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Body Panic

Gender, Health, and the Selling of Fitness

Shari Dworkin, Faye Wachs

Publication Year: 2009

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.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. v


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pp. vii-viii

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1. The Nature of Body Panic Culture

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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. ...

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2. What Kinds of Subjects and Objects? Gender, Consumer Culture, and Convergence

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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. ...

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

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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). ...

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4. “Getting Your Body Back”: Postindustrial Fit Motherhood and the Merger of the Second (Household Labor/Child Care) and Third (Fitness) Shift

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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). ...

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5. From Women’s Sports & Fitness to Self: Third Wave Feminism and the Consumption Conundrum

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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. ...

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6. Emancipatory Potential, Social Justice, and the Consumption Imperative

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pp. 159-181

In 1993, William Solomon and Michael Messner published a journal article in the Sociology of Sport Journal titled “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. ...


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pp. 183-186


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pp. 187-199


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pp. 201-217


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pp. 219-225

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About the Authors

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p. 227

Shari L. Dworkin is Associate Professor of Medical Sociology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California at San Francisco. She is co-author of Built to Win: The Female Athlete as Cultural Icon. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814785256
E-ISBN-10: 0814785255
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814719671
Print-ISBN-10: 0814719678

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 647699947
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Body Panic

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Exercise -- Psychological aspects.
  • Physical fitness -- United States -- Periodicals.
  • Culture -- United States.
  • Gender identity -- United States.
  • Body image -- United States.
  • Advertising, Magazine -- United States.
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