Body Panic: Gender, Health, and the Selling of Fitness

By Shari L. Dworkin; Faye Linda Wachs | Go to book overview

4
“Gatting Your Body Back” Postindustrial Fit Motherhood and the Merger of the Second (Household Labor/Child Care) and Third (Fitness) Shifts

Researchers have noted how feminine ideals have shifted from social behaviors such as privatized domesticity to contemporary gendered norms that include dual-career couples, more involved fathers, and a merging of public and private roles for all (Gillis 1996; Skolnick 1994; Stacey 1996). For both women and men, many argue that valuations have now moved toward appearances within consumption-based postindustrial society (Featherstone and Turner 1995; Goffman 1979, 1976; Lowe 1995). As has been described in this text and elsewhere, obtaining a valued appearance requires the consumption of a host of goods and services that assist individuals in adhering to an ever-changing set of gendered ideals (Featherstone 1991a).

Fitness has certainly played a key role in the production of the gendered body. Adding the pregnant form to an analysis of fitness and gendered bodily norms offers a unique opportunity to extend established arguments on feminism, bodies, and sexuality. Specifically, a new area of feminist analysis opens up when considering the corporeal tensions faced by the contemporary pregnant woman: exactly at the moment when a woman's body is accomplishing a highly valued route to femininity, she is least likely to be viewed as aesthetically ideal.

Given more widespread acceptance of women's sport and fitness activities, the way that feminism has stretched bodily norms to include unprecedented levels of physical strength, and the fact that “nobody” escapes bodily objectification in postindustrial consumer culture (Bordo 1999; Pope, Phillips, and Olivardia 2000), it is particularly timely that a new fitness magazine emerged in 1997 titled Shape Fit Pregnancy. The magazine is devoted to pregnant women's “pre-and post-partum fitness needs.”

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