By Erik N. Jensen

See the writer featured within the "New Books in historical past" podcast: physique through Weimar, Erik N. Jensen indicates how German athletes reshaped gender roles within the turbulent decade after international battle I and validated the foundation for a contemporary physique and sleek sensibility that stay with us to at the present time. a similar state of the art suggestions that engineers have been utilizing to extend the potency of factories and companies within the Nineteen Twenties aided athletes in boosting the productiveness in their personal flesh and bones. Sportswomen and males embodied modernity-quite literally-in its such a lot streamlined, aggressive, time-oriented shape, and their very own successes at the taking part in fields looked as if it would turn out the worth of monetary clarification to a skeptical public that regularly felt threatened via the method. Enthroned by way of the media as culture's trendsetters, champions in activities equivalent to tennis, boxing, and tune and box additionally supplied versions of sexual empowerment, social mobility, and self-determination. They confirmed their enthusiasts the best way to be sleek, and, within the procedure, sparked heated debates over the aesthetics of the physique, the boundaries of physical exercise, the tasks of electorate to the nation, and the connection among the sexes. If the pictures and debates during this publication strike readers as known, it may possibly good be as the perfect physique of today-sleek, effective, and both on hand to males and women-received one in all its earliest articulations within the fertile tumult of Germany's roaring twenties. After greater than 80 years, we nonetheless wish the Weimar physique.

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Extra info for Body by Weimar: Athletes, Gender, and German Modernity

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The media made these women’s muscles into fetish objects, a task made easier by the much more revealing tennis outfits of the postwar period. Female tennis players had, in the span of the decade, remade their bodies from soft to hard, and when the German public sought a potent symbol of just how “new” the New Woman was, it looked no farther than the tennis court. The players, in turn, translated this iconic status into careers in business and sports journalism, providing examples of the “self-made woman” to a society that could scarcely conceive such a creature just a decade earlier.

According to the physiologist Fritz Giese, tennis appealed especially to men of refined, artistic tastes. “The Beau-Brummel-type, the dandy, the model of an Oscar-Wilde-esque orgy of colors . . ”70 Giese reinforced the player’s fashion-plate status by tracing his lineage back to nineteenth-century Ur-dandy Beau Brummel. His invocation of both Oscar Wilde and an “orgy of colors,” moreover, suggested decadent self-indulgence and a sensibility that bordered on the flamboyant. Giese intended this as a swipe at tennis, but, like so many representations of the game in the Weimar period, the passage offered an alternative reading to its audience as well.

25 In a book that purported to focus on tennis as a serious sport, Reznicek instead framed it from the outset as a collection of indiscretions about the rich and amorous. 27 Germans associated male athleticism with a strict self-denial—of food, alcohol, sex, and pleasure—that physically and psychologically hardened the sportsman for competition. The manner in which tennis openly celebrated male sexuality clearly distinguished its adherents from those in other sports. ”29 Men’s sports in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries commonly saw their mission as one of redirecting men’s passions away from sex.

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