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

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

3
Size Matters Male Body Panic and the Third Wave “Crisis of Masculinity”

Within the last two decades, a plethora of scholarly work has explored the interrelationship between images of female bodies, gendered power relations, and consumption (Bartky 1988; Bordo 1993; Brumberg 1997; Grogan 1999; Heywood 1998; Duncan 1994). As noted in the last chapter, it has been assumed that gendered power relations necessarily over-determined men as powerful, privileged, and active subjects (Messner 1989), and as such, male bodies were not viewed as capable of being objectified (Bordo 1999). Indeed, because the male body has long been the presumed norm against which female bodies are found lacking (ibid.; Synnott 1993), it has been largely assumed that male bodies do not “lack.” Thus, while specific attention has focused on an “ideology of lack” surrounding women's bodies and the need to consume products and services in order to “correct” that lack, it is only very recently that scholarly attention has turned toward the complex ways that the (hegemonic) male body has also been subjected to intensive scrutiny and objectification.

The previous chapter shed light on the ways in which the subject/ object dichotomy has not fully elucidated the complexities that circulate around gender and the body to reflect contemporary changes in gender relations in the postindustrial consumer era. We therefore spent some time challenging the traditional emphasis on a subject/object dichotomy (and an active/passive one) by underscoring evidence of a convergence of bodily practices, imagery (poses), and fitness prescriptions among women and men in fitness texts. We introduced Frigga Haug's concept of subjective-aspects-within-being-as-object and noted how Haug's framework allows space for a rebuttal to traditional analyses of women and the body, such that women are not solely objectified but rather, find useful, identity-validating, and pleasurable aspects of being an object (and are framed as such).

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