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Sculpting the Woman

Muscularity, Power and the Problem with Femininity


Jamilla Rosdahl

What is femininity?

Why does the idea of femininity not seem to «fit» with muscular women?

Why are muscular women the object of such controversy and skepticism?

Why do some women build muscle despite these strong cultural reactions?

Muscular women have long been the focus of public scrutiny, cultural contempt and fascination. Sculpting the Woman interrogates the protected status of femininity as it has been rendered irrelevant to the history, theory and politics of the muscular woman. This highly original and provocative work draws on important social thinkers including Michel Foucault and Judith Butler as well as recent theoretical developments on gender, identity and the body in poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, various feminisms and social and moral philosophy. This book offers a personal insight into one of the most threatening of cultural identities: the «muscular female». Through its analysis of femininity’s complex relationship with muscularity, it explores the larger question: «What is a woman?»

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Chapter 4: Methodological Elements


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Methodological Elements

This chapter is divided into five parts. In the first section I begin by briefly exploring some of the implications of working against dominant and hegemonic epistemological accounts of knowledge and truth claims. Here I clarify how Foucault’s approach and critique of traditional epistemology have important consequences for a feminist genealogical framework. In the second section I explain the value of Foucault’s work for feminist research practices. In the third section I examine in more detail, how a feminist genealogy as a conceptual framework provides a context for the research process and how it informs the chosen methodologies. This theoretical positioning opens up new possibilities for speaking and thinking about the muscular female body and it can offer new possibilities for rethinking how the female body has been situated within the discourse of femininity. In the fourth section, I discuss the methodological components of a feminist genealogy. Here I look at the nature and purpose of Foucauldian genealogical analysis as well as a poststructuralist feminist approach informed by ethnographic analysis and explain how these two forms of research methodology are employed.

By drawing on, in particular, poststructuralist feminist approaches to Foucauldian discourse analysis, this project recognises that the way women position themselves within gendered discourses and how they are simultaneously positioned by power relations is critical to the research process. By merging a genealogical approach with an ethnographically informed approach; by reframing and historicising contemporary discussions...

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