Ashley Judd Talks Patriarchy and Women's Bodies

Ashley Judd took a stand against accusations from the media this week regarding her ‘puffy’ appearance, which is actually due to taking steroids for illness, not plastic surgery. Her amazing response is something I hope to see more of in Hollywood. Female celebrities have to deal with bullshit from the media about their appearances, whether it’s criticism about plastic surgery, weight gain/loss, or getting older. There’s pressure to look younger, but backlash if you get plastic surgery to do so. With young girls and boys seeing celebrity images constantly through the media, girls get the message that the only thing that matters for a woman in Hollywood is her appearance, not her talent, and boys learn that this is how they should view and value women. That’s why Ashley Judd’s piece in The Daily Beast is so awesome. She goes deeper than just telling the media to stop freaking out over a change in her body. She addresses what this means in the context of patriarchy and how ridiculous it all is.

Judd knows the impact of the media’s focus on women’s bodies, and that “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.” She also reminds us that ‘ideal’ images of women are “directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us.” Since entering the industry 18 years ago, she’s learned that “ I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself.”

She then goes through several examples of how media outlets concluded that if she doesn’t have any wrinkles, she must have gotten plastic surgery, and when she’s gained weight the media warned her that her husband will start looking for someone else. Seriously? Not to mention that what they consider ‘fat’ is a size 8…

Judd addresses the depressing reality that a lot of the negative focus and conversation about women’s bodies is being initiated and continued by women, and that “patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate,” and “we are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.”

Her response to the accusations is significantly powerful due to her position as a Hollywood voice. A female voice at that. Judd’s article allows us to see this conversation from the perspective of a woman who has actually experienced this attention and criticism firsthand in the Hollywood spotlight. Yet at the same time, Judd reminds us that “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.” Share Judd’s article with others, and “join in – and help change – the Conversation.”

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