I’m excited to be part of a book released today by WLU Press called Gender, Health, and Popular Culture: Historical Perspectives.
The book offers a series of case studies on the intersections of gender/health/popular culture over time. My contribution, “Let Me Hear Your Body Talk: Aerobics for Fat Women Only, 1981-1985,” looks at Large as Life (LAL) Vancouver’s aerobics classes for fat women only. I argue that we can’t separate out the goal of “looking good” from that of “feeling good” in exercise classes. Many scholars interested in aerobics think participants are “self-disciplining” subjects who are desperate to lose weight, but LAL classes show that participants have a number of different reasons for taking the classes. In addition to improving their health and personal appearance, LaL participants see aerobics as a form of self-expression. LAL members believe that individual growth is an essential part of collective action and that aerobics will contribute to their goal of greater equality and self-esteem for fat women.
There are a lot of great articles in this book – I especially encourage you to look at Annette Burfoot’s article on gender differentiation in anatomical materials, Mandy Hadenko’s article on cervical cancer programs in Canada and Heather Murray’s work on representations of gay men with HIV/AIDs. Provocative stuff.