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Strong and Hard Women: An ethnography of female bodybuilding

ISBN: 9780415624411 | 041562441X
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Routledge
Pub. Date: 3/26/2013

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Females with large muscles evoke strong reactions from men and women, often involving disgust, discomfort, anger and threat. Debates range between those who celebrate the hyper-muscular woman as creating aesthetic/erotic projects for themselves and not for the pleasure of men and those that argue that female bodybuilding lies on the same axis as anorexia, in terms of control and hatred of the body. What is striking about the debate over women bodybuilders is that no suitable empirical work exists that would allow us to begin to properly adjudicate between these views. Furthermore, the current theories imply that female bodybuilders either resist norms of femininity or are oppressed as if it is simply a choice of one or the other, rather than a more complex situation that may require us to go beyond this binary opposition. In order to assess the liberatory potential of female bodybuilding, Tanya Bunsell presents an original ethnography and participant observation of female body builders in the south of England. This book exposes the 'Janus-faced' nature of female bodybuilding, exploring the ways in which the women negotiate, accommodate and resist pressures to engage in more orthodox and feminine activities and appearances.


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