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SCULPTING MASCULINITY: THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF MUSCLED MEN

Date

1996

Journal Title

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ORCID

Type

Degree Level

Masters

Abstract

This study examined the increasing popularity of bodybuilding among men. Foucault's (1979;1990a) concept of discipline was incorporated into the analysis to show how bodybuilding shaped and was shaped by male bodybuilders' presentation of self, specifically their sense of masculinity. Foucault argued that nineteenth century systems of social control including the military, schools and prisons tried to control peoples' bodies through surveillance and stimulation. Their bodies were placed in a scientifically managed system of discipline in order to gain access to their minds. Disciplinary discourses and practices produced 'docile' bodies, whose movements were spatially and temporally fragmented and partitioned. Likewise bodybuilding required its practitioners' adherence to strict disciplinary regimens such as the weight training work-out and nutritional programs, and the corresponding repression of uncontrolled corporeal and emotional desires. This self-regimentation brought the respondents closer to cultural ideals of masculinity including power, domination and control. The majority (81%/n=16) said bodybuilding enhanced their sense of masculinity by increasing their self-confidence in regard to body size and strength, appropriate masculine behavior and attractiveness. They were able to command others' respect and admiration, which inspired self-pride and self-assurance. The respondents' views on the relationship between masculinity and weight training were compared with those of football athletes and track and field athletes. The purpose was to determine if and how the athletes' and bodybuilding respondents' experiences differed. The bodybuilding and football respondents shared a hyper masculine image premised upon physical size and prowess and self-control. In contrast, the track and field athletes were generally indifferent to weight training, which never affected their masculine identity in any noticeable respect.

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Degree

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Department

Sociology

Program

Sociology

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Committee

Citation

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