Monster/Beauty: Building the Body of Love
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This daring, intensely personal book challenges both conventional and feminist ideas about beauty by asking us to take pleasure in beauty without shame, and to see and feel the erotic in everyday life. Bringing together her varied experiences as a poet, art historian, bodybuilder, and noted performance artist, Joanna Frueh shows us how to move beyond society's equation of youth with beauty toward an aesthetic for the fully erotic human being.
A lush combination of autobiography, theory, photography, and poetry, this book continues to develop the ideas about the erotic, beauty, older women, sex, and pleasure that Frueh first addressed in Erotic Faculties. Monster/Beauty examines these issues using a provocative, often explicit, set of examples. Frueh admiringly looks at the bodies and mindsets of midlife female bodybuilders, rethinks the vampire, and revises our ideas about traditional models of beauty, such as Aphrodite. Above all, she boldly brings her personal experience into the text, weaving her reflections on female sensuality with contemporary theory.
These linked essays are as much a performance as they are a discussion, breaking down the barriers between the personal and the academic, and the erotic and the intellectual. Frueh writes passionately and beautifully, and the result is a much-needed exploration of beauty myths and taboos.
Heywood’s scholarship on women’s bodybuilding has given me much to think about, as have conversations with her about both bodybuilding and beauty. A bodybuilder as well as a literary and cultural critic, Leslie is often less positive than I am about the transformative cultural power of bodybuilding for women. Maria-Elena Buszek’s work on the feminist viability of pinups helped me to develop my discussion about midlife women bodybuilders as pinups. Chris Reed’s acceptance of my proposal for a
bodybuilding helped me in the early s to develop my own muscle. John owned Iron Unlimited, a gym in Tucson. He was my ﬁrst bodybuilding guide, and Iron Unlimited was a joy to work out in. Lisette Thran, my aesthetician, has applied her many skills—from the touch of learned ﬁngers to the relaxation of laughter—to my skin and soul. Jacob Abraham, my hairdresser for many years in Reno, entertained me with his biting humor while trimming my bangs to perfection. Ági Brooks and Betsey Johnson
who “are ﬂaunting their facial hair.” Four women, photographed by Trish Morrissey, reveal their facial hair traumas and reconciliations. See Sophie Davies, “The Gender Agenda,” She, February , ‒. . Wolf, Beauty Myth, ‒. . Lakoﬀ and Scherr, Face Value, , . . Pacteau, Symptom of Beauty, , . . In Hair Raising Rooks discusses turn-of-the-century beauty advertisements that “relied heavily on ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs that promised to change African American women from
Greer’s “calm and indiﬀerence,” which she calls “a desirable condition.”17 The hypermuscular midlife bodybuilder deviates spectacularly from the matron model, and the less monumentally developed midlife bodybuilder deviates as well: through monster/beauty discipline, both become visible in a way that is attractive to some observers. It is the bodybuilder’s being as supreme aesthete/“abomination” and as felt by the observer, rather than the bodybuilder’s outer beauty, that is her more complex
the ineluctable trauma of separation from the 135 Frueh_text 11/7/00 10:18 AM Page 136 EROTIC WEIGHT mother of infancy.”17 This trauma seriously represses eros. The son must separate in order to become, ultimately, a man. In that process he kills the monster—well enough, at any rate, to not identify with her, to be able to turn woman into a monstrously enticing sexual spectacle. The daughter also separates, yet she shares the monster’s body. Eros repressed creates a repellent mother, and the