Posted on | April 10, 2012 | 65 Comments
OK, I was ranting about this on Twitter and somebody said I should turn it into a blog post. I protested that this really deserves the Ace of Spades touch, but then I thought, “Oh, what the heck. I’ll give it a shot.”
Ashley Judd, rich and famous star of stage, screen and television, is now 43 years old, and maybe she’s gained a few pounds. So the tabloids and gossip blogs started in on her, saying she was a “cow,” and had “had some work done,” blah blah blah.
I didn’t notice or care. I’m trying to do politics here, not TMZ.
I don’t watch much TV. Except for news, the main thing I watch on TV is Storage Wars on A&E and Man vs. Food on the Travel Network. So as far as I know or care, Ashley Judd could be 300 pounds with a face as hideously overworked as Nancy Pelosi’s and who cares?
Well, Ashley Judd cares, and she wants you to know she’s a victim!
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.
(Oh, good Lord — she’s plagiarizing Naomi Wolfe, am I right?)
As an actor and woman who, at times, avails herself of the media, I am painfully aware of the conversation about women’s bodies, and it frequently migrates to my own body. I know this, even though my personal practice is to ignore what is written about me. I do not, for example, read interviews I do with news outlets. I hold that it is none of my business what people think of me. . . .
(Yadda yadda yadda. Not like I’m vain or anything.)
However, the recent speculation and accusations in March feel different, and my colleagues and friends encouraged me to know what was being said. 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. . . . .
(Excuse me while I climb up on this cross and suffer as an atoning sacrifice, because you’re in need of a millionaire St. Ashley.)
The following examples are real, and come from a variety of (so-called!) legitimate news outlets (such as HuffPo, MSNBC, etc.), tabloid press, and social media . . .
(And here she cites the various things said about her recently. I’ll spare you the tedious details and cut to the Womyn’s Studies lecture.)
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.
(Holy crap! If she keeps going this way, she’s gonna be name-checking Shulamith Firestone with footnote citations to Robin Morgan!)
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.
OK, enough: You can go read the whole damned preachy treatise for yourself. I’m just stunned that this woman — a movie/TV star, which is by definition a looks-oriented gig — suddenly decides, at age 43, that being judged for her looks is a bad thing.
This didn’t bother her, apparently, when she was cast in 1996 to play a young Marilyn Monroe. But now, 16 years later, it’s bad to judge her for her looks because, well, the tabloids and HuffPo are saying not-nice things about her looks. She’s a multimillionaire star, and she’s also a victim of the misogynistic patriarchy.
Except it’s not really about her, it’s about all girls and women everywhere, on whose behalf she suffers on her cross, St. Ashley of Hollywood.
UPDATE: Thanks to the commenter who reminds us that Ashley “Don’t Objectify Me” Judd, posed topless for the December 2006 cover of Marie Claire magazine. The patriarchy made her do it!
The way the system is rigged, women can’t win, which is why Ashley Judd is so unsuccessful, so bereft of the rewards that society unfairly lavishes on men.
Victim of the effin’ patriarchy — and don’t deny it, you oppressors!