This is Why Women Have Eating Disorders

January 25, 2010

This may be a bit off topic, or at least only tangentially related to my usual discussion of relationships. However, when I came across this story it struck me as speaking volumes about our culture and how it affects women’s self-esteem. It also affects men’s preferences, so it’s important.

The photos below are of Christina Hendricks, who plays Joanie in Mad Men. The photo on the right is the true representation, and the one on the left was altered by the New York Times.

But why? Here’s what columnist Cathy Horyn had to say about her the morning after the Golden Globes:

Not pretty Christina Hendricks in Christian Siriano’s exploding ruffle dress. (As one stylist said, ‘You don’t put a big girl in a big dress.’)

The Gothamist picked up on the distortion and wrote about it here, providing the photos above.

Suddenly, The New York Times altered the article with an update:

Update | 2:57 p.m. A number of readers raised concerns that the photo of Christina Hendricks at the Golden Globe Awards had been deliberately altered. The photo was slightly distorted inadvertently due to an error during routine processing. The photograph has been replaced.

And finally, Warming Glow, a blog about TV programming, responded to the “correction” in an article entitled Bastards!:

The Times has since corrected the mistake, calling it a result of “routine processing.” Really? Because I do “routine processing” on Photoshop all day long, and when I resize or crop photos, that never seems to happen. I could understand if a dog in a funny hat showed up in the picture, but that’s just inexcusable.

Why is this a big deal?

1. It’s inaccurate and mean-spirited.

I’ve always thought Ms. Hendricks is smokin’ hot. I confess that when I first began watching the show, I assumed that she was “padded” to give her a figure that would have been more appreciated in 1961. So when I started seeing pics of her out and about, or on the red carpet somewhere, I was delighted. She’s perfect, exactly as she is! Now, it’s true that I’m not a guy. But if I were, I’d want a piece of that over Kate Moss’ skinny ass anyday!

2. It’s written by a woman.

It’s depressing, though perhaps not surprising, to learn that in the world of fashion writers, emaciation is a religion. Here’s a picture of Cathy Horyn:

I’m pretty sure she’s actually Brian Dennehy:

In any case, no big dresses for you, Cathy Horyn!

3. The media’s treatment of women’s bodies is wreaking havoc with the way we see ourselves. And that wreaks havoc with the way we present ourselves.

This is a personal issue to me. Because I have been cursed blessed with Christina Hendricks’ body type. Growing up and going to high school in LA, I can assure you I was not everyone’s cup of tea. Most of the men I attracted when I was a teenager were the dads of my friends and the families I babysat for. It was pretty much a decade of fighting off the pervs.

Eventually, I matured into my looks and got guys precisely because I was curvy. I still wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I learned that there are plenty of men who are attracted to an hourglass figure. My husband still sees me as incredibly sexy, which is such a curse blessing!

Girl, whatever you’ve got, flaunt it. You are not for all markets, but there are plenty of men who will love your looks if you are secure in them.

Guys, weigh in here. Do you think Christina Hendricks is hot? Do you prefer skinny or voluptuous?

  • Michael

    yes she is, I love redheads btw. But larger girls can be and are attractive. Not obese mind you, but even the photoshopped version is not a woman I would pass by.

    • Michael, thanks for commenting! I think it's pretty clear – guys think she's hot. Women need to remember that fashion professionals are selling clothes to women, not women to men.

  • Gary

    Hell yes Christina Hendricks is hot. This obsession with stick-thin women must end. I know that some people are just naturally skinny or petite but you can tell the difference between them and anorexic people. All men are different but a few things can be said, no anorexic women and no obese women. Healthy is what we like, whatever the body type. Anorexic women in fashion doesn’t mean much to straight men, as most of us don’t pay attention to that stuff( it’s sad that some models feel like they need to damage their bodies in order to succeed). I really hope this obsession with boniness doesn’t continue to get worse and starts to reverse itself. I see that I’m pretty late in on this discussion but when the stakes are so high I must put my 2 cents in.

    • Gary, thanks for leaving a comment. I couldn’t agree more – anorexia is so common now that a very large percentage of young women have at least some disordered thinking in their relationship to food.
      It’s also true that straight men do not buy into the super skinny ideal. It’s perpetrated by the fashion industry, for the most part. That’s why I called this reporter out – manipulating a photo to make someone look bigger – that’s unheard of as far as I know and totally out of bounds, IMO.

  • Tom

    YES! Ms. Hendrix is extremely sexy.

    But I have always blamed the “fashion industry” for the popular misperception that rail thin is hot, and by “fashion industry,” well, I thought it was gay men perpetuating that myth, not gay women!

    Anyways, yes, emphatically, real women with real curves are stunning and gorgeous. I feel sorry for women who do not know that, and develop eating disorders as a result.

    • Hi Tom, thanks for leaving a comment. Now that Mad Men has returned with a new season, you can see her every week! Honestly, she just oozes sex from every pore.

  • EliMel

    Great Blog piece! I am so happy to see you have discounted Cathy Hornys comments and what an appropriate physical comparison! As for ‘ big girls: pen win for them at this years fashion weeks!!

    • EliMel, thanks for leaving a comment! Come back again and check out some other posts.

  • Michel

    Years ago, I read a now lost essay on how women have shrunk in size culturally in direct proportions to the amount of social influence they have gained. The suggestion was that as women gained economic and social power, their media projected image shrunk in size. It was an interesting thesis. The idea that women in the 50’s could be full figured because they were not a social/ economic/political threats as opposed to our modern woman who competes in every facet of society.  Could there be an unconscious shrinking of the physical role of women as a backlash to our social/ economic power blooming?

    • @Michel
      That is a really interesting idea! I haven’t heard it before. I also wonder how the rising trend of obesity plays into that – or if it’s a completely separate issue.

  • Possible

    If you look at the photograph it is actually possible that it was just routine processing. As if you look at the background there is exactly the same horizontal compression.