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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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The Modern Female Body as a Mass Phenomenon

The Modern Female Body as a Mass Phenomenon

(p.236) 6 The Modern Female Body as a Mass Phenomenon
Managing the Body

Ina Zweiniger‐Bargielowska

Oxford University Press

This chapter posits women's physical liberation alongside political emancipation, greater gender equality, expanding employment opportunities after 1918. A modern femininity was constructed by means of clothes and beauty products, but it also required a managed body. Building on the pioneering efforts during the Edwardian period, women enthusiastically embraced a wide range of activities including keep‐fit classes, dancing, swimming, and hiking. These provided new opportunities for female companionship and mixed‐sex sociability. The modern female body became a mass phenomenon during the interwar years. Sex reform was a prerequisite of the modernization of women's bodies and hygienists advocated birth control and sex education. Nevertheless, extreme practices such as competitive sport or slimming for the sake of fashion remained controversial. The modern woman was portrayed as a race mother whose civic duty to manage her body for the well‐being of the nation paralleled men's obligation to become healthy and fit workers and soldiers.

Keywords:   female body, femininity, beauty, keep‐fit movement, sex education, birth control, eugenics, Women's League of Health and Beauty, Girl Guides, slimming

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