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Body Mass Index, masculinities and moral worth: men's critical understandings of 'appropriate' weight-for-height.

Authors
  • Monaghan, Lee F1
  • 1 Department of Sociology, University of Limerick, Ireland. [email protected] , (Ireland)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Sociology of health & illness
Publication Date
May 01, 2007
Volume
29
Issue
4
Pages
584–609
Identifiers
PMID: 17498170
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Based on the Body Mass Index (BMI, kg/m(2)), most men in nations such as the UK and USA are reportedly overweight or obese. This is authoritatively defined as a massive and growing problem. Drawing from embodied sociology, critical obesity literature and qualitative data generated during an Economic and Social Research Council funded project on masculinities and weight-related issues, this paper offers a critical realist contribution to the obesity debate. Rather than endorsing the institutionalised war on fat, and correcting so-called 'laymen' who dismiss medicalized weight-for-height recommendations, the following presents and honours men's justificatory accounts for levels of body mass that medicine labels too heavy (implicitly or explicitly too fat). Men's critical understandings, which are connected to their displays of moral worth, are considered under three headings: the compatibility of heaviness, healthiness and physical fitness; looking and feeling ill at a supposedly 'healthy' BMI; and resisting irrational standardisation. By empirically 'bringing in' men's meanings, sensibilities and culturally informed aesthetics, this paper casts a different light on medicalized measures that support potentially corrosive obesity epidemic psychology.

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