Women and Fitness

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At beginning of the 19th century, women were excluded from certain sports and physical activities. (Vertinsky, 1994) Sport culture was traditionally established to train and socialize the entire male ruling class to prepare them for elitist ruling; therefore, women were not included in this. However, women were encouraged to participate in passive sports like tennis, golf, archery, swimming, and gymnastics, which didn’t require too much strain on the body or physical contact with other players because it was believed that women bodies could not withstand too much physical exertion. (Vertinsky, 1994). Thus, women were discouraged from exercise because their bodies were viewed as being weak, fragile and incapable. It was considered masculine for a female to take on certain roles that were outside her gender role. (Vertinsky, 1994) However, after Title IX was established more women started to participate in sport and physical activity. Women were encouraged by institutions like government, health practitioners and mass media to exercise to stay fit and healthy. At the beginning of the 21st century women are encouraged by magazines to follow strict exercise and diet regimes in order to attain the perfect body. I have chosen to do an analysis on the Oxygen magazine. I aim to address how the advertisements and messages produced by editors and publishers put huge emphasis on portraying women’s bodies as a project that must undergo strenuous exercise, diet and materialist rejuvenation as mean to stay fit, healthy and happy. Additionally I will like to draw attention to how women’s body is constantly being hyper feminized in various ways to ensure heterosexuality of the body is maintained and presented in the public. Finally, I will focus on how women’s body is constantly being bombarded with various contradicting messages of health, fitness and perfection. I am interested in looking at the portrayals of women’s bodies through this particular magazine because I have always been a huge supporter of Oxygen magazine and have found it be empowering for myself. Also, Oxygen magazine has not been analyzed before; therefore, believe it is important to critically analyze it to see what this magazine actually projects and determine if it actually pushed traditional gender boundaries of women. I hypothesize that fitness models will be portrayed in ways that reject traditional gender roles of women. Literature Review:

As one of the mass medias, magazines are powerful tools used to portray women in certain ways in their photographs. Previous literature shows that magazines portray women in terms of their physical attractiveness. (Knight & Giuliano, 2002) Research indicates that fitness and sport related magazines show images of women being portrayed as sexual objects. (Lumpkin & Leath, 1998) Therefore, magazines like Shape and Sport Illustrated have been noted as being the worst magazines for portraying images of women in these sexual contexts. (Fink & Kensicki, 2002) Likewise, a study conducted by Carty also indicates that women were depicted in magazines as a sexual object or in sexual ways to appeal to men. (2005) Women’s bodies are positioned in ways in the photographs so that certain body parts are extenuated making the body more appealing in a sexual way. For instance, the camera frames the chest, glutes, thighs in sexual ways so that the main focus of the photo is that body particular part. Additionally, some research show that in magazines like Shape and Sport Illustrated, women are photographed wearing extremely revealing clothing such as bikinis and lingerie to attract readers. (Thomson, Bower & Barnes, 2004) Research indicates that magazines portray the female body changing from the curvy body into the thin body. (Grosez, Levine & Murnen, 2001) With that said, there are more and more picture of women in the magazines with a thin body that has no fat or flab showing. (Malkin, Wornaian & Chrisler, 1999) Therefore,...
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