Resistance Training: Re-reading Fat Embodiment at a Women's Gym

Margaret Shalma, Professor Rod Michalko


This paper uses feminist disability studies to explore the discursive production of fat embodiment within contemporary Western society. I examine beauty and medicine as fields of knowledge which create and sustain bodily norms, representations and practices. Specifically, I examine the representation of women's (fat) embodiment through an analysis of the promotional material at a well-known women's gym. I show that this gym implicitly references wider health discourses to characterize fatness as pathology, thereby requiring intervention through physical fitness to return the body to normality. Through this analysis, I demonstrate that fatness is not a value neutral embodiment but is socially produced. By bringing together disability studies and fat studies, I highlight the importance of interdisciplinary dialogue, and reveal how different forms of oppression and discourse interlock to create normative understandings of embodiment. I argue that by re-reading fatness we can resist these normative demands and begin to imagine ways of desiring embodied difference.

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Copyright (c) 2008 Margaret Shalma, Professor Rod Michalko

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