The Man in the Mirror: An Examination of the Constitution of Megamusculinity
Orsetto, Jacklyn S.
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The inextricable link between muscularity and masculinity has been increasingly accentuated over the past fourty years, resulting in behaviours that can become unhealthy from a variety of perspectives. Gender is often enacted through manipulating and altering morphologies which can ultimately affect the way one perceives her or his own body. This thesis introduces the term megamusculinity, embodying the links between corporality, muscularity and masculinity. Primarily affecting men, megamusculinity is an exemplar of gender performance where one follows strict dietary and exercise regimens in the pursuit of (gross)muscularity. Much of the academic discussion of gender and body perception focuses primarily upon body size. Shifting the emphasis from body size to regimes of the self, this analysis posits megamusculinity and eating disorders as parallel pursuits, not antithetical realms of extreme morphologies. Foucauldian logic will be blended with Anthony Giddens’ structuration theory to examine megamusculinity as gender performativity with a multitude of social underpinnings. In a world where rules and resources (following Giddens’ articulation of structures) shape everything individuals do, what is occurring in the case of megamusculinity is individuals are actively creating a hypertrophied reality by negotiating their way through the disciplinary constraints of various social structures. This thesis builds upon the psychological construction of muscle dysmorphia as a clinical disorder and introduces megamusculinity, situated not as a “personal trouble of milieu” but a “public issue of social structure” (Mills 1959: 8). In doing so, this thesis will demonstrate that the body perception disturbances of certain men are influenced by experiences with particular social factors/institutions, and positions megamusculinity parallel to eating disorders by focusing upon the regimes of the self involved in altering one’s morphology.