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Managing the BodyBeauty, Health, and Fitness in Britain 1880-1939$
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Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280520

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199280520.001.0001

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Modern Urban Lifestyles, Degeneration, and the Male Body

Modern Urban Lifestyles, Degeneration, and the Male Body

(p.17) 1 Modern Urban Lifestyles, Degeneration, and the Male Body
Managing the Body

Ina Zweiniger‐Bargielowska

Oxford University Press

This chapter charts the emergence of life reform, vegetarianism, physical culture, and reducing culture, which have to be understood against the background of rapid urbanization, the rise of modern lifestyles, a proliferation of visual images of beautiful bodies, and eugenicist fears about racial degeneration. Men were urged to adopt a hygienic regimen and the chapter argues that the body was an important locus for the construction of masculinity. A beautiful, healthy, and fit male body was identified with hegemonic masculinity whereas countertypes such as the stunted, narrow‐chested urban labourer or the obese, flabby businessman signified degeneration. Cultural pessimism about modernity gave rise to growing fears of racial degeneration and biologically based rhetoric permeated social policy discourse from the 1880s. Public health campaigners called for social and environmental reforms, while physical and life reform promoters advocated the practice of hygienic regimen to restore and maintain health in modern urban conditions.

Keywords:   masculinity, modernity, urbanization, degeneration, life reform, vegetarianism, physical culture, obesity, reducing culture

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