This article by Bieke Gils talks about early 1900’s performer Charmion, and how her trapeze act challenged Victorian ideals about the female body.
Her performances were controversial for the time frame for two main reasons: vulgarity and muscularity. Reporters believed the show to be too vulgar, because throughout the trapeze act she would slowly undress. People who wrote about the show thought this was a desperate appeal to men. As a result of her undressing, the audience would also see her body more, and Charmion’s muscular figure kind of freaked men out a little bit. Muscular bodies and showing them had been long associated with men until Charmion’s performances. Neither of these problems would be an issue today.
While Charmion’s undressing performance did appeal to men, I would almost consider her a pioneer for the strong, female bodies. Many people, especially men, were uncomfortable with the fact that women could have bodies like theirs and show them off in an elegant fashion such as trapeze. Because of women like Charmion, strong female bodies are now more widely accepted.