Ashley Judd is angry. She's angry about something that all people have a right to be upset about — being judged by one's appearance. Recently, she has had a puffier face (which is from steroid use for an ailment) and gained a bit of weight over the winter. And as the press is wont to do, speculation has been flying about how much and what kind of plastic surgery she has had, as well as how her marriage is doomed because her butt is bigger. This time she is standing up for herself — and, she says by extension, all women.
"... 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," Ashley wrote.
I hear her. Right now, I have some eczema on my face. It is embarrassing and frustrating to have to deal with it, and there is a part of me that wants to explain to strangers — the front desk folk at my gym, the checkout lady at Whole Foods, and the clerk at the post office, "This isn't how I normally look!" I feel some kind of small shame walking around with the red marks on my face, (and secondarily, but regularly, the extra 15 pounds on my butt and thighs, as well as my never-tameable hair, and....). I feel this way because I know that other women are looking at me, and judging my appearance. And so are men. It's embarrassing.
This is, in the simplest possible terms, bullying. Women bully themselves, and we bully each other via "offhand" comments about each other's faces and bodies (yes, it counts if they are about women we don't personally know). Whether the bullying is self-inflicted, told to us by our mothers or fathers, or our friends, it is ugly and destructive. From the last week of media memory, we are too fat (Connie Wilson), too skinny (Kate Middleton), too wrinkly (Madonna), aging poorly (Lindsay Lohan) and a new category, too fat while pregnant (Jessica Simpson).
It is, as Ashley writes, abuse:
"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."
And it should be taken seriously as abusive language. This is not about promoting mental or physical health, it is about causing pain and discomfort.
Unlike celebrities of other stripes, who court attention specifically for monetary gain (Kardashians, Jersey Shoreites and hangers-on), actors have a job that they do. In front of people. To get paid. Does that mean it is OK to body snark? I say no. I refuse to engage in it any longer. I am getting better at not doing it to myself. In the grand scheme of things, is an actor or celebrity going to know what we say or what we think as we page through the latest gossip rag? No, but we hurt ourselves — and those around us — when we do. And that is a greater tragedy than any actor's feelings will ever be.