by Christian Duque
Ruth Silverman was a real trailblazer. She was a pioneer in a male-dominated world. Even today when you stop to think about it all the major bodybuilding networks are run by men. Most writers are men. Most photographers are men. Most editors are men. Although contests are composed pretty equally of men and women, men are the ones who own the companies, primarily promote the shows, primarily judge the shows, and primarily cover the contests.
Ruth Silverman was one of the few women who not only was always in the press pit and doing interviews but her articles stood up to the greats. In a very real way the Senior Writer of Iron Man Magazine was at the same level as the late great Peter McGough. That being said, she was highly underrated. For all the kudos and accolades she got, it still paled in comparison to what she should have received. Her insights were spot on and when it came to muscular women she was both a historian and a pundit wrapped into one.
I used to look forward with great enthusiasm for her articles and interviews because Ruth would often pull from multiple eras when asking questions and discussing the state of the sport. Her style was very authentic and everything flowed naturally. In my article I’d like to touch upon what a fantastic journalist we lost.
At a time when anyone with an internet connection can commentate and/or publish articles something needs to be said about professional writers from back in the print days. They made their living covering a sport that was very much a niche discipline that had all the potential of becoming a mainstream sport. This was at a time when the Weider’s were alive and at the helm, when bodybuilding was on network television, and when bodybuilders competed huge AND ultra-conditioned. It was before the nonsensical prohormone bans, before social media, and way before print died off.
Ruth Silverman was one of the biggest fans of muscular women that I’ve ever come across in the fitness industry. She knew about the trials and tribulations facing all women. It was a lot harder to land major contracts each and every time a new division was added.
And mind you, each new division seemed to celebrate women with less muscle, less striations, and more of a beach look. It started with Fitness, then Figure, and by the time Bikini was selling out halls, muscular women were on the ropes. Ruth saw the waning popularity of Women’s Bodybuilding and then saw where the federation tried to kill it off for good with Women’s Physique. And that’s exactly what was happening.
I won’t sit here and write an alternate narrative. There was a time when Bob Cicherillo and the ilk made muscular women the butt of all their jokes. And now because Jake Wood is in the driver seat and is responsible for breathing new life into physique-based sports now everyone is a sable rattler for muscular women.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Back in the day when the Arnold ditched WBB and the Olympia did as well, everyone was pretty much rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Ruth never let up. She never downplayed the need for muscular women to have a place to compete and she never waved the white flag when it came to speaking to the fact that the more muscular female divisions – if marketed correctly – could be big again.
Anytime haters would argue in the alternative she would take them on. Ruth was a real fighter and knew that in order to make converts out of haters you couldn’t shut yourself off to criticism. You had to actively debate those disbelievers and show them how they were wrong, factually.
Ruth was also a fantastic interviewer that understood the importance of asking really good questions and then allowing the athlete to answer. Only a seasoned interviewer knows that it’s all about the athlete. This goes back a couple of generations to a time when news anchors weren’t the story. They reported the news. And much like the great Walter Cronkite no one really ever knew what his politics were.
Truly great interviewers don’t let their biases bleed into the story. They don’t try to lead the guest or insert their own opinions. If the interviewer were the talent someone would be interviewing them. Even though she had a remarkable resume, Ruth didn’t boast about herself. Instead she used all of her abilities to put the athletes on Front Street. She wanted them to get the exposure and she wanted to celebrate their journeys. This is why so many champions – from the amateur to the pro level – yearned to one day speak to this widely-respected correspondent. If Ruth knew who you were, then you knew you were doing something right. And she didn’t do a ton of interviews, either. Her time was extremely limited but if she made time for you, it was quite noteworthy.
One of my chief regrets will have been not to have spoken more to her especially during the time that I stopped doing contest coverage. I was even thinking about reaching out to her just a few days ago because I wanted to write an article and she was always very supportive of all of my work. Many times I could count on her to give me a guest quote or even give me her thoughts on my articles. She was that type of a lady. Even though she could work with anyone she wanted and even though she was probably very very busy, she always made time for her friends.
This is why I will always cherish the very many conversations that we had on Facebook private messenger. And her responses were never one-liners. She always took time to articulate her points and make sure that she answered my questions. I can honestly say that she was one of the last of the Mohicans, Nothing against the journalists of today but something needs to be said about those folks who wrote for the magazines and who employed their craft in the pre-internet days. Things were a lot tougher, but they were also a lot more authentic. Someone like Ruth Silverman will truly never be forgotten and her work will live on for generations of muscleheads to come.
I also have no idea what the cause of her death may have been. I just hope that she did not suffer. She lived a very long life full of many accomplishments and not enough accolades. I think that she will hold a very special place in the history of bodybuilding and I am honored to be able to add this article to the others. We, here at Iron Magazine, truly mourn her passing and send our deepest condolences to her family and friends. She was one of the best writers the sport of bodybuilding has ever seen.