Monday, October 8, 2012


Posted by Bethan Holt, Fashion Junior at Large

Last week, Christina Hendricks was in Australia to promote her new range of glasses for Specsavers. As anyone with a new product to flog might, she took interviews from key press. During one such appointment, she was asked:

"You have been an inspiration as a full-figured woman. What is the most inspiring story that you can remember where you've inspired someone?"

Christina stopped the interview, asked for the question to be rephrased and when the same question was asked again she said, off air, "I think calling me full-figured is just rude". 

Some context here; Christina plays secretary Joan in Mad Men and has been described "oozing sensuality" and having "curves in all the right places". Basically, she is not your standard super slim actress but nor is she exactly "full figured" in the great scheme of things, given that we live in a world of ever rising obesity levels and a UK average dress size of 16. What's more, the question implies that by appearing in popular TV shows and films, Hendricks is automatically an inspiring role model for women who have breasts and a bum. 
Hendricks in Mad Men
There was a comparable story in this weekend's Times magazine in which Caitlin Moran interviews the writer, director and star of Girls- the forthcoming new sitcom about the realistic, non-airbrushed lives of twenty something New York girls-  Lena Dunham. One of Dunham's most remarkable traits is apparently that she has a soft covering of fat making her not at all big or obese but just the way quite a lot of girls look when they don't worry too much about what they eat or how much exercise they do. Moran includes a remarkable, or not so, story about one of Dunham's first forays into film...

"The first time Dunham appeared naked on camera it was in a film she made at university, in which she climbed into the campus fountain in a bikini and pretended to shower and clean her teeth, before being moved on by a security guard. When she put it on YouTube, it went viral, and got 50,000 hits. However, it also sparked a debate, in the comments underneath, about the size of Dunham’s thighs, and whether she was fat or not. What she had seen as just a jokey film had turned into a debate about her shagability, and she eventually deleted it"

Lena Dunham at the Emmy awards
This reminds me of an episode a while back in which Alexa Chung posted a picture of herself with her Mum on Instagram. it was intended purely as  a sweet Mother/ Daughter pic but became a voracious debate about whether or not Alexa was too thin. The photo didn't ASK anyone to comment, just as Dunham's video begged no opinion of its star's body however the comments came flooding in free and fast, whether Dunham and Chung liked it or not and with apparently no holds barred on the searing honesty of the observations. 

This isn't a problem with the press, or with any one group of people in particular. It just seems so wrong that there is a collective feeling of entitlement to put female celebrities in a box- whether that's full figured, a bit of puppy fat or  way too skinny- and to expect that they might want to be defined for being that way. If you think about the best or worst thing about yourself, maybe your lovely pert boobs or your long skinny legs, your pinchable bum or your lumpy thighs, no matter how awful or great it is in your opinion, would you want it to be the one and only thing people really obsessed over about you? I think that would get pretty tiring. 

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