Bodybuilding And Sculpting

BODYBUILDING AND SCULPTING The twenty-first century body, like those of preceding centuries, is still engaged in the eternal quest for an ideal shape. The modernist body of fashion has made it possible for both women and men to reconstruct themselves by a variety of means, resisting the body's unruly nature in order to achieve a firm, toned physique that conforms to sexual stereotypes and concepts of beauty. While women in earlier centuries relied mainly on dieting and corsetry to achieve the perfect shape, today's alternatives include muscular development through weight-lifting, strenuous exercise, and perpetual dieting. Cosmetic surgery has become an accepted method of transforming the body's natural shape. Many contemporary men rely on strenuous weight training, other forms of exercise, dieting, and cosmetic surgery to achieve bodies that conform to social ideals of masculine appearance.

During the latter half of the twentieth century, women in the developed world came to rely on medical science for regular health screening and routine medical procedures. The medicalization of the female body continued, and by the beginning of the 1990s plastic surgery was widespread and surgery became a "normal" means of fashioning the body. Whereas body-shaping fashions had merely manipulated the body into an ideal shape temporarily, the surgeon's scalpel could achieve enduring transformations intended to boost both the patient's self-esteem and her social desirability. Whereas during the early years of cosmetic surgery many women would be at pains to conceal the fact that they had undergone a face-lift or other procedure, toward the end of the twentieth century such surgery was socially acceptable and even regarded as glamorous.

That such radical procedures have nevertheless become commonplace is explained by a combination of the ever-increasing technical ability to perform them and the continually evolving notion of the ideal female body. Prior to the 1960s, changes in the ideal female form were more likely to have been achieved by clothing than by physical transformations of various sorts. The emergence of the "New Woman" in the late nineteenth century introduced an element of athleticism into the feminine ideal, even as corsets continued to be worn on the sports field. The ideal of the 1920s was youthful and trim, but women of the 1930s through the 1950s were shaped by elastic undergarments.

By the 1960s, perceptions of femininity were aligned to ideals of youth, and a fixation with the adolescent figure resulted in a very thin, androgynous physique often achieved by extremes of dieting. Dieting prevailed throughout the 1970s as the principal means of body modification, augmented by exercise regimes of jogging, tennis, and roller-skating, which gave way to aerobics, dancercise, and fitness classes in the 1980s. The lithe but shapely physiques of Jane Fonda and Cindy Crawford represented the sought-after ideal, which fashion augmented with shoulder pads and bulky "box" jackets that produced the appearance of a voluptuous, powerful physique. In the 1990s, the use of exercise and diet to achieve an ideal shape was increasingly supplemented by medical and surgical procedures. One group of women, however, took exercise itself to extreme levels.

The phenomenon of female bodybuilding, which had existed since the mid-twentieth century but only emerged from its subcultural milieu in the 1980s, introduced a rippling range of hyper-muscular bodies to the wider context of visual culture. Women with bulging thighs, enormous calves, rock-hard biceps, Herculean shoulders, and washboard abs introduced a new form of physicality that previously had only been associated with male bodybuilders or with the female superheroes of comic strips. Female mesomorphs, as women bodybuilders became known, inspired some women to strive for bodies with exceptional strength and definition.

Such physiques moved beyond the traditional stereotypes of the female body and in feminist circles were received as avatars of a future body image. While the female mesomorph was rarely seen on fashion runways, she gained ground in film and television. Programs such as Xena: Warrior Princess popularized the erotic appeal of muscular women and provided a role model for those striving for a similar body ideal.

Although fashion magazines typically promote weight loss and body conditioning to reinforce the image of women as being lean and toned, mesomorph bodies blur gender boundaries. This female body type reads as an emulation of masculinity, male power, and privilege. The feminist scholars Susan Bordo and Christine Battersby cite the female mesomorph as an example of the cultural difficulties over issues surrounding the body, gender, sexuality, and power. Robert Mapplethorpe photographed the bodybuilder Lisa Lyons as the AIDS epidemic grew, confronting the anxieties of a society riddled with fears of sickness and death with a representation of power and vitality.

But body modification is practiced by men as well as by women. In the Western tradition, elite male clothing has typically been body concealing, emphasizing attributes of wealth and status rather than physical form. Only in a few instances, such as the uniforms of cavalry officers, did men wear body-enhancing clothing; tellingly, the shoulder pads and corsets worn to shape their figures mirrored the dress of the early nineteenth-century dandy. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, an athletic physique, implying proficiency at such upper-class pursuits as tennis and college team sports, had begun to be considered a desirable attribute of young men. Sheer muscularity, however, remained the province of circus strongmen and manual laborers. Weight lifting, though a part of the modern Olympics since its inception, was in its infancy as a sport.

Following World War I, the gradual acceptance of men going bare-chested or nearly so while swimming in mixed company, helped to focus attention on the muscular torso as an attribute of masculinity. Bodybuilding as a defined set of techniques soon followed. For example, Charles Atlas, who billed himself as "the world's most perfectly developed man," began in 1929 to market his system for turning "97-pound weaklings" into muscular giants. The first "Mr. America" contest was held a decade later, won by the bodybuilding legend Bert Goodrich.

The invention of weight-training machines, such as the Nautilus in the late 1960s and early 1970s, transformed the nature of physical exercise and made strength training readily available to men of all ages and ability levels. By the mid-1970s, men and women alike were putting in more and more time at the gym in pursuit of the ideal body. Meanwhile, bodybuilding as a sport was popularized by specialized magazines, by famous gathering spots like southern California's "Muscle Beach," and by a network of professional and amateur contests.

Bodybuilding is a special subculture, in which extremely massive musculature, the hypertrophic development of all of the body's muscles (often relying in part on steroids and other metabolic enhancements), and the taking of sculptural poses tend to go far beyond mainstream society's criteria for the masculine ideal. In some gay subcultures, bodybuilding to a lesser extreme is the norm, and having a "cut" body (one with sharply defined musculature) is highly sought after. Within those communities, implants, liposuction, and other surgical enhancements have become commonplace. Most broadly, a toned, muscular body has become a widely accepted ideal for young men in Western cultures, to the extent that not to possess such a body is as much cause for self-conscious concern as it has become for a woman not to be toned, shapely, and firm.

As these body ideals are considered, new functions and new perspectives of the fashioned body unfold. The body's role as a site of resistance, empowerment, and emancipation reveals that the body ideals of fashion are not necessarily satisfied by the pursuit of beauty alone.

See also Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arnold, Rebecca. Fashion, Desire and Anxiety, London: IB Tau-ris, 2001.

Balsamo, Annen. Technologies of the Gendered Body. Durham,

N.C.: Duke University Press, 1977. Bordo, Susan. "The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity: A Feminist Approach to Foucault." In Gender/Body/Knowledge. Edited by A. Jaggar and S. Bordo. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1989.

Frueh, Joanna, et al., eds. Picturing the Modern Amazon. New York: New Museum Books; Rizzoli International, 1999.

Gaines, Charles. Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982. Ince, Kate. Orlan: Millennial Female (Dress, Body, Culture). Oxford: Berg, 2000.

Nettleton, Sarah, and Jonathan Watson. The Body in Everyday

Life. London: Routledge, 1998. Quinn, Bradley. Techno Fashion. Oxford: 2002. Steele, Valerie. The Corset. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2001.

Webster, David Pirie. Bodybuilding: An Illustrated History. New York: Arco Publishing, 1982.

Bradley Quinn

BODY PIERCING Body piercing is the practice of inserting jewelry (usually metal, though wood, glass, bone, or ivory, and certain plastics are used as well) completely through a hole in the body. Piercing is often combined with other forms of body art, such as tattooing or branding, and many studios offer more than one of these services. While virtually any part of the body can be, and has been, pierced and bejeweled (for evidence, see the well-known Web site http://www.bmezine.com) widely pierced sites include ear, eyebrow, nose, lip, tongue, nipple, navel, and genitals.

Much of what popularly passes for the history of body piercing is in fact fictitious. In the 1970s, the Los Angeles resident Doug Malloy, an eccentric and wealthy proponent of piercing, set forth with charismatic authority a set of historical references connecting contemporary Western body piercing to numerous ancient practices. He declared, for example, that ancient Egyptian royalty pierced their navels (consequently valuing deep navels), Roman soldiers hung their capes from rings through their nipples, the hafada (a piercing through the skin of the scrotum) was a puberty rite brought back from the Middle East by French legionnaires, and that the guiche (a male piercing of the perineum) was a Tahitian puberty rite performed by respected transvestite priests. No anthropological accounts bear out these claims.

What facts can be sorted from the fiction nonetheless attest to the remarkable antiquity of piercing. The oldest fully preserved human being found, the 5,300-year-old "ice-man" of the Alps, shows evidence of ear-lobe piercing. Like many with a serious interest in piercing in the twenty-first century, the ice-man has stretched his lobes, in his case to a diameter of about seven millimeters. Artifacts as well as bodies offer evidence of ancient single and multiple ear piercings from as early as the ninth century b.c.e.

While Malloy's claims are largely imaginative, there are geographically diverse cultures in which piercing has been continually practiced for quite some time. Ear and nose piercing seem to be, and seem to have been, the most popular; indeed, there are far too many examples to list here, and the following instances should be taken as representative rather than anything close to exhaustive. Many Native American peoples practiced ear or nose—generally septum—piercing (the latter most fa mously among the Nez Percé of the American Northwest). Multiple ear piercing was practiced by both men and women in the ancient Middle East, and a mummy believed to be that of Queen Nefertiti of Egypt, sports two piercings in each ear. The Maoris of New Zealand, though better known for their intricate and elegant tattoo designs, have also long practiced ear piercing, which along with nose piercing is widespread among native peoples of both New Zealand and Australia. Ear piercing for girls forms part of traditional rites in Thai and Polynesian cultures. Ear piercing among the Alaskan Tlingits could be an indication of social status, as could nose piercing.

Stretched ear piercings—in which the hole is gradually enlarged by the use of weights or by the insertion of successively larger pieces of jewelry—appear in diverse cultures as well. In Africa, the Masai and Fulani are known for ear-cartilage piercings, which may be stretched (a much slower and more difficult process than stretching earlobe piercings). Images and artifacts from native Central American cultures show stretched lobes with jewelry much like that used by contemporary enthusiasts. East Asian images and sculptures, some many centuries old, show long stretched lobes as well; these are emblematic especially of Buddhist saints. The Dayaks of Borneo traditionally pierce and dramatically stretch the earlobe; other piercings—including the ampallang, a horizontal piercing through the penis—have also been attributed to them.

Nostril piercing may have originated in the Middle East, and has been practiced in India for thousands of years, particularly among women. It may be through their interest in Eastern cultures that the hippies of North America took to nostril piercing around the 1970s.

While not as prevalent as the piercing of the ears or nose, lip piercing is also geographically widespread. Women in many regions of East Africa have traditionally worn lip piercings with plugs, while Dogon women may pierce their lips with rings. The men among some native Alaskan peoples also pierced the lower lip, either doubly or singly.

Other piercings are much less attested to in older or more traditional contexts. There is some indication of Central American tongue piercing, for example among the Mayas, but this may have been temporary, intended to draw blood for ceremonial purposes rather than for the lasting insertion of jewelry. More reliable is the evidence of the Indian Kama Sutra (written by the sixth century c.e.) where penis piercings resembling the contemporary apadravya—a vertical piercing through the penis—are described as enhancing the pleasure of both the penis-bearer and his partner.

There may also have been temporary upsurges of interest prior to contemporary versions—some sources, for example, report a fad for nipple piercings among women in the late nineteenth century in both London and Paris. (See both Kern and Harwood.) Here, as in its contem-

Female Multiple Nipple Piercing

Ear with multiple piercings. Ear piercing is an ancient tradition dating back to prehistoric times that continues to be practiced by many traditional, as well as contemporary, cultures in the early twenty-first century. Multiple ear-piercing became popular in Western culture during the late-twentieth century among members of the punk, goth, and rave youth subcultures. Courtesy of Karmen MacKendrick. Reproduced by permission.

Ear with multiple piercings. Ear piercing is an ancient tradition dating back to prehistoric times that continues to be practiced by many traditional, as well as contemporary, cultures in the early twenty-first century. Multiple ear-piercing became popular in Western culture during the late-twentieth century among members of the punk, goth, and rave youth subcultures. Courtesy of Karmen MacKendrick. Reproduced by permission.

porary form, piercing is removed from its more traditional social functions, such as marking one as a member of a community or as being of a particular status, and more specifically erotic as well as decorative functions are noted.

0 0

Post a comment