Palestinian Female Bodybuilders’ Body Image

Author(s): Balqees Shaheen
Final project
Year of publication:
Supervisors: Myriam Sfeir


Women’s participation in sports has always been socially criticized since it doesn’t conform to the gender norms imposed on women. However, women have managed to participate in sports with respect to their cultures, for years now all over the globe. One of the most criticized sports for women is bodybuilding, and it’s a sport that is not recognized for women in Palestine until recently. This essay aims to investigate the effect of social, gendered, positions on women’s participation in bodybuilding in the Palestinian society, while analyzing the ways I which gender norms shape the Palestinian female bodybuilders’ perceptions of beauty and the ideal body, and its impacts on their choices of muscle training. The first part focuses on reviewing literature on social reactions towards female bodybuilders’ bodies, including: general, negative, social reactions to women bodybuilding, and to different muscle groups in women’s bodies, negative reactions against women’s muscular bodies in bodybuilding competitions, and the female bodybuilders’ attitude towards the ideal feminine body image. The research discusses available, global, literature on female bodybuilders’ own attitudes towards the ideal feminine body image, and female bodybuilders adherence to the ideal body image. There is no literature on female bodybuilding in Palestine. Thus, this paper aims to investigate the social attitudes and personal attitudes towards Palestinian female bodybuilders in relation to the ideal body image, as it explores the reasons behind Palestinian women’s participation in bodybuilding, their perception of the ideal body, and the challenges they face.