From a Washington Post critic and self-described meathead: a witty, incisive, poignant exploration of male body image, from the history of the gym to the politics of superheroes to the world of manfluencers

Product Code: 9342
ISBN: 9780807059364
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Beacon Press
Pages: 256
Published Date: 05/28/2024
Availability:In stock
Price: $28.95

The June 2024 Justice and Spirit: Unitarian Universalist Book Club selection.

Michael Brodeur is a Gen-X gay writer with a passion for bodybuilding and an insatiable curiosity about masculinity–a concept in which many men are currently struggling to find their place. In our current moment, where “manfluencers” on TikTok tease their audiences with their latest videos, where right-wing men espouse the importance of being “alpha,” as toxic masculinity and the patriarchy are being rightfully criticized, the nature of masculinity has become murkier than ever.

In excavating this complex topic, Brodeur uses the male body as his guide: its role in cultures from the gymnasia of ancient Greece to Walt Whitman’s essays on manly health, from the rise of Muscular Christianity in 19th-century America to the swollen superheroes and Arnold Schwarzeneggers of Brodeur’s childhood. Interweaving history, cultural criticism, memoir, and reportage, laced with an irrepressible wit, Brodeur takes us into the unique culture centered around men’s bodies, probing its limitations and the promise beyond: how men can love themselves while rejecting the aggression, objectification, and misogyny that have for so long accompanied the quest to become swole.

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Introduction: Mikey
Adam: Form

Peter: On Manly Health

Lou: Wild at Heart

Friedrich: Flex

Arnold: To Failure

Angelo: The Alphas

Henry: The Drag of Big

Touko: Beauty and the Beef

Big Little: The Pump

Zeus: Membership

Greg: Real Men


Works Cited

“If you want your brain to get ripped, jacked, and shredded on the fascinating history of why men obsess over building up their bodies, you need to read Swole. Covering everything from He-Man and TikTok primal manfluencers to the jacked Jesus of Muscular Christianity, Brodeur’s glorious, insightful, and cackle-out-loud hilarious book is destined to be a classic. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to do some push-ups.” —Kevin Alexander, author of Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End

“A timely, unprecedented survey of an unexpected, often overlooked figure in body politics: the meathead. . . . Necessary . . . Crucial . . . For anyone engaged in the Sisyphean pursuit of muscle and bulk—and to anyone interested in engaging with a critical examination of masculinity—Swole is an invitation to broaden our view on what it means to want to get big.” —Colin Self, artist and composer

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