Fonda Jane 1937

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Academy Award-winning actress, Jane Fonda, nicknamed "Hanoi Jane" in the 1970s for her controversial anti-war activism, has also battled a variety of body-image related issues in private. She "came out" about her struggles with bulimia and binge-eating in her 1981 book Jane Fonda's Workout Book. In publicizing it, she critiques the "thin is better, blonde is beautiful and buxom is best" feminine beauty ideal and recommends a series of exercises and dietary measures to forge strong healthy bodies that are also esthetically pleasing. In addition to her workout book, she was at the forefront of the exercise-video craze of the 1980s, a phenomenon that allowed people to experience celebrity workouts from their own homes. The ability to "see" celebrities undertake a program of exercise created a new commodity that could be sold in addition to the diet book. Contrary to her pacific stance on world issues, her workout video was very aggressive and contained famous phrases such as "feel the burn" and "no pain no gain." Upon viewing the financial success of the Jane Fonda Workout, many other celebrities made exercise videos to help people find fitness from their homes.

In her 2005 autobiography, Fonda constructs a pathologizing narrative around her obsession with weight. She speculates that the negative feelings she harbored about her body were possibly the result of her mother's suicide when she was thirteen. Her extreme dieting and bingeing at this time constituted an effort to ward off womanhood through a period of enforced "androgyny." She felt that maturation was associated in some oblique way with her mother's fate. She also counts her estranged relationship with her father as another contributing factor. If and when he commented on her appearance, it was to tell her she was fat. Her conflicting feelings about her body continued to define her life in different ways—from anxiety around food and weight to feeling like she was not fully "in her body." It is only now, in her sixties, that Fonda feels that she completely owns "her own womanhood" (Fonda 2005).

SLG/Shruthi Vissa

See also Binge-Eating; Celebrities

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