The Perfectible Body: The Western Ideal of Male Physical Development

Kenneth Dutton, Author Continuum $24.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8264-0787-0
What's most troubling about The Perfectible Body is that Dutton seems to think perfection comes in only one gender. An Australian professor of French, Dutton presents a readable and nuanced history of male body-building, from the ancient Greeks to today's pumped, steroid-enhanced, depilated, oiled and photographed trophies. His scholarship is thorough, and his grasp of the issues broad and complex, with a few true gems of insight. Though Dutton claims to take a balanced tone and to present no particular polemic, he nevertheless focuses his discussion of the ``developed body'' almost exclusively on the male body, slighting the female for ``obvious reasons.'' These unexplained ``reasons'' may not be so obvious to many readers, and the tone reflects a running dismissiveness of legitimate feminist concerns. Others will not recognize Dutton's version of Western art and history, one that is revisionist, oversimplified and on occasion simply wrong. Dutton's ideal is a conservative, masculine one that excludes women, ``cripples'' (a term he uses) and essentially anyone else who isn't a hairless, youthful, pretty gym-jock. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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