Joan Holloway From Mad Men: A Role Model For Women Everywhere

July 28, 2010

Lynne Featherstone, our Equalities minister has said this week that girls are under pressure to conform to unattainable body stereotypes. So tell us something new, love. If you’re talking about very thin celebrities, photoshopped within an inch of their lives to present a particular idea of perfection, then we all know that. The thing about old news is… it’s old. But she comes with a (slightly) new twist. She cites the figure of Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks, from the US drama Mad Men, as a body type to aspire to.

Joan Holloway from Mad Men played by Christina Hendricks in a blue dress

Pretty impressive, isn’t she? It’s an admirable statement to make and I can see where Ms Featherstone is going with it, but this would be equally unattainable, because that body is unique to Ms Hendricks. I’m going to get into trouble for this, but I’ll say it anyway. There are plenty of women with the same dress size as Joan Holloway or Marilyn Monroe, but some are lumpy, bumpy and misshapen. They look more like a potato than an hour-glass. Presenting a person like Ms Hendricks as a more ‘realistic’ physical role model becomes the flip side of the unreachable shape coin. How about not striving to emulate a body type, but doing your best with the one you have? One way of doing this is to have someone like Gok Wan on your team. Gok who? You may ask. He’s a stylist and the host of a Channel 4 makeover show called How To Look Good Naked. Unlike Trinny and Suzannah, a couple of horsey gels who bullied the women in their makeover show called What Not To wear, Gok, shows what suits their particular shape and sets challenges, culminating in a naked phtoshoot and a turn on a catwalk. I never cease to be amazed by his ability to transform women over a matter of weeks from hating their bodies to loving it beyond measure, with not a scalpel or hypodermic needle in sight.

Women who are Intelligent and doing great things for humanity are inspirational and aspirational, of that there is little doubt, but I don’t think these qualities and wanting to look good are mutually exclusive. Perhaps a session with Gok and his magic underwear could help the women of Britain be the best that they can be as they are.



  1. Are you available Gok? I need you . . . NOW

    • He should be on the NHS… seriously.

  2. So true Pie,
    Ladies like me can never achieve Christina Hendrick’s style of curves without surgery because nature clearly started us from the bottom up, and endowded us with stupidly long legs and ran out of steam by the time it reached the boob area. It’s tough to have an hourglass figure when you can bearly muster a cleavage. I’m already horrified when I shop for tops and it was clearly made to fit someone with a double watermelon sized chest measurement.. I try it on and am in danger of revealing my navel.
    It’s doesn’t take Gok Wan to know that that’s *not* a Good Look.
    Fighting the potato figure is also in the mix, especially after producing mini kiwidutch’s and Aging, well *that* goes on and on and on and on…,(but that’s a Good thing so you have to work around the negative gravitational side effects) so you try hard to wear what flatters most or just wear what fits as the kilos fluctuate. My clothes shopping consists of being happy if the legs on the jeans/pants are even remotely long enough and ditto the sleeves, as I swear they make them shorter all the time. At least the Dutch, as the tallest nation on the planet do supply trousers (if you know where to look)in the same waist measurements but with various lengths in the leg. Yeah!!!
    The one redeming feature is that at least Christina HAS curves and not pencil straight gauntness that appears to pass for beauty these days.
    We should ALSO be teaching our kids that glowing skin, mega white smiles, beautiful figures and hair make not necessarily for a hard working, decent, well balanced, giving, caring or happy individual.

    • Now people would kill for those long legs, Kiwi, but I understand the nightmare of getting clothes to fit, if you’re not ‘conventionally’ sized, whatever that means. As for your last sentence, you are absolutely right. We all get older if we’re lucky and as part of that process the perky young looks start to fade. If that’s all you think you have going for you, how are you going to cope when it eventually leaves you?

  3. “Gok Wan on your team. Gok who? You may ask. He’s a stylist and the host of a Channel 4 makeover show called How To Look Good Naked.”

    Here in Canada we get quite a few British shows, so I’ve seen many of your reality shows. I think what Gok is doing is great. (I hate Trinny and Suzannah btw. I only watched one episode where they were literally screeching at some poor woman. WTF?) Gillian McKeith on the show “You are what you eat” is another great show, as she teaches people how to eat better and the people on the show look MUCH better afterwards, also without resorting to surgery!

    Ms Hendricks really isn’t a great role model for young girls to strive for, as practically no one has the perfect thinnish hourglass shape, without implants. She’s pretty much a barbie doll with a bigger butt!

    Yes, accept the body you have and adopt healthier habits to make the most out of what you have! 🙂

    • “She’s pretty much a barbie doll with a bigger butt!”

      I think that’s a little harsh, but I know where you’re going with it. As far as I know her body is real enough, but you’re right about women almost certainly having to have implants to get anywhere close to what she has.

      Ironically, the makers of Barbie were commissioned to produce limited edition Mad Men dolls featuring Don Draper, Betty Draper, Roger Sterling and Joan Holloway, and guess what? The Joan Holloway doll is as stick thin as the Betty Draper doll. There was an opportunity to show a different shape in that doll and they failed spectacularly. I wrote about the dolls in a previous post. You can have a look here https://pienbiscuits.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/i-love-mad-men-and-so-does-barbie/

  4. I like the thought of the healthiest thing physically and emotionally being working with what one has at hand.

    It really hit home while my son was in high school how young women devalue themselves to pursue something they are not.

    • High School. Depressing isn’t it? I hope that some young women will have a good sense of themselves, but they may be in the minority as being a teenager is all about going for rebellion, but hoping for acceptance at the same time. I’m amazed more of us didn’t go off the deep end at that time of our lives. It’s more difficult now of course, because of the many ways in which we can have access to, and are fed information constantly and almost instantaneously. Boys are feeling the pressure too of course, but in terms of the pressures of physical expectations, girls are in the majority, unfortunately.

  5. Replacing one stereotype with another hardly seems like progress. Let each person be their own perfect example of what they should be.

    • Excellent observation as ever! Yes, Gok is definitely going in a much more positive direction. It is NOT necessary to conform to any so called ‘ideal” body type, but great to see how wonderful YOU are whatever ypur shape/ size etc.

      People become incredibly beautiful when they like who & how they are, regardless of fitting into some ‘idealized’ perfect type, frequently promoted by serious eating disorders, or complete lack of self esteem and too much investment into scalpels and various needles. It true that we are usually talking about women in this sense, however let’s not forget that men are not exempt at all from this.

      • Men are not exempt. I’ve noticed the pressure is on them a little now and I believe male anorexia has been making an appearance fairly recently.

  6. I love Gok Wan hes amazing 🙂

    • He certainly is.

      Some may be sniffy and say he puts the women in corsets and other body slimming underwear and is therefore not truly working with the female body as it is. They may also say it’s but another angle on the dominance in this society of the attainment of physical beauty over having a brilliant mind, but I would say two things to this: 1. Women had been wearing body shaping underwear of some kind for several decades. I think it’s only been since the sixties that they’ve quite literally let it all hang out. If anyone wants to correct me on that one, then please do, and: 2. Once the body slimming underwear has been taken away, these women still have to look at themselves in the mirror. And Gok manages to help them to love their physical selves again, which does have an impact on other aspects of their lives. Is that such a bad thing?

      Finally, welcome to my blog and thanks for popping in. I hope to see you again soon.

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