Flex Wheeler calls Women’s Bodybuilding division’s lack of acceptance a “slap in the face” for all bodybuilders.


In 2014, the last ever Ms. Olympia competition was held. Since then, there has been no Women’s Bodybuilding presence at the Olympia stage. That’s all changing this year with the reintroduction of the division at Olympia 2020. But for the last six years, there has been no way for Women’s Bodybuilding competitors to prove themselves as the best in the world. In our latest GI Exclusive Vault interview, Flex Wheeler reacts to the lack of acceptance for the Women’s Bodybuilding division.

Flex Wheeler is one of the most legendary bodybuilders in the history of bodybuilding. He also competed through a time when Women’s Bodybuilding was more accepted than it is today. That’s why during the filming of Generation Iron 2, we asked Flex to share his thoughts on the lack of Women’s Bodybuilding at the Olympia. What went wrong? Why did the division fall from grace and nearly disappear? Flex’s full response never made it into the film. Now we’re releasing the full interview segment as part of our GI Exclusive Vault series.

Flex Wheeler makes it very clear that he is unhappy with what happened to the Women’s Bodybuilding division. The biggest argument for it’s lack of success in later years revolves around the athletes not finding the right balance of “femininity” and muscle. Flex finds this be a weak excuse. He claims that bodybuilding is a sport, not a beauty pageant. The goal of bodybuilding is to build muscle – especially when it’s the open division. So why were female athletes being punished for pursuing the same level of muscle as Men’s Open competitors?

Flex Wheeler goes on to shares his experience talking to Women’s Bodybuilding competitors back in his prime. He recalls that many of them were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Some were happy with their physique but knew they needed to change it to meet the standards that will make them win. It’s this kind of disconnect between the athletes, the fans, and perhaps even the judges that led to a swinging pendulum in the division. Some years a smaller more feminine physique would earn top marks, other times a more massive muscular physique would take the win. It was confusing and forced athletes to constantly change their benchmark of success.

Flex Wheeler didn’t stop there when discussing the Women’s Bodybuilding division. He opened up that lack of acceptance to the entire sport as a whole. He describes how the lack of acceptance of Women’s Bodybuilding within our sport was similar to how the mainstream reacted to open class bodybuilders.

“It’s even, you know, when you take it deeper, our sport as men, we’re not even accepted that much globally,” Flex Wheeler states in our interview. He continues:

“We’re looked down upon. It’s really interesting because if you take a woman or a man and you look at the cartoon characters, they look like us. You know, He-Man and She-Ra and all that. They look like us. But when you actually see us walking around we’re not accepted. But in cartoon form or on TV or something like that, you know, we’re accepted. So that’s almost like a slap in the face.”

Ultimately, Flex Wheeler makes a point to say he doesn’t care what gender, race, or sexual orientation you are – the sport is about building muscle. Acceptance should be given to all divisions lest we look and act just like the mainstream public that makes bodybuilding as a whole taboo.

You can watch Flex Wheeler’s full comments in our latest GI Exclusive Vault interview. If you also want to rewatch Generation Iron 2, it’s available now on digital. You can own your own digital copy today by clicking here or the banner below.

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Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.