T Nation

On Muscularity and Modern Society

Currently I am taking an intro Psych course. Basically all I’ve learned is that the entirety of modern Psychology is bullshit (in my liberal-arts mind, anyway). While loathing the class, I came across one assertion that intrigued me.

According to my textbook, the eighties and nineties saw a departure from the musclebound look for men because muscularity was a sign of “manual labor.” Thus, being built was evidence of blue collar status. However, it posits that muscularity is now a status symbol of the upper classes because it implies that one “has sufficient time and resources to construct a muscular physique.”

Anyone ever consider their weight-training a status symbol? I doubt that anyone here would consciously admit to this. However, I think it may have some validity. Any thoughts?

I was still under the impression that muscularity (and by extension masculinity) was still frowned upon.

[quote]jedidiah wrote:
According to my textbook, the eighties and nineties saw a departure from the musclebound look for men because muscularity was a sign of “manual labor.” Thus, being built was evidence of blue collar status. However, it posits that muscularity is now a status symbol of the upper classes because it implies that one “has sufficient time and resources to construct a muscular physique.”

Anyone ever consider their weight-training a status symbol? I doubt that anyone here would consciously admit to this. However, I think it may have some validity. Any thoughts? [/quote]

I grew up in a working-class family in a working-class town. Everyone who trained seriously at the only real weightroom (the Y) were blue-collar dudes. The white collar dudes played racquetball. Nothing has changed back home. Rich dudes still hit little blue balls of off walls. Poor dudes still hit the iron.

BTW, if you’re interesting in similar issues, this book is a must-read:

Little Big Men: Bodybuilding Subculture and Gender Construction. It’s an awesome book.

That doesn’t sound right to me. I don’t know about the whole 80’s 90’s thing. I have actually thought most people appreciated a muscular physique no matter what.

[quote]Sliver wrote:
I was still under the impression that muscularity (and by extension masculinity) was still frowned upon.[/quote]

Well, to relate this to my personal experience.

I started lifting last April and didn’t really get serious until late May. This whole past summer I experienced some sweet newbie gains and jumped from 150 to 170 (now approaching 180). While not big by any standards, a previously unmuscled me now had at least a slight amount of bulk to show for it. Everyone noticed (especially young women) and I have been quite pleased with the compliments I get around university. Although looking like a legitimate bodybuilder would probably frowned upon, having some body mass seems to be quite laudable here at my school.

I’ll let you know in a couple years and weigh enough to look respectably built how that goes over.

From personal experience, I’ve gotten more flack than compliments for working out. While a handful of people have given compliments for the weight I’ve added, there are others (my parents in particular) who give me nothing but grief.

One angle to consider: I’m going into the legal profession, I’ve yet to meet many lifters, but a lot of folks are into cardio, biking, 10K runs, etc. A lot of professionals invest a lot into a wardrobe so gaining size is counter productive.

Another oddity of human behavior, people generally respond weirdly if I say I want to lift to get bigger or eat strictly/avoid alcohol or sweets to lean out but if I tell them I compete in powerlifting competitions they respond favorably. Go Figure!!!

[quote]Spike9726 wrote:
One angle to consider: I’m going into the legal profession, I’ve yet to meet many lifters, but a lot of folks are into cardio, biking, 10K runs, etc. A lot of professionals invest a lot into a wardrobe so gaining size is counter productive.

Another oddity of human behavior, people generally respond weirdly if I say I want to lift to get bigger or eat strictly/avoid alcohol or sweets to lean out but if I tell them I compete in powerlifting competitions they respond favorably. Go Figure!!![/quote]
I think that’s because training/dieting for appearance only is seen as pointless; getting bigger/leaner isn’t something that many people understand, and it’s seen as vain and fruitless.

Competing, on the other hand, is understood by everyone. If you lift for a specific purpose, something tangible, people can relate much better.

[quote]Spike9726 wrote:
Another oddity of human behavior, people generally respond weirdly if I say I want to lift to get bigger or eat strictly/avoid alcohol or sweets to lean out but if I tell them I compete in powerlifting competitions they respond favorably. Go Figure!!![/quote]

It’s funny, the chicks at the university gym seem to notice the powerlifters more than the bodybuilders.

I’m not trying to start a pissing contest, but it just seems like they are more impressed by the guys who can move big weights.

Of course, being impressed by someone and being attracted to someone are two different things.

As to the OP, I don’t think muscularity has become a white collar status symbol at all. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say that grooming (ie: tanning, waxing, frosting, etc.) is.

I thought this thread was interesting. Want to see it continue.
BUMP

I almost never mention i train with weights, i just started a couple months ago so the change has been big with my newbie gains but when someone asks me how much i can bench or squat i don’t answer them. I just don’t like that kind of attention, ive only mentioned lifting (a lifting related injury actually) once or twice to my girlfriend, honestly i don’t see people being interested in me lifting weights, which is fine.

Likewise. I only talk about training with other people that I know train. Which is one person.

[quote]Sliver wrote:
Likewise. I only talk about training with other people that I know train. Which is one person.[/quote]

Same here. I get tired of people asking how much I lift. I just always say “not enough”

OP I know that when I was in high school (wow, 7 years ago) we had some foreign exchange students who said that in a lot of European countries, that being built meant that you could afford to buy a gym membership.

[quote]jedidiah wrote:
According to my textbook, the eighties and nineties saw a departure from the musclebound look for men…[/quote]

Big flaw in that assertion: They completely ignored the vast popularity (box office $$$!)of muscular action movie stars during that period, with Arnold leading the pack!(and Arnold has inspired untold numbers of dudes to take up the iron)…

[quote]Blacksnake wrote:
jedidiah wrote:
According to my textbook, the eighties and nineties saw a departure from the musclebound look for men…

Big flaw in that assertion: They completely ignored the vast popularity (box office $$$!)of muscular action movie stars during that period, with Arnold leading the pack!(and Arnold has inspired untold numbers of dudes to take up the iron)…
[/quote]

I agree that people have and will always be impressed by Arnold. However, I don’t know that Arnold necessarily represented the physical ideal that most men yearned for while they were watching him.

I was considering everything that has been said here and thinking about whether or not this assertion is true.

To disagree with many of the above posters, I think that class and mass go together, at least to a point. One example of this is the new James Bond movie. I would make any assertions that Daniel Craig is huge or jacked or anything to that effect. He does, however, have a physique that I consider fairly respectable. If you compare him to say, Brad Pitt from Fight Club, we’ve come a hell of a long way. I think one of the characters in the movie even makes a comment to the effect of “I see you’ve taken good care of your body, Bond.” while admiring his physique.

Although I don’t think a single James Bond movie serves as the proof text for this argument, I think it is representative of a growing respect for the muscled physique. I postulate that if you asked a body of average men whether or not Craig’s physique in the movie is ideal, many of them would cite it as such.

Additionally, I think that this notion of muscularity coupled with the prevalence of instantaneous gratification explains the bench and curl phenomenon. In a quest for instant “jackedness” misled men journey to gyms and exercise the muscles they believe will allow them a respectable physique.

Seeing an individual in public that is well built betrays a number of things about them. A. he or she had the time and energy to build this physique B. he or she has discipline C. he or she can afford a gym membership D. he or she has the wherewithal to correctly build a human body.

Just a thought.

“So Woodworth, how about you and I have a good ole jolly weight training session tommorrow morning followed by low carb crumpets and protein tea, what do you say old fellow?”

Around my area gym memberships are cheap and the lower class people are the ones pushing the weight. Go two towns over and the higher class are the fat ones playing at their raquetball club.

I find two very opposing threads that seem to meet at a cross-roads of misinformed and victim of advertising.

The first is obviously the “easy weight loss” industry. We’ve got a growing obesity crisis which is in fact, an excellent market for the “easy weight loss” industry.

There’s no money in a cure obviously so there are millions upon millions of dollars spent on selling fads and useless gadgetry to make weight loss painless and simply. At the same time, escalators, scooters, and fast food are the lifestyle norm. Anyone trying to GAIN weight is obviously just crazy. Weight loss via McDonald’s salad is in.

The second trend I think is complacency. The vast majority of people I know don’t really believe they can change for the better. I think a large majority of people truly believe that they are stuck with the body they have and only celebrities get to look great. They probably fell victim to some marketing shite that failed them and so they believe a great physique is unattainable.

These two trends meet in a culmination of nearly everyone I know. My parents are against my gaining weight, my Dad especially believes its not safe or healthy. I have overweight friends who think its crazy to do anything except some time on a treadmill.

Everyone says they just want to “tone”. Worse, I send a lot of people to T-Nation to do some reading. I try to convince people not to be intimidated. Doesn’t work.

Intensity scares people. Its not what is sold to them. Big muscles scare people. All of the 'roid-rage, muscle-bound stereotypes persist.

I do my best to inform people of my goals and my progress, and even my methods and motivations as far as they will listen. Try to bring a level of realism to their perspective. I doubt I have much impact though.

Your Psych class time would be better spent discussing why anyone would give a shit what Joe/Jane Average thinks about lifting. Whoever wrote that dribble about blue collar/free time, etc. is a total asshole who doesn’t live in the real world and has too much free time themselves.

No wonder the Asians are kicking our ass in commerce. They study worthwhile stuff in college.

[quote]Avoids Roids wrote:
Your Psych class time would be better spent discussing why anyone would give a shit what Joe/Jane Average thinks about lifting. Whoever wrote that dribble about blue collar/free time, etc. is a total asshole who doesn’t live in the real world and has too much free time themselves.

No wonder the Asians are kicking our ass in commerce. They study worthwhile stuff in college.[/quote]

I concur. Not to highjack the thread, but I find it ridiculous that we send our kids to college to ponder meaningless shit like this, all the while if you give them a high school-level math problem they stare blankly at you.

And to the OP, you are basically searching for some broad generalization which doesn’t exist. My advice: take physics!