As the bloggers have it, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Christina Hendricks has apparently got so fed up with being called curvy, she’s going to slim down from her (UK) size 14 to fit the Hollywood norm. This is her at her current size.
Christina is of course already gorgeous, someone to aspire to look like and sparking a fashion revival of 1960s style c/o her role in the show Mad Men.
But she’s far from the first to feel the pressure to lose weight to seek public approval or worse, to feel happy with herself in public.
Sophie Dahl was voluptuous, the first plus size super model, but shed loads of weight after becoming famous. This is one of the “before” pictures.
Even Margaret Thatcher, whose voice famously changed as part of her makeover to become a credible party leader, lost a stone. It was never mentioned.
What’s going on? Leaving aside the issue that the fashion industry has nothing to do with making the average woman look beautiful and everything to do with selling us something to idealise (and to keep buying their products to cover our flaws), we have to ask ourselves why do women do this?
The idea that this might be being done to appeal to men is nonsense – men tend to prefer curves (according to an article in Current Anthropology, a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 is thought to be the best in terms of demonstrating good health and fertility).
So is the pressure coming from other women? The front of the weekly gossip mags always seem to be about celebrities who have lost or gained weight, and in the case of the latter, sometimes there are pregnancy rumours. That seems a particularly cruel way of noticing that someone’s gained a few pounds. Look at the female columnists: they seem to gain their prestige by criticising other women. Which man gets the criticism for his looks that women in the public eye are subjected to? It’s ludicrous.
The classic TV pairing of older-man-younger-woman is still the norm on regional news programmes around the country. Moira Stewart has disappeared from our screens. Jenny Murray and Libby Purves seem confined to radio.
But Kirsty Wark and Martha Kearney do still seem to be allowed out, and the BBC at least has been trying some positive action to encourage women over 35 to appear on our screens. Last year, in an effort to overcome the apparent ageism, the BBC advertised for older women to read the news and added Zeinab Badawi (world news on BBC Four), and Julia Somerville and Fiona Armstrong to their portfolio of news anchors.
And I try to feel grateful for the existence of Loose Women on ITV1, even if it’s not really my sort of programme…
Notice though that these older women presenters are still relatively thin and certainly glamorous.
The average sized woman in this country is a size 16. For older women, the average is higher. Can it really be the case that average sized women are only represented on screen by Mary Bryne on the X Factor and Anne Widdecombe on Strictly Come Dancing?
Mary Byrne on the X Factor
Before you wonder if I’m going too far, think about Adrian Chiles, Michael Macintyre, Eamonn Holmes, Mark Addy in the Tesco ad… With the exception of Michael Macintyre (who appears solo and whom we can forgive almost anything if he can indeed get the country skipping again…) most appear on screen with a younger/ slimmer/ more glamorous female partner.
Having an all-male panel on comedy programmes is still acceptable. More usually these days there’s one woman – for example Jo Caulfield, Andi Osho, Lucy Porter, Shappi Korsandi on Mock the Week, Sandi Toksvig, Maureen Lipman, Jo Brand or Emma Thompson on QI. But as Sandi Toksvig said recently, when are we going to get the three woman, one man panel without it being considered a “special edition”? Well part of the problem could be that women aren’t funny (rubbish + more of this rubbish from Christopher Hitchens),the rumour that it’s women that don’t find women funny, and men don’t fancy funny women…
(If you’re interested in all this, try http://www.funnywomen.com/index.php)
Age is a problem, but fat seems to be the last taboo.
It seems that being fat is the fat person’s own fault, and therefore they’re a reasonable target for worse treatment or rudeness.
A while ago Ryan Air floated the idea of BMI-priced seating, and a fellow euroblogger stirred the controversy. But my point – that pregnancy (and miscarriage) cause weight to increase, as does the menopause, show that policies like this could potentially discriminate against women…
I should probably at this point mention the fat/ poverty link. But this is not an infallible rule. Some people who are fat are comparatively rich – not everyone subscribes the the Wallis Simpson maxim “you can never be too rich nor too thin”. And I’ve not even started on the race/body fat issue.
All I’m saying is that the issue of fat is a bit more complicated than the media might have it…
It’s worth noting that while one third of UK women are overweight, one third are underweight. Being overweight can lead to all sorts of health problems, but so can being underweight.
So we should really be asking why, if fat people are kept off our screens in case they’re “normalised” or seen as anything other than a problem, why is it acceptable to show underweight people with such frequency?
I have friends with young daughters who are really concerned already by their daughters calling themselves fat, worrying about how they look – and the scary thing is that this seems now to apply to toddlers. And don’t get me started on pink and princesses…
But if fat is a feminist issue, what should we do about it?
1) every time there’s a gym without childcare facilities, that’s a problem for mothers who want to exercise. Any woman going to a gym should challenge this ongoing problem, on behalf of all.
2) Every designer who makes their clothes so that they look good on skeletons, and doesn’t provide samples/loan dresses even in a size that fits pre-diet Hendricks and Dahl, they put off someone like me from even bothering to slim to look good in their designs as I’m never going to both be happy and fit those clothes. We should make clear – perhaps via social media – that this is unacceptable, and by the way do they not realise how much of a potential market they are alienating.
3) Every time a female journalist criticises another woman for her weight or her looks, particularly if the woman criticised is a politician, scientist, writer, or is involved in a career which does not naturally lead to being a “brand ambassador” for a cosmetics company, we should comment on the website or email.
What do you think?