With the return of Mad Men this week, comes a now customary raft of editorial hype about the cast, fashion, hair (it’s all about sideburns this season) and a reprise of Christina Hendricks worship. This is by no means a bad thing, but one cant help but tire of the incessant references to her “bombshell” body, the obligatory comparisons to Jessica Rabbit, or the banner waving from women’s magazines, “celebrating” her curves. A real woman! Phew! Again.
Apart from just being obviously superficial, all this rhapsodising creates a cluster of confusing and contradictory messages.
First, Christina Hendricks doesn’t represent real women – she’s got a remarkable rack, a tiny waist, a cracking caboose and long legs. As a body aspiration she’s hardly a break for us normals. In fact, the all-over-emaciated look of a conventional model is probably easier to achieve, if you don’t mind the no food lifestyle.
Second, women’s magazines who hold up Hendricks as a celebration of womanhood don’t reflect this one jot in their own fashion features or advertising. Ultimately the comments are patronising and hypocritical, really saying: “Ahh, what a relief for all you weak-willed fatties out there; you “real” women. We think Christina’s just super! Oh, but we don’t actually want to look as, er, big as her. And we certainly don’t want to see any clothes on models like her. Not ones you’d actually want to buy, anyway”.
But the broader problem with curve worship is this: yes, Hendricks represents an unusual shape on TV. Yes, it’s a meagre respite from the skinny ideal portrayed all over the media, but if we’re interested in real empowerment aren’t we missing the point by banging on about it? And we may as well include those other pseudo-feminist “empowering” trends like Burlesque, the “real” women Dove advertisements and people who post pictures of 1950s models on facebook entitled: “Those were the days when women could be women! Like this if you’re sick of anorexic models!” Instead of “liking” that, why don’t we simply quieten down women’s bodies? Stop judging, comparing and picking at them? Fixating on what shape represents the right shape doesn’t move anyone forward – it just reaffirms the disproportionate importance of women’s body shapes and the notion that we’re put on earth to be decorous and observed. It’s still judgmental even if you are “celebrating” someone’s curves. Can you imagine men writing columns and columns about each other’s abs and buttocks? I think they might find it a bit shallow, and moreover, boring.
So let’s not kid ourselves that dancing around in big knickers with tassels on our nipples is progressive; it’s simply aping a latter day sex worker and I don’t think they were very empowered. And let’s not think that celebrating Christina Hendricks’ big bosoms makes anyone a feminist – Page Three has done that for years. Maybe lets give women’s appearances a break, just for a bit. We might find something more interesting to say.