Yet, still, I never thought too much about her. But then came this week. And now I’m thinking about her a lot. And what I’m thinking is thank you, Ashley Judd. Because this week she came out swinging against the patriarchy. Against sexism. Against misogyny. And it was awesome.
You see, Ashley has come to TV with the new short series “Missing” on ABC. And while doing promos for the show, the media latched on to something other than the plot. Namely, they latched on to her face. Even more namely that her face is, well, “puffy.” And then began the insane commentary, analysis, speculation and all-around body snarking that comes when a woman dares to somehow not look exactly how she looked yesterday or a year ago or 10 years ago. Or sometimes even if she looks exactly the same.
Women get judged for their appearance every day. Men, too. But for women it’s systemic and insidious and second nature. And it’s bullshit. And Ashley called it on its bullshit. Even more than that, Ashley came out swinging as a feminist. Which in a world where the “F-word” can be seen as a four-letter word, is pretty damn extraordinary. She wrote an essay for the Daily Beast which is well worth a read:
“Consequently, I choose to address it because 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. The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.”
She goes on to list an assortment of the things said about her, her face and her entire existence. She had work done. She is a cow. She messed up her face. She’d better watch out because her husband will now leave her. Lather, rinse, repeat. (For the record, her face is “puffy” because she has been sick and on steroids. Not that we deserve an explanation of her appearance. But she graciously gave us one none the less.)
She also quite pointedly calls out women for engaging in and often instigating the sexist and destructive conversations about other women’s bodies.
“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. ….
I ask especially how we can leverage strong female-to-female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women. It doesn’t actually matter if we are aging naturally, or resorting to surgical assistance. We experience brutal criticism. The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others—and in my case, to the actual public. (I am also aware that inevitably some will comment that because I am a creative person, I have abdicated my right to a distinction between my public and private selves, an additional, albeit related, track of highly distorted thinking that will have to be addressed at another time).”
In the end she asks a simple question. “Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place?’ And she makes a simple pledge: “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.” So let’s help her chance the conversation. See what I was saying about Ashley always winning the day? Happy weekend, all.