Ashley Judd Tongue Lashes Culture of Criticism; It Burns
By Morgan Shanahan on April 10, 2012
BlogHer Original Post
Have you read the piece that Ashley Judd wrote for The Daily Beast about the recent media attack on her "puffy face", but moreover about how not okay it is that such attacks even take place? Because you really should.
Judd's essay is the kind of op-ed that makes you sit back and listen. She confronts both the overtly tacky tabloid pieces and the whispers from the shadows head on, speaking from experience that becomes eerily relatable via Judd's direct, inclusive argument.
(Credit Image: © Stan Godlewski/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Ashley's post struck me personally from all sides. As the mother of a young daughter. As a feminist. As a woman who has seen her physical appearance ride the rough tide of health afflictions. As a woman who's had plastic surgery, and as a women who's ridiculed other women for possibly doing just that.
The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.
...That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.
Reading her words began to feel incredibly uncomfortable as I was forced to realize that I am as much a propagator of this epidemic as I have felt a victim of it. As an entertainment writer and humorist, I've told myself for a long time that being funny at another woman's expense isn't a feminist issue. And it's not. As long as we're being creative and witty and playing fair. As long as we're not taking cheap shots at her appearance be they from jealousy or genuine, unearned disdain.
I thought back to this recent post I'd written...and was acutely aware of not only the fact that I'd thought it about another woman, then published it, but also that the high volume of clickthroughs had made me happy, as if I'd succeeded at something.
Judd's essay made me feel empowered, but it also left me sitting with egg on my face, thinking about my own behavior. Naturally, I wasn't the only one with a strong reaction. Social media has lit up with the conversation Judd began.
Erin Kotecki Vest took to Queen of Spain with an impassioned thank you to the actress for finally shedding light on what kept her imprisoned by her own fears --
It never even occurred to me that this message of what is beautiful had been continuously bombarded into the depths of my brain over and over and over and over again that I have been mostly miserable with my chronic illness not because of the constant pain or the horrible surgeries or the possibility of death ... but because I was made to believe I lost what was most valued in this culture.
What a horribly sad and pathetic culture to have done this to me since I was a small girl. What a horribly sad and pathetic woman I am to have believed it for too many years.
Yes, I take much of the blame. I am a strong woman. I am a feminist and would tell everyone I know who I truly find beautiful it is because of their heart and mind, never once thinking of their physical features. Yet when it comes to myself, it crept in slowly. So slowly I didn’t realize it had taken over my head until just recently.
Salon has a concise run down of some of the web's harshest snarks, in contrast to Judd's sharp rebuttal --
In the past few weeks, Radar has lamented that she’s gone from “pretty to puffy” and “fattened her face with fillers” while Us declared her “nearly unrecognizable.” SheKnows hit her even harder, complaining that “the pretty face we’re used to [has been] replaced by a puffy disaster.” And when her reps declared that her swollen look was the result of steroids for a sinus infection, they only fanned the flames, leading The Stir to snap of her “way chubbier than usual” look, “Come on, Ashley, we may be dumb, but we’re not stupid.”
...Judd addresses the tongue wagging about her “puffy” face and straightforwardly declares that “the conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle.”
Celebrities took to twitter en masse to spur the conversation --
I agree with Ashley Judd. Well done. tinyurl.com/cletynm— Kristen Schaal (@kristenschaaled) April 10, 2012
thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/…Ashley Judd.Brilliant.Heroine.Did you read this?— Amy Brenneman (@TheAmyBrenneman) April 10, 2012
And journalists and social mediaites alike passed her words through their networks --
"I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself" ~ @AshleyJudd
— Erica Ehm (@YummyMummyClub) April 10, 2012
Ashley Judd confronts sexist media criticism of her appearance, smacks down, and is incidentally super- smart. thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/…— Laurie Penny (@PennyRed) April 10, 2012
Have you read the essay yet? Have you written about it? What did you think?
Morgan (The818) is a blogger and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. She overshares her personal life - complete with curse words - at The818.com, talks art and design over at Cargoh.com, and tweets: @the818.