I have nothing against Christina Hendricks, but articles like this make me mad.
The majority of attention Christina Hendricks gets revolves around her figure. Even when she graced the cover of New York magazine, the shot focused on her chest, and the piece inside the magazine was little more than a few paragraphs below an enormous picture of her torso. The pieces on the actress usually mention little more than her role as “the curvaceous secretary Joan Holloway on AMC’s Mad Men”, continuing to extol her beauty and wonderful body.
And of course, she has a wonderful figure, one that, as these articles continue to tell me, isn’t celebrated in modern culture, but was in the halcyon days celebrated in the show she appears in. Her figure is also accentuated very nicely by the character she plays, a sexy woman who is known by her sex appeal, and by the period clothes her character requires. Those foundation garments were made for women like Christina Hendricks, relegating the other females in the cast to look poor and skinny when compared to her.
But the more I hear how wonderful and beautiful Christina Hendricks is, the more sad and disappointed and annoyed I get. I’d like to read more about Christina Hendricks the actress, the person behind the body. I’d like to hear about Joan. But I’d also like to stop hearing about how she makes everyone else look paltry and unattractive by comparison. Even in her Esquire photos (where she is close to unrecognizable), it’s clear that they make her boobs pop even more than what should be considered normal, squeezing her into a smaller size. And Hendricks also has one of those figures that isn’t that common, since she has a near-perfect hourglass figure, perfectly proportioned waist and hips. Of course many girls want to look like her.
Aside from the fact that the Esquire survey in discussion is completely unfair, articles that tout Hendricks' size always have to mention “the competition”—those models and actresses that aren’t built like her, those “thin” ones that apparently get all the attention. I’m not suggesting that thinner girls don’t get their share of attention, but there is always the constant, insinuating put down apparent when one is lauding Hendricks’ body:
Winning one for shapely women everywhere, Hendricks is not an anorexia-induced size two. In the accompanying Esquire article she waxed poetic about pork and deep fryers–when was the last time you heard Kate Moss talk about beer battered anything?“Anorexia-induced size two.” First of all, as someone who was in the mall today, in fact, looking at some of those “size twos”, I can tell you that they are often bigger than you think. Size twos might be tiny, but it is clothing designers who have consistently made sizes bigger than they should be, causing what is known as “size inflation”. Size twos might be stick-figure thin for models, but in department stores, they really aren’t. By using such a loaded term that connotes disease, the article writers imply that small sizes are automatically bought by women who are sickly. Hyperbole? Maybe a little, but the distinction made—that “curvaceous”, at least the curvaceous that Hendricks embodies, is the antithesis of being skinny—and therefore diseased—is harmful and untrue. Nor is adding that Hendricks is a fan of such unhealthy foods going to bolster the argument that she is practically perfection. If she waxed about cheese or arugula, would that be noted? We’re supposed to take away that Hendricks eats “like a real woman”, and her body reflects this diet (which I seriously doubt. I'm sure she does like those foods, but I bet she doesn’t consist on them, or she wouldn't look like she does.) Is eating pork and beer-battered foods supposed to mean that’s what real women eat, and that the women who don’t (those "anorexic-induced sized twos") are less worthy? That there is automatically a connection, that thin women must be starving themselves if they choose not to eat such “men-approved” foods?
To further add insult to injury, Kate Moss aside, there are plenty of articles about thinner actresses and models that mention what they eat, in these same proud tones. GQ, Esquire’s rival, published a cover story on Hendricks’ costar January Jones a few months ago, and the story opens with Jones professing her love for Chili’s queso, beer and football—all signals that she’s a girl for Real Men. Readers are supposed to note that Jones, like Hendricks, is a fun, unfussy person to be around, and their food preferences obviously showcase this.
These articles, though, at their core, do nothing but make women feel bad about themselves. Women can’t win, as they never fit one standard, and whatever preferences they have about virtually anything can be twisted. I’m tired of hearing, even jokingly, how small sizes are ruining America, of being made to feel like I am less than because I am thin, or that I’m expected to uphold some sort of ideal because of what I look like. I don’t like that I have to go on the defense on this topic, and I don’t like that Christina Hendricks can’t get much press outside of her body. She is a great actress, but we don’t hear enough about that; she is relegated to her fair skin, her red hair, and her breasts. Sure, she uses it to her advantage, and I have no problem with that; I would, too. But let’s stop pretending that she is a womanly ideal and that her very presence demolishes or diminishes all the others who don’t look like her. She is as much of a victim of retouching and the capricious whims of the zeitgeist as anyone else.