The Ideal Body?

I was going to write about something else today, but last night I was suddenly struck by the amount of press coverage and comment over the British equalities minister Lynne Featherstone's recent comment on Christina Hendricks' body. Featherstone said that Hendricks, who is a UK size 14 (US size 10) and star of the US TV series Mad Men, should be a physical "role model" for girls and young women, because of her curvy body.

In an interview with The Sunday Times about her campaign to boost body confidence among the young, Featherstone elaborated that the media's obsession with skinny models and celebrities was causing a public health crisis as girls and women are under pressure to conform to completely unachievable body stereotypes. And the fact that Hendricks' body shape has caused such a sensation in Hollywood because she is not uber thin speaks volumes. I couldn't agree more.

But Featherstone has received some criticism. In my opinion, it has more to do with the fact that she has attached the words "role model" to one specific woman, with a very specific body type. Although many women may have the hips Hendricks wears so well, some may not have the, ahem, bust, that so amply fills out the top of her vintage 60s dresses.

I think women are tired of being told they have to look like anyone, specifically. But I think it's unfair to give Featherstone so much stick. After all, she is just trying to help women out by highlighting the obsession our society has with appearance. Specifically, the proliferation of magazine airbrushing to achieve super human body sizes and skin tones. Have you seen the recent Rolling Stone cover that Lady Gaga graced? I didn't realize that she was made of porcelain. And if Lady Gaga needs airbrushing, what hope do the rest of us have?

But we can't just leave our battles up to the politicians. Women (and men) have to take a stand on an individual day-to-day basis to fight against this collective focus on unnatural airbrushed looks. I'm not saying we shouldn't try to take care of ourselves. Good grooming and buying nice clothes that fit us and make us look good are both great for our self-esteem. Exercising to tone up a bit, for health reasons and to keep our brains functioning well is admirable (as long as we don't become obsessed with that either).

But we need to stop adding to this collective hysteria by saying derogatory things about our bodies and others' bodies. Next time you start to say something like "I could lose a few pounds," or comment on other people's weight or appearance, think about what it is you are saying. Are YOU contributing to the obsession with looks? I think we can all take small steps to support people of all body shapes and sizes by just thinking about what messages we are sending before we actually speak.

1 comment

  1. Slightly off topic but I always get a laugh from this website.


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