Body Matters: Essays on the Sociology of the Body

By Sue Scott; David Morgan | Go to book overview
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Chapter 5

You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine: Reflections on the Male Body and Masculinities

David Morgan

'Macho man with feathered knickers' (Caption to an illustration in a fashion article 'Bad Boy Struts His Stuff in Florence', The European, 18-20 January 1991).

'Charles Atlas Also Dies' (Title of a short story by Sergio Ramirez)


Introduction

If, in general, the sociology of the body is a relatively late arrival on the scene, the sociology of the male body would seem to be even more of a newcomer. Most of the examples treated at any length in Turner's The Body and Society (1984) deal with women, their bodies, complaints and conditions, and studies of the representation of the female body still clearly outnumber those dealing with the male body. Few of the articles in the three volumes edited by Feher et al. deal specifically with issues of men and male bodies, and the same applies to the comprehensive bibliography in the third volume (Feher et al, 1989). This concentration on women's bodies is clearly apparent in that area of sociology most directly concerned with bodily matters, the sociology of health and illness. This is not simply a greater representation of issues dealing with women-childbirth, menstruation, eating disorders and so on-but the greater likelihood of a more gendered discussion where women are the subject of the research in question.

This tendency to see women as being in some way more embodied than men is reflected in popular culture and popular imagination. The body work carried out on Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe could only ever really apply to women (McCann, 1988:67-71). Representations of women's bodies in advertising and soft pornography-the Page Three Girl being only one of the more obvious examples-are much more visibly obvious than any strict equivalents for men, and descriptions of women in popular fiction tend to be more embodied than descriptions of men.

This greater embodiment of women in contrast to men is also apparent in some feminist writings, as witnessed by the various versions and editions of Our

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