Body by Weimar argues that male and female athletes fundamentally recast gender roles during Germany's turbulent post-World War I years and established the basis for a modern body and modern sensibility that remain with us to this day. Athletes in the 1920s took the same techniques that were streamlining factories and offices and applied them to maximizing the efficiency of their own flesh and bones. Sportswomen and men embodied modernity - quite literally - in all of its competitive, time-oriented excess and thereby helped to popularize, and even to naturalize, the sometimes threatening process of economic rationalization by linking it to their own personal success stories. Enthroned by the media as the new cultural icons, athletes radiated sexual empowerment, social mobility, and self-determination. Champions in tennis, boxing, and track and field showed their fans how to be "modern," and, in the process, sparked heated debates over the limits of the physical body, the obligations of citizens to the state, and the relationship between the sexes.
If the images and debates in this book strike readers as familiar, it might well be because the ideal body of today - sleek, efficient, and equally available to men and women - received its first articulation in the fertile tumult of Germany's roaring twenties. After more than eighty years, we still want the Weimar body.