Have you read the piece that Ashley Judd wrote for The Daily Beast about the recent media attack on her “puffy face”, but moreover about how not okay it is that such attacks even take place? Because you really should.
Judd’s essay is the kind of op-ed that makes you sit back and listen. She confronts both the overtly tacky tabloid pieces and the whispers from the shadows head on, speaking from experience that becomes eerily relatable via Judd’s direct, inclusive argument.
Ashley’s post struck me personally from all sides. As the mother of a young daughter. As a feminist. As a woman who has seen her physical appearance ride the rough tide of health afflictions. As a woman who’s had plastic surgery, and as a women who’s ridiculed other women for possibly doing just that.
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.
Reading her words began to feel incredibly uncomfortable as I was forced to realize that I am as much a propagator of this epidemic as I have felt a victim of it. I’ve told myself for a long time that being funny at another woman’s expense isn’t a feminist issue. And it’s not. As long as we’re being creative and witty and playing fair. As long as we’re not taking cheap shots at her appearance be they from jealousy or genuine, unearned disdain.
I thought back to this recent post I’d written…and was acutely aware of not only the fact that I’d thought it about another woman, then published it, but also that the high volume of click throughs had made me happy, as if I’d succeeded at something.
Judd’s essay made me feel empowered, but it also left me sitting with egg on my face, thinking about my own behavior. Naturally I wasn’t the only one with a strong reaction. Social Media has lit up with the conversation Judd began.