Ashley Judd is no shrinking violet, I’ll tell you that for free. She didn’t hold back in her memoir, wherein she recounted being left alone for days at a time as a child, being lied to about who her father was, and being raised surrounded by sex and drugs, stopping short of labeling her mother the worst in America. She’s been a staunch advocate for and has lobbied on Capitol Hill in support of issues near to her heart, including poverty, gender equality, and HIV. It should come as no surprise, then, that she stood up for herself and all women in the face of an attack on her physical appearance.
Recently, the actress — rather, her face and its uncharacteristically puffy appearance — came under fire as she made the talk show rounds to promote her new series, Missing.
Rumors immediately began to swirl that the actress had used injectable fillers. “Credible” media outlets, and surgeons who, admittedly, hadn’t actually treated the actress, speculated over the various procedures she’d “clearly” had done. Not that it’s any of your business, but Judd’s rep issued a statement refuting any claims of plastic surgery. As it turns out, Ashley had been suffering from a serious sinus infection and flu and had been on multiple rounds of steroids in order to be able to travel and fulfill her commitment to promote her new series and YOU WERE SAYING, DOCTOR?
Ashley wasn’t going to take this laying down, though. Instead, she took to The Daily Beast yesterday to strike back in a lengthy essay, in which she slams the media for what she claims was “a misogynistic assault on all women.”
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 explains that while she generally avoids all media about herself, not wanting “to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy to any person, place, or thing outside myself,” this particular attack “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 youngest Judd details her own analysis of specific conclusions made by the media and, pointedly, other women, based on a single television appearance. For example, she addresses media claims that she used Botox, citing said facial-puffiness and fewer visible wrinkles than a 43-year-old should have (a back-handed compliment of sorts), as well as criticism of her appearance in a scene from Missing, during which she portrayed AN EMOTIONALLY DISTRESSED WOMAN ON THE RUN FOR FOUR DAYS. (Which I imagine must have looked something like me first thing in the morning. After hitting the snooze button. And I will take any concurrence to that comparison as a compliment.)
Now, I like poking fun at celebrities as much as the next guy. I think to some degree it kind of comes with the territory that if you’re going to live your life in the public eye, anyone and everyone is going to have their opinions about you, however misinformed.
I do agree that comments about physical appearances go just a little too far, though. It’s one thing to joke lightheartedly about the excesses of the celebrity lifestyle and another entirely to comment maliciously on something that could very well be out of someone’s control, such as a change in physical appearance that turns out to be a reaction to medication. Not that proof of illness should be the sole exception to the name-calling, though. Ashley adds that she was labeled a “cow” and a “pig” when her weight got out of control and she ballooned to a size six, which, I can’t even.
I applaud Ashley, not only for escaping the sideshow that has been The Judds over the years, but for seeing this for the bigger-than-herself issue it is and being vocal about it. She makes a valid argument against the objectification of women, not only in media but in LIFE, and particularly against woman-on-woman attacks. While her piece takes a feministic slant, she adds that men aren’t spared similar (albeit perhaps less-frequent) injustices.
The insanity has to stop, because 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. 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.
Preach on, Ashley.