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What to do with the “Tubby Hubby”?“Obesity,” the Crisis of Masculinity, and the Nuclear Family in Early Cold War Canada

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Despite current insistence that obesity is a new problem, obesity and fat were discussed frequently in the medical and popular presses and by state officials during the early Cold War in Canada. Using Kristeva's (1982, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection) concept of abjection, I argue that Cold War anxieties about fat, and specifically the obesity of white, middle-class men, had less to do with the growing girth of bodies than it did with a post-war crisis in masculinity related to the collapse of the public and private spheres. Through an analysis of fitness regimes and female-administered diets for men, I argue that anti-obesity rhetoric served to assuage dominant worries about degenerating masculinity by reasserting both the gendered division of labour and the white, middle-class, nuclear family as Canadian norms.

Keywords: Cold War Canada; abject; body; masculinity; public/private spheres; “obesity”

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2009.00708.x

Affiliations: Department of Women's Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;, Email: dmcphail@yorku.ca

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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