Reducing Bodies: Mass Culture and the Female Figure in Postwar America, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Reducing Bodies

Mass Culture and the Female Figure in Postwar America, 1st Edition

By Elizabeth M. Matelski


176 pages

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pub: 2017-05-26
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Reducing Bodies: Mass Culture and the Female Figure in Postwar America explores the ways in which women in the years following World War II refashioned their bodies—through reducing diets, exercise, and plastic surgery—and asks what insights these changing beauty standards can offer into gender dynamics in postwar America. Drawing on novel and untapped sources, including insurance industry records, this engaging study considers questions of gender, health, and race and provides historical context for the emergence of fat studies and contemporary conversations of the "obesity epidemic."



"Matelski offers a useful comparative study of bodily norms in postwar America. She looks at and beyond white women's culture to show how ideals shifted in representations in men's magazines and black periodicals, revealing competing understandings of beauty in this time period."

- Jenny Ellison, Curator of Sport and Leisure, Canadian Museum of History and Co-editor of Obesity in Canada: Critical Perspectives

Table of Contents

  1. Creating the Cultural Ideal: Hollywood and the Fashion Industry
  2. We Must, We Must, We Must Increase Our Bust’: Uplifting the Feminine Breast
  3. The Longer the Belt Line, the Shorter the Life’: Insurance Companies and Doctors Weigh In
  4. Re-Shaping America: The Reducing Neurosis
  5. What Men Want: Men’s Magazines and the Girl-Next-Door
  6. Big and) Black is Beautiful: Body Image and Expanded Beauty Ideals
  7. Not Over ‘Til the Fat Lady Sings: Fighting Fat Stigma

About the Author

Elizabeth M. Matelski is Assistant Professor of History at Endicott College, USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century