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Strong and Hard Women


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Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Researching female bodybuilders 3. The history of female bodybuilding 4. Muscle is a feminist issue, Sarah's story part 1 5. The identity, lifestyle and embodiment of the female bodybuilder 6. The dark side of female bodybuilding, Confession of a muscle slave 7. Exploring the `empowerment' of female bodybuilders through concepts of space 8. Ripped, shredded and sliced: Reworking the notions of `pain and violence' in female bodybuilding 9. Competitions: A heroic journey, Sarah's story part 2 10. Conclusion

About the Author

Tanya Bunsell is a Lecturer in Sport Sociology at St Mary's University College, Twickenham. She has been teaching since 2003 and was awarded her PhD in Sociology from the University of Kent in 2010.


This exciting study is based on Tanya Bunsell's own fascinating journey into the world of female bodybuilding. It provides a unique perspective on an under researched area of sporting, gendered and embodied life, and will as a book make an important contribution to the literature. Ground breaking in its discoveries, it will appeal to students and academics interested in the sociology of sport, body studies, gender studies and the performance of gender, and the history and culture of women's sport and leisure.

Chris Shilling, Professor of Sociology and Director of Graduate Studies, University of Kent, UK.

`In Strong and Hard Women, Tanya Bunsell has delivered an outstanding ethnography of female bodybuilding. The book is a rich portrait of becoming, being, and having a muscular female body. By investigating the question of whether female bodybuilding can be an empowering transgression of hegemonic standards of feminine embodiment, Bunsell offers an important book that deserves to be widely read and debated.' Brett Smith, Editor of Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health and Senior Lecturer at Loughborough University, UK.

`As one of the first sustained ethnographic studies of the subculture of female bodybuilding, Bunsell's energetic thesis focuses on the lived experience of female bodybuilding and the actual process of building and sculpting muscles during all those hours of dedication to the gym. This book will be an essential read for researchers of sport, exercise and the body; scholars of feminism and gender politics and anyone who has ever known the lure of the gym, its clang of metal weights and the exquisite pain of pumped muscles.' Niall Richardson, Senior Lecturer in Media and Film, University of Sussex, UK.

`This remarkably insightful ethnography examines the women who inhabit the subculture of bodybuilding, an activity which she presents as both transgressive and troubling. Bunsell's approach is made all the more poignant by showcasing the lived experiences of not only the female bodybuilders whom she interviews, but also herself, hence offering an unusually intimate investigation of both research and researcher.' Adam Locks, Programme Co-ordinator of Media and Cultural Studies, University of Chichester, UK.

This important work provides no easy answers to the cultural ambivalences that exist around women, muscularity, and strength, but it offers much to contemplate.

E. J. Staurowsky, Drexel University , Summing Up: Highly recommended.CHOICE Review, December 2014

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