Feminist Figure Girl

Look Hot While You Fight the Patriarchy

By Lianne McTavish

Subjects: Feminist, Gender Studies, Women's Studies, Sports And Society, Cultural Studies
Paperback : 9781438454764, 218 pages, February 2015
Hardcover : 9781438454771, 218 pages, February 2015

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Table of contents

List of Images
Introduction: Becoming Feminist Figure Girl
1. Measuring Up: Comparing Bodybuilding, Weight Watchers, and Yoga
2. Embodiment and the Event of Muscle Failure
3. Replacing Feminism: Comparing Prochoice Activism with Becoming a Figure Girl
4. On Stage: Performing Feminist Figure Girl
5. Aftermath: The Photographs in My Purse

Analyzes the author’s transformation from academic to figure competitor.


Feminist Figure Girl chronicles the transformation of art history professor Lianne McTavish, from a university professor into an extraordinarily tanned and crystal-encrusted bikini-wearing "figure girl."Figure competitions seek a softer appearance than traditional forms of bodybuilding but still require rigorous weightlifting, an extreme protein diet, and many hours of posing in high heels. While training for a figure show, McTavish combined autoethnographic methods, participant observation, and feminist theory to find new ways of thinking about physique culture and the female body.

The author, who specializes in critical visual culture and the history of the body, explores such contemporary issues as body image, fat studies, identity politics, and "postfeminism," while rethinking fitness culture, diet regimes, feminist politics, reproductive activism, performance art, and the social function of photography. Written in a lively personal style reminiscent of McTavish's popular blog, she clearly explains the complex ideas stemming from the theoretical work of such writers as Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Iris Marion Young, Edmund Husserl, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The book also includes many photos documenting McTavish's physical transformation.

Lianne McTavish is Professor of the History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture at the University of Alberta. She is the author of Defining the Modern Museum: A Case Study of the Challenges of Exchange and Childbirth and Childbirth and the Display of Authority in Early Modern France.


"Dieting and exercising with the goal of posing onstage in a bikini and heels is not what many think of when they think of feminism, but then those people have never read Feminist Figure Girl. Lianne McTavish brings figure competitions and feminism—two seemingly opposed things—together in this intellectually challenging, deeply personal book. This is a must read for anyone with a passion for feminism and fitness." — Caitlin Constantine, editor of the Fit and Feminist blog