Ashley Judd at Kentucky game

Ashley Judd on the misogynistic harassment she received for tweeting about sports

This past weekend, Ashley Judd, actress, feminist, and Kentucky basketball fan, made a comment on Twitter about how her team’s opponent was “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—.” For this minor bit of shit-talking, hardly out of the norm within the craze of March Madness, she was — surprise, surprise — inundated with a barrage of misogynistic tweets. 

As Judd explains in a piece on Mic, while she’s more famous than the rest of us, the reaction she received is typical in so many ways.

What happened to me is the devastating social norm experienced by millions of girls and women on the Internet. Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood. My tweet was simply the convenient delivery system for a rage toward women that lurks perpetually. I know this experience is universal, though I’ll describe specifically what happened to me.

I read in vivid language the various ways, humiliating and violent, in which my genitals, vaginal and anal, should be violated, shamed, exploited and dominated. Either the writer was going to do these things to me, or they were what I deserved. My intellect was insulted: I was called stupid, an idiot. My age, appearance and body were attacked. Even my family was thrown into the mix: Someone wrote that my “grandmother is creepy.”

As I began on Twitter to identify and push back against this toxicity and abuse, I faced the standard bashing anyone (girl or boy, woman or man) experiences when objecting to and taking action against misogyny.

[...] The themes are predictable: I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world. The Internet space isn’t real, and doesn’t deserve validity and attention as a place where people are abused and suffer. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart. I’m famous. It’s part of my job description.

These are the “dangers that invariably accompany being a woman and having an opinion about sports or, frankly, anything else,” Judd writes. But I do think that there’s an especially viscous tone to the misogynistic harassing that comes when women voice strong opinions on topics and subcultures — like sports, or gaming — that men like to imagine as their “territory.”

And Judd is so right that the response she’s gotten for speaking out about it — that if she can’t take the heat, she shouldn’t have made her original tweet — is also illustrative of a common dynamic. Today, Fox News’s Mark Fuhrman tried to argue that since it’s March Madness, “All bets are off, all laws don’t apply.” But as Amanda notes, there’s a difference between good-natured sports shit-talking and violent rape threats. Just like there’s a difference between harsh criticism of someone’s argument and comments that make the simple fact of being a woman grounds for hateful attack.

Header image credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation