I saw this little story on the BBC website the other day
and I thought to myself: what the actual fuck?
I suppose sometimes it's easy to forget what an easy ride you have if you happen to be in possession, as I am thanks to a 50-50 chance 35 years ago, of a dangly, wrinkly, slightly furry triumverate of fun-sized objects in the groinal region. That does make a lot of things very different - I know I recently said that I was annoyed at being told that I didn't realise just how good I had it, and by and large I stand by that, but things like this remind me just how fortunate you are if you're a chap.
Unlike actresses America Ferrara (who plays Ugly Betty) and Britain's Kate Winslet, Ms Hendricks has kept her full figure, adds McNamara, who last week reviewed Mad Men Series 4.
That figure is reportedly in possession of dimensions around 36-32-36 - although some reports suggest 38-32-38 - and her breasts variously described as a C or D cup.
Honestly, who gives a shit? Here's an attractive-looking actor. I mean, good for her, but so what? I assume the shape she has is down to the fact she is in possession of her skeleton, her organs, her flesh, and whatever she eats and exercises, as well as some bits and bobs in the genetic makeup, and whatever. For anyone else to want to look like that, or aspire to look like that, is of course rather unrealistic, given that it's an entirely different human being. We can't aspire to be tall once we've stopped growing; we can't aspire to be shorter, either, even though I daresay lots of people would like to be.
But the thing that gets me is the obsession with dress sizes, tit sizes, every kind of size, the measurements of perfection, the bed of Procrustes. Can you imagine a male actor being described in such borderline creepy terms of his inside leg, his waist measurement, the size of his arse, how much his balls dangle in his trousers, anything like that? Sure, it happens every now and then. But it's the regularity with which women actors are judged like this that makes it obvious who's really being looked at.
I often point and laugh at this kind of thing in the Mail (e.g. "Anorexia's bad, but look at this fat cow!"), and it's more obvious still in those garishly coloured tat-palaces of magazines that you see littering dentists' waiting rooms and news-stands up and down the country. You know the kind of tacky awfulness I'm on about, like the psychic powers of Closer magazine. But I don't know, it seems to be almost everywhere.
I know some might say that the obsession with weight and body size isn't something that the magazines and the media created, and that they're merely reflecting something that's gone on for years. I suppose there's an element of that, but I'm not entirely convinced by that argument. And others might say that it's right for people to want there to be a 'healthy' ideal body shape, not too fat and not too thin, that everyone should think is 'normal', where people are less at risk of getting diabetes, for example, or damaging their health by not eating enough. I understand that too, but I don't think that's what's going on either.
And I know, too, that it's easy to dismiss those tacky women's mags as being a bit like the Beano or something, and beneath worrying about. But I think that's wrong as well - no point looking down our nose and saying it's somehow exempt from criticism by dint of being so bloody awful. The thing is, why is it even being talked about? Why does it even matter? Do you think if some male minister said men should look more like footballers and less like rugby players it would get the same sort of attention? I can't help but think in the negative.
Anyway, in answer to the question, I don't see anything right or wrong with Christina Hendricks. I've never seen the programme so I don't know whether she's any good in it or not, but I don't suddenly think oh my god, so this is what women should look like now, an hourglass instead of a pear, or an apple, or whatever the hell else is in fashion this week. She is what she is because she is what she is. Which kind of goes for the rest of us as well. But I just think there's a difference about the way these things are presented: with women it seems to be more about body aspiration - wanting to change your shape to look like someone else, or something else, or some ideal - whereas with men it's more like, well, that'd be nice.
It's nowhere near the same if you're a bloke. Sure, there's the muscly guy on the front cover of Men's Health (but I've always thought that was the kind of mag that closeted guys would reach for instead of GT. Could be wrong, but there you go) or something like that, but it's less mainstream; men's mags generally have pictures of women on the front, not other men, and while there's the odd bit and piece about diets and trying to develop that six-pack by the time you get to the beach, it's somehow less serious. I even saw some horrifically surgical kind of corsetry for men when I was in M&S the other day, it was a terrible sight. I think I'd rather look like a darts player than some bloke squeezing himself into a corset, and luckily enough there isn't the same kind of pressure on me to do so, or at least that's my opinion anyway.
I suppose the Hendricks stuff comes from a good place - the idea that 'real women' look different from a lot of people you see in photoshoots and on the TV. Maybe somehow it's seen as adjusting a distorted perception. But everyone's 'real'. Some people are tall and willowy, and perfectly happy and healthy and attractive that way; some are shorter, or wider, or more curvy, or whatever, and just as great, but it doesn't make anyone better than anyone else, or more desirable, or anything. It just makes people the shape and size they are. I suppose we'd all like to be a bit more perfect, but I'd like to be a bloody astronaut. It ain't going to happen. Luckily, I don't have magazines, TV, radio and websites telling me I should be an astronaut. The pressure's off. Maybe that's how good it is to be male.
So what is it worth aspiring to? While I perfectly understand why anyone would want to aspire to be Christina Hendricks, or might like to look that way, or think they should be that way, or think that if they were that way then things might be better, all I aspire to is just to be in a life where I don't have to be beaten down and crushed by the things I aspire to but can't ever achieve. As Ian Dury said "All I want for my birthday is another birthday". I just think that is easier if you're a man.
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