Ashley Judd Takes on Her "Puffy Face" Critics (and Is Generally Awesome)
Posted by Katie Ostoich on April 11, 2012 at 4:09 PM
The Daily Beast published a kick-ass feminist essay written by Ashley Judd the other day that you girls have got to read. The topic: Why people feel it's ok to talk about her (to quote one weekly magazine) "puffy face." And, as you'd expect from the Harvard grad, Ashley generally punches everyone in the face in the best way possible.
In case you haven't been obsessively following the “puffy face” debacle (because you possess actual priorities, a conscience, a desire to take a nap, or literally anything else to do), a little backstory: Ashley's been on steroids for an undisclosed ailment, and it has caused her face to swell slightly—a common side effect. And this caused a lot of speculation in the tabloids that she's had work done, has gained "too much" weight or has in some way done some other type of bad, bad, HORRIBLE, dear-god-the-horror thing to deserve ridicule. Which, let's be honest, is kind of crazy when you think about it. And, clearly, Ashley has.
The typical celeb response to mean, speculative snark like this is "Dehydration! Respect my privacy! But also I'm totally not mad and my new single drops next week so please buy it and I'm sorry I was so very very puffy and it won't happen again and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST DON'T STOP LOVING MEEEEEEE!!!" But Judd skips that equivocating B.S. entirely and engages the broader issue with a level of sensitivity and personal transparency that we hardly ever see. She starts with this: "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."
Then boils it down to this: "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 point out that a lot of the people joining in this conversation are women—a point that takes her on one totally amazing rant about patriarchy and the fact that women are partially responsible for the dynamics of it. That part you have to go read in full. It's seriously fantastic. I'm certainly not innocent of celebrity body-snarking. We've locked celebrities (female celebrities in particular) into this impossible position—they lose five pounds and they're anorexic; they gain that weight back and they might as well call Maury Povich to airlift them out of their trailer. So what the are they supposed to do? There's a line between reasonable attention and unreasonable scrutiny, and, for my part, I'd rather not contribute any more to the commodification and dehumanization of women.
And her conclusion gave me chills: "The insanity has to stop...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."
What a call to action. I've read it through a few times now, and every time I think that it was a great thing to do—she never once apologized (nor should she…for her face!) or clearly offered an explanation (though it's there). Instead, she took the situation as an opportunity to try to change the way we talk about women in the media and get people thinking.
I demand you go read it in full right now. Right now. Your report can wait. Then come back and tell me what stuck out to you, what parts made you think and what you feel about the whole situation in general. Did anything she had to say resonate with you?