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Kaitlyn Spangler ENGL 137H Professor Babcock 5 Ways to Burn 300 Calories and Fit the Feminine Ideal!

All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes. Everyone else is struggling. -Tina Fey, Bossypants Your stomach sags over the top of your jeans while sitting, and your underarms jiggle like watery Jell-O if you flail your arms with excitement; your inner thighs resemble the cottage cheese on your salad; your butt is too flat and droopy. You definitely should not have eaten that chocolate swirl cupcake coated with fudge and sprinkles. Time to hit the gym. Images of Victorias Secret Angels, Vogue models, or professional female athletes hold women to strict and intensified standards in terms of physical fitness and help society pick apart women. It is a constant game of cat and mouse, an undying struggle for bodily perfection. The feminine ideal expects women to dedicate an unquantifiable fraction of her day to burning calories and tightening muscles, whether in a frantic rush for bikini season or to squeeze into that fitted, black cocktail dress. Yet, how did it become this crazed compulsion for slenderness? Were women thrust into this judgmental world without consent or representation? Or did they go willingly? Since the 1960s, exercise and its influence on the ideal female body has become increasingly competitive, meticulous, and oppressive to women, as the promotional media and standards of expectations continue to expand in size and influence. The body is expressive; it serves as a projection of ones ancestral heritage, genetic makeup, personal interests, emotions, miracles of nature, and so forth. Through manipulation,

each body is its own (Synott 34). Whether through hair, makeup, facial expression, clothes, shoes, or, namely, the physical body, it is a womans unique chance and responsibility to use it as an accurate representation of her inner self. The physical body is expected to reflect ones level of discipline, effort, and power with regard to fitness for others to study where a woman stands between self-empowerment and self-constraint, between feminine and masculine power (Maguire). Such excessive emphasis on the feminine appearance illuminates a growing obsession with attaining physical perfection and embodying stereotypical feminism. In the 1960s, exercise began to pick up popularity with fresh developments, but in modern times, with rising rapidity, the manipulation of the female ideal exceeds reason, rationality, or control. Conceptually, fitness was birthed by a synthesis of people, mediums, and research. As a diehard proponent for strength training and healthy eating, Jack Lalanne, the Father of Modern Fitness. stepped to the forefront of this movement in the 1950s with his television show, The Jack Lalanne Show. Against the opinion of medical doctors, who, as Lalanne stated, said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive, he was out to prove the full capability of fitness and health. He commenced a surge of interest in his defiance of contemporary medicine by performing multiple stints of exemplary fitness (Haupt). Thus, the 1960s ushered in the physical fitness boom. The American College of Sports Medicine was founded in 1960, and Kenneth Cooper, MD, published his book, Aerobics, in 1968. By introducing the concept of aerobics, or rhythmic exercise with stretching and

strength training routines to improve flexibility, muscular strength, and cardio-vascular fitness, he advised that one should partake in physical activity to mainly better ones looks,
while reaping the healthful benefits of fitness and health as a confounding result (Physical Activity). Local health clubs, like YMCAs and gyms, gained participation in activities such as

jogging or swimming, until 1972, when Title IX was passed by the Education Amendments to allow equal opportunities for women and men in all activities, including sports. Following suit, a boom in collegiate and professional womens athletics launched a cultural phenomenon of female athleticism beyond the walls of fitness centers and personal homes (Verbrugge). Through the 1980s, disciplines like kinesiology, reproductive endocrinology, and physiology emerged among this accumulating craze, publicizing the multiple benefits of caring for the cardiovascular system. Continued research ensued, explaining the mounting evidence between good health and physical activity (Physical Activity). Enter Jane Fonda, Kathy Smith, and Self, Health, or Shape magazine. Thanks to the amassed development of physical health as a discipline, aerobics gained momentum in the onset of the 1980s by promoting a look good, feel great ideology. Expanding upon the notion of health and fitness, aerobics served as a way to regain control over ones body, to persist along an intense exercise regime, and witness gradual progress (Maguire 114-115). Jane Fonda, at the forefront of this movement in her bright leotards and high-spirited motivation, convinced women to join her classes and experience the magic of exercise. She, along with others like Kathy Smith, defined aerobics as a means of self-empowerment and a path to the perfect body for all willing women. She states, There are not short cuts. No sweat less quickies. You must be committed to working hard, sweating hard and getting sore. You have to work for it. Coincidentally, magazines such as Self began to push their way to the front of the scene with the attention of women looking for advice on how to exercise properly and well (Markula 245-247). These magazines, like Health, Womens Sport and Fitness, and Shape, were the most convenient resource to spread the constructed image women were supposed to strive for. They splashed their pages with women of a sleek and slender build, participating in aerobic exercises and

fulfilling all requirements of being physically fit. With a captive audience at the ready, their manipulated version of a real woman swept the consciousness of all females struggling to be fit; the availability of the public image convinced women of varying shapes and sizes to yearn for one, common goal: the slender imperative; one must sweat to be more slender. This imperative was rooted in the universal desire to be thinner, and from there, it saw no end. Soon, slender was not enough; women needed muscle tone. Toning is a focus on specific muscle groups to progress toward an isolated goal. Not only is it hard and boring, but it targets areas that are not necessary for everyday needs or activities. These magazines and other media claiming the liberty to dictate the female ideal began to identify trouble spots of flab to focus on: abs, thighs, underarms, and butt. Toning was a way to build thin, lean muscles without crossing over into bulky. It manages to disassociate a body part from its functional role to alter it for a more aesthetic appeal. Yet, toning was meant to be a simple, effective, and easy way for the busiest of women to hit areas of particular problems. This appeal of toning specific muscles assumes two pretenses: that women must look good, and that, in their present state, a womans body is already imperfect. Under these assumptions, women lose themselves in the obsessions to rid their bodies of fat. Fonda and her loyal followers willingly picked up those weights and struggled to fend of any stores of fat deemed undesirable. Too much muscle is masculine, but well-toned arms and legs are traits frequently noticed by men (Markula). By completing Jane Fondas Lower Body Solution from 1992, a woman could focus on her abs, buns, and thighs, painstakingly sculpting them with each squat and leg lift. This aestheticism over functionality welcomed the slippery slope of weight training, right into the art of bodybuilding.

As women were blasting fat and building definition, some naturally took this practice to the extreme. Bodybuilding gained its popularity in the late 1980s, accompanied by an array of controversial opinions. Some saw it as a radical deviation from the feminine stereotype, whereas it specialized in building furious muscle, becoming bulky, and opposing the goal of toning. Yet, others failed to see anything but an activity of female sexual objectification in which their levels of bulkiness were judged, ranked, criticized, and praised in an highly public setting (Maguire 128). As the preliminary and foundational practices of physical activity were elaborated upon, a disagreement between the aims of active women arose. This dichotomy between empowerment and constraint initially discussed between aerobicizing women and bodybuilders illustrates the ongoing debate of self-empowerment and fulfilling feminine ideals. Throughout the 20th century, exercise began to gain increasing speed and popularity. All women wanted to join to lose weight, feel good about them, and prove their efforts in their body, thus exercise in a multiplicity of forms were created, from yoga, to zumba, to mixed martial arts, to aqua aerobics. Not to mention, womens sports were growing furiously, like basketball, soccer, track, and field hockey (Physical Activity). Yet, once the standard was set for physical perfection, namely Jane Fonda and her fellow aerobicizers, the only direction was forward. The bar was set with a defined ideal, that synthetic female form that lives in every active womans mind. Since exercise became a public spectacle for all to see and strive for through television shows, magazine coverage, and increasing numbers of followers, everyone wanted to become better, faster, stronger, thinner, etc. Leading up to modern day, the competitive dimension of fitness escalated into, arguably, an infatuation (Siebers 183). Exercise has expanded into countless different specialized forms for women, and levels of competition continue to rise. Exercise snowballed into a psychological battle with one singular goal: to burn fat and be thin.

Women, with their supposed radical freedom, force themselves to struggle through pain, excruciation, and sweat to recreate a hell that can be reflected on their bodies. Those chiseled abs, rippling legs, and sexy toned arms tell a story of each time they persevered. Although this raging increase in exercise can coincide with a promotion of outdoor living and harmony, it enslaves a woman to the subjection of others opinions. Areas of stored fat that used to embody womanhood, like round bellies and full breasts, now resemble weakness and lack of discipline. Those love handles are a constant physical reminder of that cake you should not have eaten, those batwings a symbol of laziness. In this new mentality, the personal mind is the fiercest critic and strongest enemy (Siebers 181-182). With the readiness of media and the willingness of women to be subjected to such imprisonment, exercise has transformed into a mass confusion of feminine liberation and oppression. Each woman wants to be slender, thin, and fit to either feel good or please the male psyche. This achievement is made through cutthroat competition, hard work, and a submission to the standardized ideal that homogenizes and normalizes all women into coercive sameness (Thornham 102-103). Exercise is not inherently misled. Remaining active, staying healthy, and feeling good does not necessarily imply a conscious desire to resemble an anorexic supermodel. Yet, the shift from where it started to where it is now is frightening. Beginning as a new and enthralling technique to lose some weight and reap health benefits by the defiant minds of Jack Lalanne, Kenneth Cooper, and following health professionals, exercise has seized the minds of a majority of women. Jane Fonda and her form-fitted tights planted a furious seed in the soil of physical activity and attracted believers, followers, imitators, and competitors. This campaign began to dictate the production of all forms of public advertisement to reinforce what women should strive for. Even with the acknowledgement that achieving bodily perfection may be unattainable,

women continued the incessant torture to discipline themselves, starve themselves, and push themselves to eliminate all fat. As fitness centers started offering kickboxing, hip-hop dance class, cycling, and P90x, more women were encouraged to join the eternal struggle. Each inch of skin should emanate perseverance and mental toughness, yet the overall figure must fall right in line with the male desire. As the perfect weight has no hope but to decrease with time and publicity, the future for women becomes more and more frightening. How long will it be until femininity grabs ahold of its identity again? When will aerobic exercise move out of the gym and into everyday life? When will natural health be recognized again? How much farther can women be pushed? The answer will probably not be found under 10 Minutes to Flat, Sexy Abs.

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