Christina Hendricks and aspirational bodies

I’ve got to admit, I’m a fan of Christina Hendricks. Mostly because Mad Men is fab, and Joan is the shiz. Sadly, it seems that her beauty and her body seems to be a big focus of much of the attention she receives. I admit, I am pleased that a body type that isn’t often typically represented is being promoted: by this, I mean thinness is praised a lot, and she does not fit with the typical ideal. On the other side of this coin is that even though she isn’t very thin, her body is still within the limits of ‘safe’ pleasing aesthetic: large breasts and hips, narrow waist, classic hourglass. However, my point isn’t to discuss these two perspectives, but to go back to the idea of representation that I mentioned earlier.

This article I read recently talked about how much praise she has received of late, then mentioned that

She was even named by the British government as having the ideal body shape to which women should aspire.

This is where I have a problem. As I said above, I am happy about representation of more (more being a very relative term here…) diversity in body types in the public arena, but there is a real problem with these body types being held up as aspirational. What is generally held up in the media as an ideal body type is completely unachievable for me, full stop. I will never be a thin woman like the women that are considered TV-thin, or movie-thin, or jeans ad-thin. So holding this body type up as aspirational is, in my view, not a good thing. But I will never look like Christina Hendricks either. My body might be closer to hers than it is to Kate Moss’s body, but it is still an unattainable goal. So, because of this, I’m wary that representation of a different body type is now straying into aspiration territory – and in fact the word aspire is actually used in the linked article – which is problematic. I want to see diversity of body types represented in the media, but I don’t want any to be held up as what I, or any other woman, should aspire to look like. These aspiration figures will always be unrealistic goals, and the problem is how to promote greater representation of diversity while also emphasizing the message that the best way to look is the way that you already do, and that the bodies seen in ads or in movies are not the best, or better than the one that you have.

3 Comments

  1. […] writes at LadyNews that although Christina Hendricks is great, and the media acceptance of her not typically […]

  2. lilacsigil says:

    (here from Downunder Feminists’ Carnival)

    Strongly agreed – my body looks like my body, not any “ideal”. It’s good to see someone who can tease out the difference between “great to see different body types” and “omg the perfect body!” without putting down Hendricks herself.

    • steph says:

      Hi, welcome to LadyNews!

      I found it hard to explain why I felt all the zomgChristinaHendricks stuff was getting to me, because I do genuinely think she is gorgeous, but it got to a point where articles were drifting further from “she’s very attractive, and we’re going to hold her up as an example of body diversity” and getting into “here’s your new goalpost, ladies” territory. And I don’t really need another ideal that isn’t realistic for me, and I’m sure lots of other women feel the same way. And I blame the media, not the woman, because I’ve never heard Christina say that looking like her is something to aspire to; generally she seems to be reminding us about lots of people have and still do consider her body to be atypical (in a bad way).