Venus with Biceps: A Pictorial History of Muscular Women

Overview

Over the last one hundred years, the image of the physically strong, confident, muscular woman has been the object of derision, fascination, and erotic fantasy; she is often portrayed, in both photography and illustration, as a sexy dominatrix, sexless mannequin, or sideshow freak. In this fascinating collection of rare archival images from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, authors David L. Chapman and Patricia Vertinsky trace the peculiar yet fascinating history...

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Overview

Over the last one hundred years, the image of the physically strong, confident, muscular woman has been the object of derision, fascination, and erotic fantasy; she is often portrayed, in both photography and illustration, as a sexy dominatrix, sexless mannequin, or sideshow freak. In this fascinating collection of rare archival images from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, authors David L. Chapman and Patricia Vertinsky trace the peculiar yet fascinating history of muscular women in popular culture.

One of the battlefields in this cultural conflict appeared in popular imagery: posters, advertisements, comic books, magazine illustrations, and (most particularly) photography all offered outlets of expression for many muscular women. Until quite recently, however, such females were packaged for the general public as physical monstrosities, lesbian man-haters, kinky sex objects, or beautiful living statues. At the same time, many women, including those in the emerging female bodybuilder community, have had to fight hard to reclaim the image of female muscularity as their own.

Featuring some two hundred full-color and black-and-white illustrations, many never before published, Venus with Biceps is a beautiful and historically significant book about gender, image, social expectations, and female power.

David L. Chapman has written extensively on gay erotic photography and male bodybuilders.

Patricia Vertinsky is a professor at the School of Human Kinetics at the University of British Columbia who has written four previous books on sports and gender.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Chapman (American Hunks: The Muscular Male Body in Popular Culture 1860-1970) and Vertinsky (Physical Culture, Power, and the Body) collaborate for a fascinating portrayal of the world of female bodybuilding. For the last century, serious weight training by women has been alternately applauded and decried (mostly decried). Women weightlifters faced accusations of masculinity, lesbianism, and general freakishness; indeed the first home they found was in circuses and vaudeville acts. This pictorial history highlights the shifting attitudes toward these women and offers insights into the changing attitudes about body image. The authors have created an excellent collection of thoughtfully-curated photos and essays; though some could have gone deeper, the result is an intriguing look at a little regarded period in sports history. Photos. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"A celebration of female strength, Venus with Biceps proves that today’s hard-arm look dates way back—even if, as coauthor David L. Chapman puts it, muscular women 'risk being seen … as dangerous.'" —People magazine

"A truly fascinating tour of the hardbodied heroines of the photographic age ... I opened the book prepared to gawk at the weirdness of a past when most women were tiny, fluffy, corseted creatures and those who weren’t were sent to the freak show, but by the time I’d read it through to the end, I’d realized that nothing of any significance has occurred in the realm of thinking about women’s figures for at least a hundred years. An edifying read indeed." —The New Yorker

"Chapman and Vertinsky collaborate for a fascinating portrayal of the world of female bodybuilding ... The authors have created an excellent collection of thoughtfully-curated photos and essays; the result is an intriguing look at a little regarded period in sports history." —Publishers Weekly

"Simply jaw-droppingly amazing ... This coffee table-sized paperback is so heavy and heaving with astonishing images that one builds one’s own bice ps in reading it." —EDGE (New York, etc.)

"This fascinating visual history uses archival images, posters, comic books, magazine illustrations and photography to trace the history of the physically strong, muscular woman and of society's evolving attitudes toward female strength." —Seattle Times

"Visually stunning, rigorously researched, and thoughtfully written, Venus with Biceps is as much a treasure chest of rare vintage ephemera as it is a fascinating and important meditation on a contentious facet of gender identity and cultural politics." —Brainpickings.org

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781551523705
  • Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 1/11/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 491,534
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Vertinsky: Patricia Vertinsky is a professor at the School of Human Kinetics at the University of British Columbia, specializing in the social and cultural history of the body. She is the author or editor of four previous books on sports and gender.

David L. Chapman: David L. Chapman is the author of twelve books on male photography and bodybuilding, including American Hunks (Arsenal, 2009) and Comin' at Ya!: The Homoerotic 3D Photographs of Denny Denfield (Arsenal, 2007).

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