04 August, 2010

Christina Hendricks is not my role model

It's nothing personal, it's just that "have big breasts" is not high up on my to do list. You'll have noticed last week the fuss over Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister's comments on Hendricks and what a fantastic role model she is. The poor woman has been misquoted to a degree, with the Fail attributing to her "All women should aspire to be a size 14" (I can find no independent verification of her saying this and no other article uses this quote). Nonetheless, here's yet another minister/celebrity/journalist, no doubt well meaning, completely missing the point.

For a start, Christina Hendricks does not, as Featherstone claims, have any more of a realistic or attainable figure than Kate Moss/Victoria Beckham/latest popular target of skinny bashing. Yes she's a size 14. That's the average in this country. That's where any similarities with the average woman in this country ends. Hendricks might be a size 14, but there is not an ounce of fat on her. She's a size 14 because she's one of the few people out there who is genuinely "curvy" - she's got a generous chest and wide hips, coupled with a trim waist and long, lean limbs. In other words, she has an hourglass figure. Something around 8% of the female population is born with, and that cannot be achieved through any amount of diet, exercise or even surgery. Yeah, REAL attainable.

Secondly, as I've argued before, and hence will not give over too much attention to now, replacing one ideal of female physical perfection with another does not help. I couldn't be a size 14 if I ate nothing but lard for a month (and even if I could, I still wouldn't look like Christina Hendricks because I've got narrow hips and a small ribcage). All that achieves is shifting the pressure to conform from one group of women to another.

But thirdly, and more importantly, if we're going to start talking about role models, and what what women had ought to be "aspiring" to, could we leave the physical appearance out of it? Might we try aspiring towards academic and professional success? I know it's "out there" as an idea, but maybe Diane Abbott or even Featherstone herself are better role models than Hendricks, or that other cultural zeitgeist, Kelly Brook? Just a thought.


  1. Christina Hendricks is a beautiful woman, but I don't get the role model comment at all. I choose my role models by their achievements not their dress size. It's a shame Lynne Featherstone wasn't a bit more radical in her choice of role models, but I expect she didn't want to frighten the tabloids!

    As someone with an hourglass figure I do like seeing people like CH because I can get some clothing ideas. I was in my teens/20s when Kate Moss etc were everywhere and always felt like a freak. I used to find that people would consider my figure to be a result of eating too much (I wasn't overweight at all) whereas now people seem to recognise the hourglass as a figure type. I just wish the media would stop saying that just one body type is acceptable at any one time. They don't seem to like diversity at all.

  2. Pennywhistler - I agree with liking to see a different range of figures; CH isn't large in any sense (her bust is only a C/D, according to the press, she just emphasises them, which is fair enough - I swear she's nowhere near as busty in Firefly as she is in Mad Men). She's not a plus-size model, but at least her unattainable figure is a different kind of unattainable figure, kwim.

    Featherstone herself has said on her website that she was asked to comment on CH, and her comments were along the lines of what Pennyweight and myself are saying - it's nice to see an alternative.
    Links: to Lynne Featherstone's blog .

    Susie Orbach's CIF article is quite good too.

  3. I agree that if you are using Christina Hendricks as a role model, shouldn't it be because she is a successful and talented actress, as opposed to (since V mentioned her) Kelly Brook or any member of the Kardashian conglomerate - who are famous for their physical appearance rather than their talent (fortunately for them since they have very little, if any).

    Anyone up for starting a campaign for intelligent, talented role models?

  4. Thing is though, she doesn't really represent a "range" of figures, does she? Every time someone like this comes to media prominence they all say how great it is to see a "range" of body types promoted in the media. Except the "range" consists of two body shapes, slim and hourglass, both of which happen to fall into the category of "conventionally attractive". Not really striking a blow for diversity, is it?

  5. Also the "range" is essential the 5% at each end of the scale, while everyone who is somewhere between the two is bombarded with THIS IS WHAT YOU MUST LOOK LIKE for both looks - if attaining one of them is so difficult, how will choosing a different, but equally unattainable ideal make it any better?

  6. If it's necessary to pick a role model from Mad Men, why not pick Peggy, the secretary who was made a copy writer due to her talent alone.


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