April 11, 2012 / Opportunity

Ashley Judd Responds: “…The Conversation Is Really A Misogynistic Assault On All Women.”


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda. Cross posted with permission from RabbleRouserRuminations and Katz Porch.

In case you don’t know to what Ms. Judd is referring, let me fill you in. Recently, there has been a big brouhaha over – wait for it – her face. Yes, her face, and what some folks have decided was puffy. They came up with all kinds of reasons as to WHY this was the case. I’ll save you the suspense – they think it was from plastic surgery. (Photo credit: entertainment.blogs.foxnews.com)

According to Ms. Judd’s piece in The Daily Beast, she does not usually pay attention to this kind of thing at all, but was encouraged to do so by those who are close to her. So, Ms. Judd has weighed in on this “crucial” issue, and oh, my, did she ever spell it out:

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.

[…]However, the recent speculation and accusations in March 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 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.

Indeed. This “hypersexualization” is evident almost every day when we see little girls wearing shorts with slogans across the back of them, or being made up to look older than they are. It was just such actions that led the humorist, Celia Rivenbark, to pen her essay (and book title), “Stop Dressing Your Six Year Old Like A Skank.” It is pervasive, and insidious, this assault on our image. And even though we know it, are aware of it, have written about it, have made documentaries about it (like, “Killing Us Softly” in 1979, and its sequels), it continues.

Unfortunately, part of the reason this kind of misogyny continues is because women help to perpetuate it. As it turns out, according to Ms. Judd, it was women who started these rumors in the first place (and she lists the Five Top Rumors in her piece). We not only allow it, we often are the ones targeting other women based solely on our bodies. Ms. Judd’s response deals with this very issue:

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.

Yes, sadly, many of us have internalized the Patriarchy. It is the culture in which we live. Even though we have made great strides in many ways, we still have quite a ways to go.  And as many of us have said, especially as misogyny and sexism raged publicly in the 2008 Campaigns to the present, women can be our own worst enemies.

There is a conversation to be had about how women are perceived and treated, and Ms. Judd offers these questions to facilitate this conversation:

I hope the sharing of my thoughts can generate a new conversation: Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place? How, and why, did people participate? If not in the conversation about me, in parallel ones about women in your sphere? What is the gloating about? What is the condemnation about? What is the self-righteous alleged “all knowing” stance of the media about? How does this symbolize constraints on girls and women, and encroach on our right to be simply as we are, at any given moment? How can we as individuals in our private lives make adjustments that support us in shedding unconscious actions, internalized beliefs, and fears about our worthiness, that perpetuate such meanness? What can we do as families, as groups of friends? Is what girls and women can do different from what boys and men can do? What does this have to do with how women are treated in the workplace?


If this conversation about me is going to be had, I will do my part to insist that it is a feminist one, because it has been misogynistic from the start. Who makes the fantastic leap from being sick, or gaining some weight over the winter, to a conclusion of plastic surgery? Our culture, that’s who. 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.

Amen, sister, amen. The insanity DOES have to stop. We have to stop tearing each other down, be mindful of when we are acting as our own abusers, when we are acting in such a manner to tear down another woman in order to gain approval (we think) from the patriarchy. Until we are willing to really have this dialogue, and really work together., we will return to this place time and time again. And we will continue to deny our full personhood, and that of other women and girls.

The time to have this Conversation, an honest, real conversation, is now. We cannot put it off any longer…

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