Health is a gendered concept in Western cultures. Customarily it is associated with strength in men and beauty in women. This gendered concept was transmitted through visual representations of the ideal female and male bodies, and ubiquitous media images resulted in the absorption of universal standards of beauty and health and generalized desires to achieve them. Today, genuine or self-styled experts—from physicians to newspaper columnists to advertisers—offer advice on achieving optimal health.
Topics in this collection are wide ranging and include childbirth advice in Victorian Australia and Cold War America, menstruation films, Canadian abortion tourism, the Pap smear, the Body Worlds exhibition, and fat liberation. Masculinity is explored among drunkards in antebellum Philadelphia and family memoirs during the 1980s AIDS epidemic. Seemingly objective public health advisories are shown to be as influenced by commercial interests, class, gender, and other social differentiations as marketing approaches are, and the message presented is mediated to varying degrees by those receiving it.
This book will be of interest to scholars in women’s studies, health studies, marketing, media studies, social history and anthropology, and popular culture.
''This important work will be a welcome addition to the literature, especially in the North American context, where most of the essays are situated. No other work attempts to draw together these disparate fields of study, and the volume's inclusion of popular culture is what makes it so truly innovative.''
''Krasnick Warsh's edited collection succeeds in providing a wide variety of interesting analyses that examine the historical intersections of gender, health, and popular culture.''
''The articles convincingly show how gender has influenced various aspect of health experiences, including the flow of information, the availability of services, and displays of healthfulness.... [In the first section] the authors are careful to tease apart the public health discourse from the patterns of behaviou and advice set by women themselves as they encounter different sets of experts claiming to know what is best for women's bodies.... The remaining articles on bodily representations highlight some of the innovative work being done in this field by exploring more recent manifestations of gendered identities and creatively challenging the idea of women as a collective.... Taken together, these essays provide sophisticated models for exploring the interplay between health and gender as represented in popular culture.... Although the majority of articles focus on Canadian developments, the North American breadth creates space for comparative studies, such as the one explored in the side-by-side articles on cervial cancer screening programs in the US and Canada. The book will likely appeal to a wide variety of readers with interests in health, feminism, reproduction, and body politics and offers a provocative collection of historically engaging and historiographically rich articles.''