybuilding?"

Editor 2: "Women bodybuilders"

While this snide conversational snippet is noticeable for its condescending, dismissive attitude towards its subject, what's fascinating about this put-down of women's bodybuilding is the year it took place: 1993. The editors quoted anonymously above no longer work for Weider and are actually out of the sport altogether. Women's bodybuilding, on the other hand, is still very much with us. Despite dwindling opportunities for IFBB professional women bodybuilders onstage and in print, the numbers of female competitors on the NPC level remain consistently strong. This year, 66 women bodybuilders competed in the USA Championships, 18 more than the number of USA fitness competitors. Not that the doomsayers of the sport haven't had reason to call in Dr. Kevorkian to finish it off.

In 1999, the Ms. Olympia, the sport's premiere contest, was suddenly cancelled, then hastily resurrected two weeks later in New Jersey. The crisis hastened the retirement of four-time Ms. Olympia Kim Chizevsky, perhaps the greatest female bodybuilder of all time. Chizevsky, as fans of the sport know, now competes in fitness contests. This near-death experience prompted the IFBB to implement drastic changes to all professional women's bodybuilding shows. Beginning in 2000, all contests would be required to feature weight classes, and the Ms. Olympia was to be bundled in with the Olympia Weekend to avoid it from withering on the vine alone. More tellingly, new guidelines for athlete presentation were introduced, including attention to makeup, hair and other aesthetic considerations considered to be traditionally feminine.

Two years later, not much has changed. Predictions of the extinction of women's bodybuilding are still more common than Elvis sightings. Why? It's not that women aren't good at bodybuilding. In fact, the subtext of much of the criticism of women bodybuilders is that they're too good at it - too hard, too big, too vascular. The implied recommendation to increase the popularity of women's bodybuilding is to persuade the women to stop being excellent bodybuilders and start being mediocre bodybuilders. They aren't complying. Not all of them. That many of these women continue to achieve physique excellence is beyond dispute. For instance, this year, at the USA Championships, Editor-in-Chief Peter McGough, a hard-to-impress physique analyst with decades of experience, marveled at the muscle quality of longtime NPC competitor Annie Rivieccio, who finished fourth in the heavyweights. "You don't see that quality on many of the men," he remarked.

Women have distinguished themselves from their male counterparts in other ways. You don't see women bodybuilders filled with Synthol, doubled-over onstage from exhaustion and dehydration, rushed to hospitals after contests, and walking around with their limbs in casts and slings because their egos got in the way of their training. You don't regularly hear about women bodybuilders being involved in embarrassing altercations, getting arrested, or throwing temper tantrums after every contest - though few would blame them if they did. Many female bodybuilders are highly educated, multi-degreed professionals, who spend long hours fighting with weights in the gym and fighting long-established societal prejudices outside it. They're solid citizens and exceptional athletes, who persevere despite meager prize winnings and constantly evolving judging standards that seem to change on the whims of officials. And then there's the nasty personal insults they endure from the general public and, sadly, even from those in their own bodybuilding subculture. Why do they do this again?

ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK

Since the first Ms. Olympia contest in 1980 - then known as "Miss" Olympia - the odyssey of women's bodybuilding has been one of fits and starts, progress and regress. Over the last two decades, the sport has acted as both cultural phenomenon and barometer, mirroring the evolving attitudes toward gender roles, while at the same time fighting against the cultural tide it was riding. Take the title of "Miss": its extinction is a symbol of the strides made by feminism and women's athletics. Women all over the country preferred "Ms." clear and simple. It's a minor change, to be sure, but it's still progress when an oppressed group is able to successfully define the terms of its own identity. But while women's bodybuilding followed the feminist script, especially when bodybuilders began refusing to wear high heels onstage in the late '70s, the sport never became a cause celebre for feminists. The culprit for this ambivalence may be the perceived objectification of bodybuilding athletes, or perhaps the perplexities of the masculizing/feminizing struggle that overcame the sport in the mid- to late-80s. As the women became much larger, the pressure increased to counter this newfound muscle size with artificial means of accentuating the competitors' feminine qualities (e.g., breast implants). This complicated the movement. After all, wasn't bodybuilding all about women taking control of their bodies, empowering each woman to choose her own body image instead of the one dictated by society's strict standards? The paradoxes were piling up.

THE DARWIN FACTOR

Female bodybuilders have borne the brunt of the inherent gender struggle that affects the acceptance of women as athletes. While still trailing their male counterparts in popularity and rewards, female athletes in general are taken more seriously than ever before, but female bodybuilders seem to be going in the other direction, finding it difficult to assimilate even into the bodybuilding subculture from which they were born. The reasons for this have been blamed on everything from inadequate media attention to mismanagement of the sport, but maybe it's something more primal. On one level, women's bodybuilding appears to violate Darwinian imperatives of our hard-wired sex roles, while also allowing for the evolution of the human animal to transcend culturally defined preordained destinies. Women's bodybuilding is a progressive cultural movement that defies long-held conventions and traditions.

While many people accept the existence of women bodybuilders - i.e., society at large is used to seeing them - the sport still has its sworn enemies. Depending on your point of view, women's bodybuilding is either a step forward in human potential or an insult to nature. All bodybuilders can elicit strong visceral reactions in the general public, but none more so than the female bodybuilder. While the general acceptance level for muscle on women has changed dramatically in entertainment and sports over the years, a hyper-developed muscular woman can still conjure awe, intimidation, resentment, fear, envy, as well as complicated and powerful sexual responses, especially in men. This confrontation with unwanted feelings can induce irrational hatred, sometimes even within the bodybuilding world itself (see "Women Between the Covers").

Appreciating a muscular physique on a man or a woman makes you a person who appreciates a muscular physique on a man or a woman and nothing else. All other assumptions are irrelevant in the context of the sport of bodybuilding. The phrase "get over it" comes to mind.YES, BUT IS SHE CUTE? For whatever reason - those Darwinian imperatives again? - no female athlete can escape being sexualized or to have her personal appearance become the dominant factor in her perceived worthiness. When the WNBA began their first season, popular sports radio jock Jim Rome regularly insulted the physical appearance of some of the league's professional female basketball players, calling one star in particular a "horse." It was a cheap shot, one out of step with treating women as athletes, much less as equals, and Rome later said he regretted making the comments.

Some of us do have the ability to grow up, thank goodness. Of course, female bodybuilders endure the same harsh scrutiny for their looks, regardless of their physique achievements. Just check out some bodybuilding bulletin boards and see how nasty the appraisals can get. Yet, inversely, at the same time a different audience eroticizes women bodybuilders solely for their physiques - as a urgeoning underground muscle fetish industry proves. But does this industry exist because women bodybuilders are being pushed beyond the fringes of their own subculture into this underground? Their options and opportunities in the bodybuilding mainstream seem to expire by the day. It is an odd world, this underground, much of it centered on the Internet. There, men treat muscular women like mythic goddesses, putting them in a virtual glass diorama where they can be ogled and worshipped indefinitely. It is the polar opposite of the rejection women bodybuilders often experience from the general public and the very subculture they chose to join. It's understandable that a woman would gravitate to this world where acceptance and other rewards are found. In the end, though, they are caught in yet another paradox: they have become bodybuilders to attain autonomy and self-empowerment, but then find themselves in another situation where they are disempowered, throttled by the conflicting messages of intense desire and rejection.

Yet there they are. Still onstage, still in the gym. After over two decades of different measures of praise, derision, respect, disrespect and neglect. Through the continuing tumult and instability of the sport, they return to the weights to prepare for the next show. Why do these women become bodybuilders, anyway? What keeps them going? NEVER SAY DIE Lynchburg, Virginia, may not seem the ideal U.S. city to gauge the health of a progressive cultural movement, but the small Southern city is now the permanent home of the Jan Tana Pro Classic. This contest, which exists solely due to the beneficence of its founder and promoter Jan Tana, is an annual bodybuilding show that now also features a professional fitness contest and the Masters Olympia. This year, the group of contests was held on August 17. It was the 15th anniversary of Jan Tana bodybuilding show, which, according to the IFBB, has yet to turn a profit.

Tana is a successful makeup and tanning mogul, a tireless businesswoman and an innovator in her industry. She's also extremely passionate about the sport of bodybuilding. Known for her dramatic, glitzy stage productions, Tana dropped the theatrics this year, instead ceding the time to competitors that she would normally reserve for other entertainment. She allowed each show's entrant, not just the top 15 as is customary, to perform his or her entire posing routine. Between the three contests, that came to 61 routines. A total of 23 women bodybuilders competed in three weight classes. As usual, the women, like the men, came in all shapes and sizes. The level of attention to "feminine" accoutrements spanned the extremes: Some of the women were particularly fastidious about following the perceived rule changes of 2000, others seemed to ignore them entirely. Every women posed enthusiastically, though some more artfully than others. Here was a contest that didn't make money, populated with women bodybuilders who have endured a series of jolts to their sport that would have discouraged lesser spirits. Obviously, they aren't there for the money, the fame, the verdant fields of Lynchburg, lovely as they are. So what's left?

The love of the sport itself. The same passion for bodybuilding that drove Dave Draper to spend hours in a reeking dungeon in the '60s. The same love of the pump that Arnold Schwarzenegger craved throughout his career. The same intense desire for testing personal limits that powered Dorian Yates' brutal, solitary workouts. The same hunger for self-improvement and empowerment that lifting weights and growing muscle have provided for millions of men. The same determination for self-mastery that Joe Weider has preached for over six decades. Many top male athletes are in the sport solely for the financial rewards: the endorsement contracts, the generous prize winnings and personal appearance fees - opportunities not available to women bodybuilders. Yet, despite this lack of material benefits, the women work as hard as the men, achieving a physique standard comparable to their male counterparts. What motivates these women is the pure joy of the sport.

They've discovered the life-changing properties of bodybuilding and there's no turning back. If women's bodybuilding could die, it would have by now. Some thought it would fade of its own accord. It didn't. Some thought fitness contests would kill it. They didn't. Some think figure contests will finish off women's bodybuilding. They won't. Women's bodybuilding is here to stay for the same reason men's bodybuilding is here to stay: because of the basic, pure passion all bodybuilders have for their sport. Women have caught the bodybuilding bug, and they love it. They've more than earned the respect of the bodybuilding world. It's time they got it.

WOMEN BETWEEN THE COVERS

Many women bodybuilders complain of the lack of coverage in industry magazines, but sometimes no coverage is better than what's actually published. One article that appeared recently in another bodybuilding magazine enraged many women in the sport, while providing a textbook illustration of the misunderstandings and fears female bodybuilders inspire in the underdeveloped male psyche. The piece, an interview with NPC amateur Colette Nelson, was peppered with the type of vulgar insults and profanity consistent with an arrested adolescent mindset. The author's vile attacks toward women bodybuilders in general, and his constant assurances to readers that he was normally repulsed by woman bodybuilders but was sexually turned on by Colette Nelson despite the fact she was a woman bodybuilder, was an obvious example of a man not in control of his sexual identity. Which is okay in and of itself. Many people have profound and complex feelings toward their sexual desires and find it difficult to untie the knots of their passions. But like the latent homosexual who publicly utters homophobic slurs at openly gay men, the danger is when these sexual insecurities lead to rage and contempt toward that which exposes the suppressed urges.

Really, shouldn't at least those in the bodybuilding community be immune to these adolescent insecurities, these locker room taunts towards women with muscles? If women bodybuilders send a person into such a severe crisis of sexual confusion, perhaps that person should refrain from addressing the subject at all, at least until seeking the appropriate counseling. You won't find these cries for help in FLEX. While we have been accused of underreporting female bodybuilding, we treat these athletes with more seriousness than our competitors. As a commercial enterprise, we must respond to the demands of our market, mostly young males, who tell us in research and letters that they are exclusively interested in information from male bodybuilders whom they idenity with and admire. While our page-count devoted to women's bodybuilding may not satisfy the female athletes in the sport, we will continue to report on the major women's contests and competitors and do so with sober intent and respect. (sidebar two)

WHAT WOMEN WANT

Canadian pro Lisa Bavington is an emerging voice in the female bodybuilding community, who is seeking to intensify the debate over the foibles and fortunes of her sport. The 29-year-old Toronto resident penned a hard-hitting editorial last fall that appeared on several Web sites and in print, taking a particular corner of the bodybuilding media to task for degrading representations of women in her sport. The positive response from other female bodybuilders was overwhelming, she says."To me it's about sport, about training, about being a competitive athlete. Women want to participate in a sport as athletes and just want to be respected for what they do," says Bavington. "I don't think that's too much to ask for."

While she's quick to point out that she doesn't speak for all female bodybuilders, Bavington wants to help the women in her sport unify and develop a game plan to increase their opportunities. She has set up a networking system on her Web site (www.lisabavington.net), which she hopes will lead to a more supportive atmosphere for female bodybuilders. "The network on my site is an attempt to get us all on the same page, acting as a resource for other women who are looking to develop and support their own future," says Bavington, who runs a mentoring and counseling department at a college in suburban Toronto. "Ultimately, I think we need to form a women's committee within the federation and create a common vision for the sport."

The issues are many. Female bodybuilders feel boxed in by an industry that doesn't know what to do with them. Now with fewer shows on the IFBB schedule, women bodybuilders already must compete against the lure of fitness shows and soon will contend with the clickity-clip of more high heels in the upcoming figure circuit. "Women are being set up against one another," she contends. "Each competition may have different a audience and different opportunities, but we all deserve the same amount of respect. There is an audience for female bodybuilding. It may not be as big as the men, but there are more female bodybuilders and women training with weights than there ever has been in history. We need to take advantage of that." Bavington feels the women should work within the IFBB to strengthen their position and exert some control over their representation.

Again, it comes back to being judged as athletes and not on traditional standards of attractiveness. "You're going to get great looking girls and you're going to get not so great looking girls, but you can't put a limit on women's physical development," she says. The key to the future of the sport is to tap into the empowerment that's always been a promise of women's bodybuilding. "We get into this sport to develop our physiques and reach our potential as athletes," asserts Bavington, an unapologetic feminist. "Nobody's going to tell me what I'm going to do with my body. It's about having the freedom to choose which physique I want and the opportunity to be able to do it. The problem is that female bodybuilders are letting these negative things happen to our sport. It all starts with a vision and until we determine one, we're going nowhere fast." To contact Lisa Bavington, visit www.lisabavington.net


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Liftingchic
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I read this at AF...thanks for posting it..:beerc


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T-Bar
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I tend to disagree. I think women killed women's bodybuilding by not making it their own. What I mean is they acted exactly like men. Have you ever talked to these women? Let's ignore how they look. They sound ridiculous. Deep, and I mean deep, voices that they try to cover up by talking in a silly cracking falsetto voice. I know it isn't all of them, but we tend to judge by what stands out. Boxing is looked at by what Mike Tyson is and does instead of by all that Ali and Sugar Ray accomplished. It's just how it is. It's important to have your sport represented responsibly.

There was a time back in the Carla Dunlap's era when the sport had a direction and a purpose. I'll never forget the day Carla kicked off her then mandatory high heals and started posing bare foot during the Miss Olympia. She and most of the others at that time knew the direction they wanted women's bodybuilding to go. They were intelligent in what they were doing and what drugs they were taking. Now a majority of those competing are just trying to get what the men have by trying to be men.

I was afraid golf was going to go this direction when Sorenstan decided to compete in the PGA. Instead she just made a fool of herself and proved there is a difference. I am sure not saying men are better then women. But I am saying you don't race a cheetah against a pheasant and constantly make excuses for the pheasant. Each species and the genders in them have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Forgetting that there is a difference between men and women is a mistake.


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ape1821
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T-bar and M$$ said everything that there is to be said.


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T-Bar
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I'm with T-bar on this one too. The man is a genius!


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DIESELGIRL
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The point here is that YOU DON'T HAVE TO LIKE FEMALE BODYBUILDERS! If you don't like it don't look. BUT that does NOT give you the right to discriminate against us for doing what we love. I am in NO WAY trying to be like a man. There is history on women who were tougher and stronger. Those women, I believe have evolved into the women in the military and the atheletes (including female bodybuilding) that we have here before us today. Not that long ago women didn't go to school because it seemed like a waste of time. It's evolution boys. Don't be afraid. Try to open your mind a bit. I don't discriminate against gays, blacks, obese people, men or women. I think people with predjudices are afraid. They are definatley insecure with a part of themselves. I don't think fat is attractive but I do NOT discriminate against a person who is fat. I treat every one with the same respect and if I find myslef falling into the disgusting mindset that the person is weak or dumb or unhealthy I am quick to remind myself that I DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO DETERMINE HOW ANYONE SHOULD LIVE HIS OR HER LIFE -and- EVERYONE DESERVES COURTESY AND RESPECT. Besides....hate it all you want... FEMALE BODYBUILDING IS HERE TO STAY!

....great read by the way


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T-Bar
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There is history on women who were tougher and stronger.

I think this is where many girls have gone off track. Bodybuilding has nothing to do with being tougher or stronger. I know many serious pro's who are not "strong". Bodybuilding is about image. The women who have decided to look like men should be competing against the men. Women's bodybuilding should be about building the best looking female body, which I realize is subjective, but 99% of the world feels that women shouldn't look and sound like men.

Power lifting...that's another story. Now we're talking strength and size.

I still think women killed the sport by trying to be something they aren't. Men. But that's just my take on it.


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Liftingchic
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I agree TOTALLY with diesel.. and i am going to leave it at that... this is women's bodybuilding not swim suit model.. they have MUSCLE i know so of they have taken it too far but come on..don't judge all of us by that.. and carla dunlap.. her and the others (expect bev francis sp?) would be consider figure today.. they are what i call bbers.. so let skip over talking about them..

I am done.. i am not going to be a part of a thread that seems to be goingt the "females don't need muscle"or its the woman's faults..

Lc


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Liftingchic
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Originally posted by T-Bar
I think this is where many girls have gone off track. Bodybuilding has nothing to do with being tougher or stronger. I know many serious pro's who are not "strong". Bodybuilding is about image. The women who have decided to look like men should be competing against the men. Women's bodybuilding should be about building the best looking female body, which I realize is subjective, but 99% of the world feels that women shouldn't look and sound like men.

Power lifting...that's another story. Now we're talking strength and size.

I still think women killed the sport by trying to be something they aren't. Men. But that's just my take on it.

god..i hope you can still sleep at night..it must be so hard living in a non-perfect world..seeing how you must think you are so perfect... you probably think woman should still not go to school, should not have jobs and stay at home and raise kids... so i am not going to WASTE my time on you..


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BuffD
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Woman bodybuilders are not trying to look like men! Damn how hard is that to figure out. They are trying to look the way that they want to look. That look is to be a woman with muscle. Ok 99% of the public views it as women wanting to look like men. How does that mean that that is what they are trying to do? No one knows what anyone is really trying to accomplish except that person. The majority is not always correct. You cannot judge another person that way. I've seen the nasty comments T-bar has put up when pics are posted of female bodybuilders. The comments are childish. They aren't doing what they are doing to have people think they are sexy, attractive, or to make them want to sleep with them. They do it for the love of the sport. Oh as far as the "It's dying out". I don't think so. The Nationals, USA's, and Jr Nats have had increasing numbers for female bodybuilders in the past few years. I'm so tired of this debate. It's one that should never happen. If you don't like the look then how bout saying " Damn that girl is big. I personally don't like that look." No people like T-bar have to say "Damn a chic with a dick. I wouldn't sleep with that!" Well guess what she probably wouldn't sleep with you either. Lets learn to be a little more considerate of others.


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DIESELGIRL
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We do not want to compete with men. To be a successful bodybuilder, man or woman, you only need to compete with YOURSELF. I know I am one of the strongest individuals in my gym. How do I know this? Because most of the men follow me around to see what my lifts are and try to keep up. Ofcourse when they do I congratualte them on thier accomplishments. I love the fact that I can motivate any other athete MAN OR WOMAN.

TBar...your arguments are futile and a waste of everyones time. It's unfourtunate for YOU that you can't open your mind and educate yourself on this matter.

Female bodybuilding is increasing in popularity among women which is exactly why it is never going to die. 51% of the population is female. The more women that become interested in bodybuilding the better. The problem is that the industry has been trying to market us to be appealing to men (and who the fuck cares about that anyway?) when all along our target should have been women. The days of women beliving that they should be inferior to men are coming to an end in all aspects. It does mean however, we have to work harder than men....and there are those of us who are successful that do work harder. It is this work ethic that makes bodybuilding much more deep that just putting muscle on our bodies. It's what builds the wonderful character in our attitude towards all aspects of life. I do NOTHING half ass...this is why I am successful. This is why I get paid damn good money for pictures of my body and my opinion as a judge. This is why what I think matters and why what you think doesn't.


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T-Bar
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Hey Buffd you ass, go back and look at the pictures. One of them was of a girl who actually DID HAVE A DICK!!! As for slamming, I have never done that. Hell I was married to a big name pro bodybuilder for almost 10 years. I'm talking about the women who take it to the extreme, and no it isn't all of them but those doing it are giving the sport a bad image.

Get off my ass jerk. I am entitled to my opinion as much as you are to yours. That doesn't make me childish or "futile and a waste of everyone's time" as Dieselgirl threw at me. The original post was entitled "Who Killed Women's Bodybuilding?" You'll notice that I replied with, "I tend to disagree." Why the fuck you think that means you can start calling me names and slamming me is the question I have. I don't give a damn if you are strong or even if you look like a guy Deiselgirl. And I don't give a fuck what BuffD thinks, he's more than welcome to have his opinion, BUT SO AM I!


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ape1821
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I have not read this thread for quite a long time, and I am quite surprised by all the feedback. I'm on T-Bar's side although I am not against the other ones. However, the other ones make some mistakes that are based on defensiveness.

1. I am asked not to be judgemental. What does this mean. I have a brain, and that is what a brain makes: judgements on everything.

2. Then, I am asked not be negative. If I do not like it, I should not watch it. Hmmm... Does this include my not voicing my opinion? It seems to me that too many people say "if you have something negative to say, do not say it." Why? If I have something negative to say, I'll say it. It is part of any constructice process.

3. It all comes down to manners. I will not insult people that I disagree with, I will not deny their freedom to pursue their goals, but I will say what I have to say respectfully even if it is negative.

And, none of the T-Bar sect (:D ) has done otherwise or the Dieselgirl sect (:D ).

Everyone should be prepared for negative comments in his or her life and show grace and class.

Simple


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T-Bar
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See ape1821, I was responding to the article and voicing my opinion on the sport. Dieslegirl, BuffD, and Liftingchic all were attacking me personally. WTF is up with that? Having an opinion about a job or business, or sport a person is part of is far different than attacking them personally.


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ape1821
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Well, I read the post a bit slower, and yeah, there are personal attacks against T-Bar. Hmm...

I stand by what I wrote; some people just don't have grace, class, or manners.

All hail T-Bar!


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