Acceptance of female muscle depends a lot on context. Comic books have always featured athletic women superheroes, and nobody objected. A female bodybuilder was featured on the cover of Playboy because she was also a famous wrestler. A very muscular woman in an illustration for fantasy and adventure stories is considered totally appropriate.

But when modern female bodybuilding competition began in the late 1970s, it introduced a new version of the female physique. Our culture was presented with a very new kind of body, and it has taken quite a while for people to accept the aesthetically muscular female form. There has been a lot of pushback, but one example of how this acceptance has progressed over the years is the television program American Gladiators, which featured female bodybuilders, fitness competitors and women who trained like bodybuilders.

I was contacted when American Gladiators was at the very beginning of production and was asked to suggest possible cast members. In fact, quite a number of the women I recommended were hired, and many others subsequently accepted as Gladiators were women I photographed.

Here are a few of the American Gladiator women I had the good fortune to capture in photos.

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