Ashley Judd (born Ashley Tyler Ciminella; April 19, 1968) is an American television and film actress, humanitarian, political activist, fashion designer, model, and philanthropist.
Judd grew up in a family of successful performance artists as the daughter of country music singer Naomi Judd and the sister of Wynonna Judd. While she is best known for an ongoing acting career spanning more than two decades, she has increasingly become involved in global humanitarian efforts and political activism. Judd has played lead roles in films including Ruby in Paradise,Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy, Where the Heart Is, and High Crimes. She currently stars as Rebecca Winstone on the ABC thriller drama Missing.
She is married to open wheel and Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti.
Apparently Ashley was fighting a sinus infection and had to take steroids for a month, which an informed person can tell you will quickly put weight on you. Her face got a little puffy, and the press immediately started throwing out all kinds of hypotheses, making judgments about the reasons for the change in her facial appearance. I think this media reaction fits in very nicely with the theme of Ani’s (Anita Finlay‘s) excellent new book, Dirty Words on Clean Skin.
Ashley Judd has a long resume of great film roles, and has done a lot of work for humanitarian causes as well, but the important thing to know about her is that her face got puffy! I suppose it must get a little boring critiquing the looks of an average person, so the press seemingly jumped for joy when an attractive woman beginning middle age had a change in her appearance! Wow, maybe she’s had plastic surgery! Maybe she can’t handle middle age! Well, don’t worry about Ashley. Just as Ani turned her anger and outrage into a constructive outlet, so too Ashley has fired off a well-written feminist response calling out the media’s sexist reduction of her to an object to be judged by her appearance. And most refreshing of all, she’s not afraid to use the word “feminist”!!!
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.
News outlets with whom I do serious work, such as publishing op-eds about preventing HIV, empowering poor youth worldwide, and conflict mineral mining in Democratic Republic of Congo, all ran this “story” without checking with my office first for verification, or offering me the dignity of the opportunity to comment. It’s an indictment of them that they would even consider the content printable, and that they, too, without using time-honored journalistic standards, would perpetuate with un-edifying delight such blatantly gendered, ageist, and mean-spirited content.
I hope the sharing of my thoughts can generate a new conversation: Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place? How, and why, did people participate? If not in the conversation about me, in parallel ones about women in your sphere? What is the gloating about? What is the condemnation about? What is the self-righteous alleged “all knowing” stance of the media about? How does this symbolize constraints on girls and women, and encroach on our right to be simply as we are, at any given moment?
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).
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.
It’s a good article, and there’s much more at the link. I love that the conversation is turning to feminist issues, and women such as Ani and Ashley are leading the charge. In closing I wanted to mention an article by a young woman I came across. She discusses the Ashley Judd article, and feels encouraged by it. On the one hand, I felt happily surprised that a young woman “gets it”. On the other hand, her article suggests that she is very ignorant of the history of the women’s movement. I’ve bolded what jumped out at me.
This may have been a conversation feminists have been having for some time now, but because Ashley Judd spoke, the world is finally listening. Specifically, young girls who thought they were alone in their beliefs that the way women are eviscerated by the media, and in turn the impact of that treatment on us, is wrong are waking up. It may be going a little far to say that Ashley Judd’s response to her “puffy face” has sparked a revolution, but I think it’s safe to say she has given us an incredible gift. I only hope that more celebrities follow in her footsteps. I only hope that more young women follow in theirs.”
What do you think? Is it good that this woman is feeling empowered by Ashley’s article, or is it scary that she seems to feel that her awakening is happening in a vacuum? And why is she looking to celebrities to speak out about feminism – are they the pinnacle of authority in her young world???
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