Ashley Judd retaliated against the nasty media coverage surrounding her “puffy face” with a killer essay on The Daily Beast yesterday, calling it “a misogynistic assault on all women.” Her essay has invoked fist pumps—literally and metaphorically—all across the internet; her concise tear-down doesn’t read like a sob story from an actress with a bruised ego, but a call to arms for all of us (men, women, boys and girls) to stand up for our own dignity.
Judd’s essay points out a few things that (we hope) you probably already know: That body-snarking is bad; the media’s dual bashing of Judd’s for both looking like she’s aged, and looking like she’s tried not to look like she’s aged is nothing short of insanity; all of these kinds of headlines boil down to some seriously f’d up lady-hate. But she makes an especially important point that everyone needs to sit down and give their full attention to right now:
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.
A case in point is that this conversation was initially promulgated largely by women; a sad and disturbing fact. (That they are professional friends of mine, and know my character and values, is an additional betrayal.)
The habit of evaluating women like objects doesn’t just belong to a bunch of evil dudes; it’s so pervasive in society and culture today that everyone, women included, is prone to participate. Snarking on (or praising) celebrities’ fashion, beauty, and bodies practically keeps the entertainment industry thriving, thanks to media and, especially, internet coverage (yes, even on sites like Blisstree). Sadly, many celebrities perpetuate it by building their business on the old adage: Any press is good press. And until more celebrities like Judd stand up and object to that idea, it won’t go away.
Judd could have booked herself an interview with a lady mag about her skin care routine or health routine, or talked to someone about her philosophy on plastic surgery. But instead she said what more actresses need to say: It’s none of our business. Her conclusion says it best:
If this conversation about me is going to be had, I will do my part to insist that it is a feminist one, because it has been misogynistic from the start. Who makes the fantastic leap from being sick, or gaining some weight over the winter, to a conclusion of plastic surgery? Our culture, that’s who. The insanity has to stop, because as focused on me as it appears to have been, it is about all girls and women. In fact, it’s about boys and men, too, who are equally objectified and ridiculed, according to heteronormative definitions of masculinity that deny the full and dynamic range of their personhood. It affects each and every one of us, in multiple and nefarious ways: our self-image, how we show up in our relationships and at work, our sense of our worth, value, and potential as human beings. Join in—and help change—the Conversation.