Body Contests: From Pageants to Playoffs





This course covers the gamut of situations in which bodily ideals (either visual or performative), and therefore gender, are competitively at stake — child sports, beauty contests for children and adults, college athletic scholarships and Title IX, cheerleading, football and damage to the body, couch potatoes and the issue of spectatorship, the Olympics and sexual sorting, bodybuilding, modeling contests (straight and drag), plastic surgery and the goal of the ideal/ageless body, DNA and designer babies and bionic bodies, even competitive eating and oenophile competitions. We will address the science and cultural construction of difference, record setting and fantasies of perfection, and the ideals (and rewards) at stake for actors of various identities along the way. Crucially, this course investigates the ways in which competitions in skill, pre-eminence, beauty, and precocity have been used to both directly and indirectly shape the boundaries of class, race, and gender.