I hadn’t noticed.
In fact, I had somewhat forgotten that she existed.
But apparently she is out promoting a new project, and at some point during the press junket, she was characterized as looking “puffy” or as if she’s gaining weight.
Little did they know, boy-o, the press had objectified the wrong Hollywood-actress-who-has-posed-nude-to-help-sell-magazines-and-fronted-a-cosmetic-line-but-also-objects-to-patriarchal-beauty-standards*:
Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that.
However, the recent speculation and accusations about the unusual fullness of my face in March, 2012, feels 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 hyper-sexualization 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.
So, you know. She doesn’t care what you think of her or her appearance unless you think she’s getting fat.
That’s what I’m taking away here.
Cynthia Hawkins, TNB’s most able film critic, whom I both like and respect, beat me to the commentary on this one, but I decided not to withhold my thoughts on that account alone.
I feel like we need multiple perspectives on this one.
There is no lack of agreement, in my opinion, that there is a general problem in most societies with the way women are depicted, treated, thought about, talked about, etc., etc. There is little disagreement among women and feminists that women are among the worst offenders in this regard.
But Ashley hopes her essay will start a new conversation about how we view and talk about women and their bodies and appearance.
As if the general conversation about impossible or unfair standards of beauty never existed before someone called her fat, and she used her most ponderously overwrought faux-academic diction to write a blog commanding people to talk about it.
As if the conversation about these topics could ever be new to anyone who pays even a modicum of actual attention to these things.
Yet, let’s try. At Ashley Judd’s behest, let’s have a conversation about this Ashley Judd situation that is not actually about Ashley Judd but some bigger issue.
I have a minor in Women’s Studies. I have a very intense personal hangup about people paying more attention to my gender than my brain.
In me, Ashley should have one of her most ardent supporters.
Yet she fails to win me over. Her indignation rings terribly hollow, and the fact that this outrage has materialized coincidentally alongside promotion of a new professional endeavor leaves me suspicious.
There is certainly a newish conversation to be had here, but it’s about the hypocrisy and double-talk inherent in celebrities trying to discourse with the common folk about who and what we do or don’t lift up as beautiful and worthwhile. (A conversation that would have occurred to Ashley long ago if she were anywhere near as well-informed and critically-minded as she is trying, desperately, to sound.)
But lest we be tempted to do this–to accuse her of being shallow or simple–we are reminded, before she leaves us with her admonition to talk about the patriarchy, that she is also super active and discourse-y about many serious issues that have nothing to do with this issue at all:
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.
Maybe she’s just calling them out. I don’t know.
I feel like she’s liturgizing to legitimize her viewpoint.
I don’t mind being cynical. I don’t think being called a cynic is an insult. I feel like it’s okay to question the motives (or at very least, the utter lack of self-awareness) of people who complain about urealistic standards of beauty once they’ve made an entire living from multiple industries devoted to those standards.
To be perfectly frank, at the end of the day, for my part, all I can bring myself to think of Ashley Judd’s face is that I kind of wish she’d shut it.
*The image above is Ashley’s Marie Claire cover, where she poses topless and smirking next to the attention-grabbing headline, “How Snacking Can Make You Skinny.” Underneath that, something or other about how she wants to change the world.