Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd nails patriarchy

Ashley Judd

Image via The Daily Beast

Her analysis may fall short when it comes to hip hop, but Ashley Judd just nailed an important part of how patriarchy functions. This comes from a column at The Daily Beast in which Judd responds to criticism of her apparently “puffy” appearance. Judd calls out the way the attacks come from women as well as men:

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.

You can read the whole article here. It’s nice to see someone from inside Hollywood speak so honestly about how beauty standards function.

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Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • Sam Lindsay-Levine

    At first I thought I should say instead that Ms. Judd almost nails patriarchy, because I would have liked to substitute for “It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men” instead “it privileges, inter alia, the presumed interests of boys and men” (or supposed, or normative, as you prefer).

    I think it’s worth going out of our way to continually keep in mind that patriarchy is not in fact in the best interests of boys and men.

    Then I read later in the article, where Ms. Judd adds “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.” Hell yeah, (minor) objection evaporated!

    Thanks for posting Ms. Judd’s article. I can’t agree more with her conclusion that “the insanity has to stop” and I (over-optimistically) hope that at the very least, the insanity targeted at her personally makes an ashamed retreat in the face of this essay.

  • Charity

    Ashley Judd’s recent article has garnered tons of praise from the media. I appreciate Judd’s article and the way it brings the subject of body objectification into mainstream media. I deeply respect Judd, her advocacy, her career, and her invitation to join and change the conversation about bodies and objectification. In this vein, I would like to point out three areas of concern I found in her article.

    My first area of concern is when Judd refers to the media’s five negative responses to her body. Instead of simply summarizing the media’s nasty comments, Judd goes a step further and explains to her readers exactly why she looked the way she did when she was being judged by the media. She tells her readers that she was sick and suffering from side effects of medical treatment; she says she is naturally gifted with smooth skin; she says that her face and body have (obviously) aged in the last decade or so; she says she sometimes gets lazy and doesn’t exercise regularly; she says she looked a certain way because of the character she was playing. She has a defense for every one of the media’s accusations.

    Judd is a beautiful person because of who she is and not because of her aesthetics. Yet in this article, in which she says people shouldn’t be judged by their appearance, she feels the need to justify why her appearance didn’t fit into society’s expectations. I think this is a serious oversight on Judd’s part. Her article and message would not have suffered one bit without these validations. Regardless of extenuating circumstances that alter her appearance, Judd should be respected and valued for her personhood, and she should be admired and for her contributions to society.

    If we are truly going to change the conversation about judging bodies in our society, then we must accept all bodies at all times without defending why they don’t fit into society’s standards. All people, regardless of the bodies they inhabit, have inherent value and deserve respect. It’s that simple.

    The second area of concern is Judd’s barely-veiled condemnation of plastic surgery. I assume Judd’s issue with plastic surgery has to do with combating ageism and sexism. I assume she wants to send the message that it’s ok to age naturally and that it’s ok if one’s body doesn’t fit into society’s mold. But, I wish I didn’t have to assume her message.

    Plastic surgery is a very personal choice, and I cringe at even hints of blanket disapproval. When I think about plastic surgery, I think about wounded veterans; I think about transgendered people suffering in bodies that don’t reflect their essences; I think about breast cancer survivors; I think about people whose personal self-esteem is enhanced without any regard to society’s standards.

    If we are truly going to change the conversation about judging bodies in our society, then we must be very clear and concise when we talk about personal issues such as plastic surgery. First, we must recognize that there are many reasons people choose to have plastic surgery. Second, even if we don’t agree with certain motives behind plastic surgery, we owe individuals respect to make their own choices. And, if we perceive that those individuals’ choices are made through a lack of understanding or education, I believe we should view those individuals through an empathetic lens rather than a reproachful one.

    My final area of concern is in the penultimate paragraph of the article where Judd implores, “I ask especially how we can leverage strong female-to-female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women.” Although I have read this article and this section several times, I’m not exactly sure what Judd means by “confront and change that there is no winning here as women.” I don’t know what women are supposed to be “winning” nor where “here” is. I don’t comprehend why the hope of winning is preemptively negated. I truly don’t understand, and I don’t feel comfortable trying to speculate.

    However, beyond the confusion of inevitably losing some unnamed battle at an unnamed location, the sentence’s greatest flaw is in its call for exclusivity. What does Judd mean by “female-to-female alliances”? Does she mean biological females? Does she mean people who identify themselves as females? And, even more importantly, why must this campaign be conducted by an all-female alliance?

    Everyone suffers directly and/or indirectly from our society’s objectification of bodies. Everyone. If we are truly going to change the conversation about judging bodies in our society, then we must accept that everyone is harmed by objectification. And, we must acknowledge that every single person bears responsibility for combating objectification. There is no place for exclusivity in this conversation. None.

    I am thankful that Judd is vocal about her beliefs. I am thankful that she began a very important conversation about body objectification. And, I feel responsible to lend my own voice to this conversation.

  • Lisa

    Read a London columnist spectacularly missing the point on her comment here