Negotiating Gender: Bodybuilding and the Natural/Unnatural Continuum

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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Bodybuilding is a body technology that involves the building of muscle through hard work lifting weights. Although technologies like bodybuilding can reify dominant constructions of gender. I suggest that bodybuilding also reflects the attempts of participants to be active agents in the choices they make about their bodies. This article addresses the body as a work in progress and uses in-depth interviews with male and female bodybuilders to examine the ways that gender identity is consistently negotiated as participants reshape their bodies. This ongoing identity negotiation is reflected in the ways participants assess various body technologies, like bodybuilding, muscle-enhancing drugs, and cosmetic surgery as natural or unnatural. Based on the responses, I explore the idea of a natural/unnatural continuum as a framework for understanding the ways that the participants fluctuate in their assessments of hugely built and other technologized bodies.

The author is with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32816.

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