I've never thought much about Ashley Judd beyond the blandest adjectives—she's pretty, she seems nice, her pores look really small—but it turns out she's also a smart, bold, kickass feminist. In an essay for the Daily Beast today, following weeks of tasteless speculation about the puffiness of her face, Judd smacks down her detractors and frames the entire kerfuffle (along with our celebrity-shredding culture at large) as "a misogynistic assault on all women." Which it is. My love for Ashley Judd grew three sizes this day.
In case you haven't been obsessively following Judd-puff-maggedon 2012 (because you possess actual priorities, a conscience, a desire to take a nap, or literally anything else to do), here's a brief refresher: The tabloid press—and, by extension, the entire internet—recently noticed that medium-famous celebrity-woman Ashley Judd went from having a regular beautiful face to a very-slightly-puffier-than-average beautiful face. And everyone went fucking apeshit.
Ashley Judd had work done! Ashley Judd is filling her face with facial fillers! Ashley Judd gets her face stung by therapeutic bees! Ashley Judd is injecting butt-fat into her face so her face looks more like a sexy butt! Ashley Judd is a liar and a coward who is terrified of aging! Ha-ha, women, we tricked you! The only thing worse than looking old is trying not to look old because we told you not to look old! Also, you're fat!
Um, no, says Ashley Judd. Ashley Judd's face is puffy because Ashley Judd is sick and on fucking steroids, you intrusive, judgmental dicks.
The typical celeb response to mean, speculative shit like this is "Dehydration! Respect my privacy! But also I'm totally not mad and my new single drops next week so please buy it and I'm sorry I was so very very puffy and it won't happen again and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST DON'T STOP LOVING MEEEEEEE!!!" But Judd skips that equivocating bullshit entirely and engages the broader issue with a level of sensitivity and personal transparency that we, the public, definitely don't deserve:
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.
The whole essay is great. You should read it. And in a cultural moment when "feminism" is still a "bad word" (YAAAAAAAAWN), it's incredibly rare for a celebrity to make such a concrete feminist statement. More importantly, Judd points out that it's women who drive a lot of this kind of sniping:
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.
BOOM. OMG ASHLEY JUDD JUST DUNKED ON US SO HARD.
I'm certainly not innocent of celebrity body-snarking. And this website as a whole isn't either. But I find that the older I get the more consciously I avoid it, and the more I reject the notion that when you profit from being a public figure you become public property. We've locked celebrities (female celebrities in particular) into this impossible position—they lose five pounds and they're anorexic; they gain that weight back and they might as well call Maury Povich to airlift them out of their trailer. So what the fuck are they supposed to do? There's a line between reasonable attention and unreasonable scrutiny, and, for my part, I'd rather sacrifice a few good jokes about the flavor-of-the-week's gaping coke nostril than contribute any more to the commodification and dehumanization of women. My feminism doesn't end where your celebrity begins. That's bullshit. I'm with you, Judd.