Bodymakers: A Cultural Anatomy of Women's Body Building

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Overview

"A highly unique and refreshing contribution. Heywood not only theorizes the relationships among feminism, activism, and bodybuilding but also provides what so many works on built female bodies lack-a feminine historical context. . . . Heywood concludes with a call for women to 'feel our muscles, our power, our terrible, wonderful, monstrous strengths' by leaving behind aerobics, replacing light weights with heavy ones, and claiming our right to take up space. . . . Like all influential and groundbreaking works, this book raises new and important questions that should provide grist for much feminist debate and scholarship in coming years."-Signs

"Bodymakers is most ambitious in terms of its engagement with feminist cultural criticism and its unconventional scope. Heywood comments on film, novels, magazine pictures, popular criticisms of feminism, the J. Crew catalog, [and] the concept of power feminism."-Gender and Society

"In this brilliantly insightful and immensely readable book, Leslie Heywood makes us think about women's body building in an entirely new way. She argues persuasively that, far from being an individualistic, apolitical act, it is a powerful form of resistance, empowering women to overcome their victim status and heal past abuse."
-Myra Dinnerstein, University of Arizona

"Bodymakers has a power and an honesty that is unusual in a book with its theoretical sophistication." -Susan Bordo, author of Unbearable Weight and Twilight Zones: The Hidden Life of Cultural Images from Plato to O.J.

"With clarity, force, and passionate investment grounded in both theory and her own experience, Heywood understands that women can strengthen body, mind, and spirit through everyday practice. Her argument that body building is this kind of activist practice is as inspirational as it is poignant."
-Joanna Frueh, author of Erotic Faculties

"Flexing her muscles through autobiographical, theoretical, and spectacular acts, Heywood insists that we read the muscular female body not as an 'extreme oddity' but as a 'form of activism' through which we can understand anew larger cultural issues and trends, including the American romance with individualism and the relationship of second and third wave feminisms. Muscular female bodies will never be read in the same way again."
-Sidonie Smith, University of Michigan

Women with muscles are a recent phenomenon, so recent that, while generating a good deal of interest, their importance to the cultural landscape has yet to be acknowledged. Leslie Heywood looks at the sport and image of female body building as a metaphor for how women fare in our current political and cultural climate. She argues that the movement in women's body building from small, delicate bodies to large powerful ones and back again is directly connected to progress and backlash within the abortion debate, the ongoing struggle for race and gender equality, and the struggle to define "feminism" in the context of the nineties. She discusses female body building as activism, as an often effective response to abuse, race and masculinity in body building, and the contradictory ways that photographers treat female body builders. Engaging and accessible, Bodymakers reveals how female body builders find themselves both trapped and empowered by their sport.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813524801
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 236
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Monsters, Feminists, Babes 1
2 Building Backlash: Doing Bodybuilding and Feminism in the Time of the New Right 18
3 Zero: Raced Bodies, Masculine Voids 61
4 Hard Times: The Pornographic and the Pathetic in Women's Bodybuilding Photography 91
5 Loving Mr. Hyde: Rethinking Monstrosity 131
6 American Girls, Raised on Promises: Why Women Build; or, Why I Prefer Henry Rollins to Beck 165
Notes 195
Index 215
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