you’re not helping: MP Lynne Featherstone on women as physical “role models”

Do I wish I had a body like this?

Sure. But I don’t. There is no way in hell I ever could, unless I agreed to go under the knife of some mad-scientist plastic surgeon who would warp my body into something it cannot naturally be, à la Life and Loves of a She-Devil. Which I’m not. Either I’m heavy and lumpy or I’m skinny and boobless and assless. I’m sorry if that’s TMI, but it’s the plain and simple, no-fooling-genetics truth. And it’s relevant. Because British politician Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, recently said that Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks is a perfect model for women to emulate. Which is ridiculous.

Featherstone, via the Telegraph, railed against

the “overexposure” of skinny models, which she argued was causing a crisis in “body confidence” among the young.

The use of such models in fashion shows and magazines, together with the routine use of airbrushing, meant that girls and women came under “dreadful pressure … to conform to completely unachievable body stereotypes,” she said.

And that is absolutely true. Woman are indeed bombarded with images of other women who are either unnaturally thin — because the women pictured starve themselves to an unhealthily low body weight, or because images are Photoshopped out of all reality — or who are naturally thin and healthy but represent one extreme end of the range of normal, healthy body types.

But this ain’t the solution:

[Featherstone] subsequently proposed the red-headed actress Christina Hendricks, 35, who plays feisty secretary Joan Holloway in the American drama Mad Men, as a woman to emulate.

“Christina Hendricks is absolutely fabulous,” said the MP. “We need more of these role models.”

She continued: “There is such a sensation when there is a curvy role model. It shouldn’t be so unusual.”

Again, it’s true that an actress with Hendricks’ body type shouldn’t be so unusual. She’s clearly to-die-for gorgeous, for one thing, aside from her talent and screen charisma. It’s preposterous that she’s any kind of anomaly.

But, that said… We ordinary nonfabulous women can no more emulate Hendricks’ body than we can emulate those of the superskinnies we more typically see. It’s just not physically possible. Holding Hendricks up as a goal is no more helpful than holding up, say, Gwyneth Paltrow as a goal. We need pop culture to show us the full range of what women can look like and be healthy, just as pop culture gives us the full range of what men can look like and be healthy.

Hendricks is awesome. I love her. But I cannot aspire to be her. And no one should.

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