Body Panic

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

Shari L. Dworkin
Faye Linda Wachs
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 235
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  • Book Info
    Body Panic
    Book Description:

    Are you ripped? Do you need to work on your abs? Do you know your ideal body weight? Your body fat index? Increasingly, Americans are being sold on a fitness ideal - not just thin but toned, not just muscular but cut - that is harder and harder to reach. In Body Panic, Shari L. Dworkin and Faye Linda Wachs ask why. How did these particular body types come to be "fit"? And how is it that having an unfit, or "bad," body gets conflated with being an unfit, or "bad," citizen?Dworkin and Wachs head to the newsstand for this study, examining ten years worth of men's and women's health and fitness magazines to determine the ways in which bodies are "made" in today's culture. They dissect the images, the workouts, and the ideology being sold, as well as the contemporary links among health, morality, citizenship, and identity that can be read on these pages. While women and body image are often studied together, Body Panic considers both women's and men's bodies side-by-side and over time in order to offer a more in-depth understanding of this pervasive cultural trend.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8525-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 The Nature of Body Panic Culture Image and Popular Culture
    (pp. 1-28)

    A quick stroll past any newsstand will reveal a plethora of magazines devoted to health and fitness. “Healthy,” “fit” bodies are draped across covers. Serving as advertisements, cover models beckon, enticing readers. Take a closer look. Choose a magazine. Pick it up, and your eyes will undoubtedly peruse the finely tuned form on the cover, communicating the meaning of the words “health” and “fitness,” singing it to you through rippling muscles. As if they could speak to you, cover models’ eyes look back at you with pride. “Hard work,” you hear the implied whisper. All of you can do it....

  5. 2 What Kinds of Subjects and Objects? Gender, Consumer Culture, and Convergence
    (pp. 29-64)

    How then is the idealized body constructed in consumer culture today? Examining mainstream health and fitness magazines provides insight into dominant cultural constructions of “health” and by extension allows researchers to examine what constitutes a privileged body. Given the importance of sex assignment in Western culture, this body is always already a gendered body. However, what the assignment of sex means for bodies is changing and evolving in consumer culture. Instead of reiterating long held subject/object dichotomies that tend to analyze the situation from the position that men are given the status of subjects while women are objects, we rely...

  6. 3 Size Matters: Male Body Panic and the Third Wave “Crisis of Masculinity”
    (pp. 65-105)

    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...

  7. 4 “Getting Your Body Back”: Postindustrial Fit Motherhood and the Merger of the Second (Household Labor/Child Care ) and Third (Fitness ) Shifts
    (pp. 106-128)

    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; Goff man 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...

  8. 5 From Women’s Sports & Fitness to Self: Third Wave Feminism and the Consumption Conundrum
    (pp. 129-158)

    While working together on this book project, each of us had collected piles of fitness magazines. Stacked in several corners of our respective apartments, sometimes these mounds stood tall . . . straight up in the air, majestic . . . at other times, willowy, leaning towers of Pisa. Sometimes the piles were flat, spread out, completely covering hardwood floors or carpets as we debated cover images and stood over them with an air of authority. In the early phases of this project, after we carried out an initial coding, we met to discuss preliminary summaries and findings. We then...

  9. 6 Emancipatory Potential, Social Justice, and the Consumption Imperative
    (pp. 159-182)

    In 1993, William Solomon and Michael Messner published a journal article in theSociology of Sport Journaltitled “Outside the Frame: Newspaper Coverage of the Sugar Ray Leonard Wife Abuse Story.” In this analysis, the authors split the types of newspaper coverage of this famous abuse case into two categories. Themes that dominated print media coverage of the case were said to be “inside the frame” (in this instance, stories of drug abuse and alcohol use, and individualized stories of sin and redemption from starting/stopping drugs and alcohol), while other themes remained wholly “outside” of the print media framings of...

  10. Appendix
    (pp. 183-186)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 187-200)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-218)
  13. Index
    (pp. 219-226)
  14. About the Authors
    (pp. 227-227)