During the last decades of the 1900’s, a commercial health industry transformed a previous Swedish public health regimen characterized by strong state control. Running and exercising at gyms are now widely practiced, and new products, diets and trends appear constantly. Part of this is a booming market of health- and fitness magazines, and this article examines one of the more popular titles on the Swedish market, iForm, during the years 1987, 1997 and 2007.
An ideology of “healthism” has been identified as salient to neoliberal late-modern society, where health and a fit body are important lifestyle markers and metaphors for the good life. This includes historically new gender ideals – the well-trained female body and the appearance-oriented (“meterosexual”, or later “spornosexual”) man – closely associated with diet and exercise practices.
This article discusses the “fit” woman as a historically new ideal and engages in the feminist debate on how to understand her: is she a norm-breaking emancipatory figure, or a post-feminist celebration of the strong individual communicating the message that there is no longer a need for feminist struggle?
The study indicates that a discourse of individualism and personal responsibility gets more prominent during the time period. Sport and play are replaced by more “rational” forms of exercise, for example in the gym. The very definition of health becomes more narrow; areas such as sex and relationships has disappeared from the magazine in 2007, as has more general educational articles on the body. Instead, the focus on diet and exercise has increased.
Furthermore, the study of iForm shows that the models used to represent “health” are conventionally beautiful, smiling, white and predominately thin rather than obviously muscular. This, I conclude, limit the destabilizing potential of the “fit” woman in iForm.
2016. Vol. 37, no 3, 77-94 p.