Today's Evil Beet Gossip

Ashley Judd Writes a Crazy Long Letter, Talks About Her Face and the Patriarchy

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Remember how we talked about Ashley Judd‘s most recent facial transplant? Well, she’s talking about it now in a long-form letter, where she discusses the patriarchy and I think maybe there’s some definite feminism thrown in there, and she doesn’t exactly deny that she got her face injected with liquid helium, but she doesn’t go ahead and confirm it outright either. Really, though, she doesn’t have to worry all that much about it – the letter confirmed that she’s pretty intelligent, and even if you don’t believe her for a second that she didn’t choose to have something done to her face, you have to give her credit for sitting down and writing this whole damn thing, you know? IT’S LONG. Here’s the letter, which is actually more of an essay, and please, let me know if you were able to get through the first six sentences or so without backing up and saying, “Wait a second, now, let me reread that” at least three times. I’m warning you: this thing is really, really long, and it’s honestly more of an essay than anything else. Go ahead. Have at it. Let me know if you finish it.

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.

As an actor and woman who, at times, avails herself of the media, I am painfully aware of …

… the conversation about women’s bodies, and it frequently migrates to my own body. I know this, even though my personal practice is to ignore what is written about me. I do not, for example, read interviews I do with news outlets. I hold that it is none of my business what people think of me. I arrived at this belief after first, when I began working as an actor 18 years ago, reading everything. I evolved into selecting only the “good” pieces to read. Over time, I matured into the understanding that good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations. I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself. I thus abstain from all media about myself. The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself, my personal integrity, and my relationship with my Creator. Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that.

However, the recent speculation and accusations in March feel 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.

A brief analysis demonstrates that the following “conclusions” were all made on the exact same day, March 20, about the exact same woman (me), looking the exact same way, based on the exact same television appearance. The following examples are real, and come from a variety of (so-called!) legitimate news outlets (such as HuffPo, MSNBC, etc.), tabloid press, and social media:

One: When I am sick for more than a month and on medication (multiple rounds of steroids), the accusation is that because my face looks puffy, I have “clearly had work done,” with otherwise credible reporters with great bravo “identifying” precisely the procedures I allegedly have had done.

Two: When my skin is nearly flawless, and at age 43, I do not yet have visible wrinkles that can be seen on television, I have had “work done,” with media outlets bolstered by consulting with plastic surgeons I have never met who “conclude” what procedures I have “clearly” had. (Notice that this is a “back-handed compliment,” too—I look so good! It simply cannot possibly be real!)

Three: When my 2012 face looks different than it did when I filmed Double Jeopardy in 1998, I am accused of having “messed up” my face (polite language here, the F word is being used more often), with a passionate lament that “Ashley has lost her familiar beauty audiences loved her for.”

Four: When I have gained weight, going from my usual size two/four to a six/eight after a lazy six months of not exercising, and that weight gain shows in my face and arms, I am a “cow” and a “pig” and I “better watch out” because my husband “is looking for his second wife.” (Did you catch how this one engenders competition and fear between women? How it also suggests that my husband values me based only on my physical appearance? Classic sexism. We won’t even address how extraordinary it is that a size eight would be heckled as “fat.”)

Five: In perhaps the coup de grace, when I am acting in a dramatic scene in Missing—the plot stating I am emotionally distressed and have been awake and on the run for days—viewers remarks ranged from “What the f-ck did she do to her face?” to cautionary gloating, “Ladies, look at the work!” Footage from “Missing” obviously dates prior to March, and the remarks about how I look while playing a character powerfully illustrate the contagious and vicious nature of the conversation. The accusations and lies, introduced to the public, now apply to me as a woman across space and time; to me as any woman and to me as every woman.

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.

A case in point is that this conversation was initially promulgated largely by women; a sad and disturbing fact. (That they are professional friends of mine, and know my character and values, is an additional betrayal.) That the conversation about my face was initially promulgated largely by women is a sad and disturbing fact.

News outlets with whom I do serious work, such as publishing op-eds about preventing HIV, empowering poor youth worldwide, and conflict mineral mining in Democratic Republic of Congo, all ran this “story” without checking with my office first for verification, or offering me the dignity of the opportunity to comment. It’s an indictment of them that they would even consider the content printable, and that they, too, without using time-honored journalistic standards, would perpetuate with un-edifying delight such blatantly gendered, ageist, and mean-spirited content.

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?

I ask especially how we can leverage strong female-to-female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women. It doesn’t actually matter if we are aging naturally, or resorting to surgical assistance. We experience brutal criticism. The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others—and in my case, to the actual public. (I am also aware that inevitably some will comment that because I am a creative person, I have abdicated my right to a distinction between my public and private selves, an additional, albeit related, track of highly distorted thinking that will have to be addressed at another time).

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.

So, she makes some valid points. Honestly, she does. Even though it took me probably three cups of coffee to get through the entire diatribe, I have to give it to her: she’s well-spoken, intelligent, and she makes a good point.

Naturally, all of this intelligent conversation brings me to wonder: is it fillers, or is she just an alcoholic then?

31 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Ok… First, she’s obviously intelligent and I hope she’s reading this cause I am AMAZED that such a sexy women with such satisfying breasts and such a stretched puffy face can put together some actual sentences and express her thoughts and ideas. I mean, who knew women were inteligent, right?

    This whole discussion about any comment on a woman’s body being sexist is complete crap. Of course it’s sexist! She’s an actress. She conveys her thoughts and ideas through her physical appearance and through spoken word so we as a viewer are simply left with the idea of her as that and is it our responsibility to convince ourselves that she is a person deserving of respect and consideration simply so that she can feel better about herself? Of course she can feel betrayed by the people she claims should “know” her but in the end it doesn’t matter. People are what they are. I mean, when a man sees a woman and a woman sees a man, are their first thoughts supposed to be: is that is a person deserving of respect? In a modern civil society, we’re training ourselves to do that, yes, but in our most basic form, we are constantly evaluating each other as potential sexual partners subconsciouly making decisions and comparisons with other potential partners in the vicinity. This is engrained in our being down to our very DNA and now just because we have a “cultured” society, we’re expected to be shamed into dropping that which has driven us for millions of years? We evaluate each other. It’s what we do and it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. If you’re a woman being evaluated then you are instinctively going to criticise your competition to raise the possibility of a positive evaluation and the same is also true for a man. We are living human beings because the generations before us had sex and they had sex because they found their partners to be desirable. If you’re a well known well desired woman who has all of a sudden become less of a threat, you will be criticized so that others can raise their profile in the rat race of finding a partner to mate with. Geographical distance doesn’t matter at all either so the potential claim that she was never really a threat to begin with is false…. yo criticize an aging beauty will raise a persons own ego and give them an even greater edge that’s conveyed to potential mates in other ways.

    If she’s offended by people’s comments, that’s fine and completely expected. I’m sure if my puffy face was plastered all over the Internet and I made the mistake of reading the comments, I’d be extremely pissed also and write my own little rant and try to drum up a wave of maleism to prop up my own damaged ego but guess what, I’m not a celebrity. I’m not well known and to tie all of this back to the animal instincts that subconsciously drive us all individually, criticising me won’t get anyone laid however she has chosen a profession where her image counts more than her mind and if she wants to continue along that path, she better get used to criticism because as she begins to age, there will be younger women coming to claim the roles and fame that she once held and we men will desire them for completely natural reasons and to sit here and criticise us for being what we are, animals with society, is a complete waste of time. So good for her, she has feelings and she knows how to compose a nice long essay but in the end it doesn’t matter to anyone but her.

    Am I sexist? I don’t think so but I will say this, my desire for women is completely for sexist reasons but I respect the women in my life because I KNOW them and I love my wife for who she is…mind, body and soul. So Ms. Celebrity who I don’t know and never will, you are simply an IMAGE to me and though I praise your beauty, I scorn your misunderstandings of mankind and your rather pathetic attempt to deflect criticism by raising awareness of a problem that will never be solved.

    • @Bus; Just wow, I’m not sure what is more impressive here. That Ashley Judd wrote a 1,520 word essay on the objectification of actresses or that you wrote a 720 word response.

      • so she is wrong in trying to address said sexism? and i think the thing that bothers her isn’t that men comment on her beauty, or lack thereof, it is that women do it. perpetuating unrealistic ideals and “solving” the question of aging…or why/how it is or isn’t happening to her. in this issue i agree. women need to drop the competitive, ageist, sexist bullshit. if you, as a man, think that that is what you are entitled to…that that is what nature has created you as, by all means restrict yourself in that pathetic pigeon hole. as i woman i hope for better from others.

      • Kathy,

        I’m not saying I’m entitled in any way shape or form to be sexist. I’m simply saying that the tendencies to evaluate the physical form are natural. Yes, we can of course try to control those tendencies and we should but to expect perfection of that control is insanely unrealistic. I have 2 dogs that are very well behaved but they have natural instincts that I have to be aware of and manage..they can still bite. This idea that because we have society that we should automatically be better than what we are is a wonderful idea but ultimately realistic…like communism. I’m not for being anti-female or objectifying women but I’m also not for deluding myself into a constant state of disappointment because I think noone else should either.

      • Well, because I’m a sexist pig I was able to enslave many young impressionable women that absolutely refuse to wear sweatpants, wear pounds and pounds of makeup and whose entire emotional existance depends on my opinion to do my job for me so I have just endless amounts of time to spread my opinion throughout the web and further the male agenda…in fact, I need all the time I can get because well, god forbid this country devolves to the point where a woman can actually be president, but that is in fact my one true fear. Real or Fake?

  • Done.
    I enjoyed Ashley’s letter and agree with her almost 100%. I did find strange the justification for being a size 8 (lazy, winter, etc). Don’t justify your weight, your face, anything—be you; don’t allow ANY of it to be part of “the conversation”. Then you’d be honestly and fully “un-embracing” the mysogynist and dangerous views of girls and women.

    • I agree with everything apart from the un-embracing of the mysogynist and dangerious views of girls and women. I’m not for msyogyniminy…I’m for being strong as an individual. Any action that is purposefully in defiance of an idea automatically strengthens that idea so to say, “I’m going to be a size 8 and I don’t care what a man/woman says” automatically lends itself to the idea that you do in fact care…because you took the time to say it. A strong action would be to take the action for itself and simply say “I’m happy as I am” but as soon as you tack on “and you men can go f**k yourselves”, it automatically loses that strength. Just saying…

      • I agree with you that by justifying her weight gain she, in fact, revealed that might be something that she is upset about, or hung up on—what have you. That was the point I was trying to make, but I’m not always articulate. Said justification went against the rest of her argument; for me, it was the one “chink in the armor”—it revealed a weakness.
        I do not agree that,
        “any action that is purposefully in defiance of an idea automatically strengthens that idea” because that is an absolute, and I just don’t buy into absolutes—not on any front.

        I mean, we could delve into various discussions where this does not hold true, but I understand how it “looks” true in Ashley’s “weight case”. Sometimes it is true, but nothing is absolute.

  • Bus, we are a ‘modern’ society, meaning we as humans are capable of controlling our base instincts and actions. I am so sick of the ‘it’s only human’ argument when men are trying to justify sexism. Do men get nearly the same scrutiny on a day to day basis as women? Hell no. I am so tired of men trying to talk their way out of being sexist jerks, when they have NO IDEA what it’s like to walk in the shoes of women! I’m so glad you love your wife! I’m sure she’d be thrilled to know what you think of Ashley’s breasts. Women have to be scrutinized all day, everywhere we go. When I get up and want to walk to the coffee shop 2 blocks away, I have to a) put on a bra, b) dress in something other than pajamas, c) do my hair and makeup, all so someone like you won’t think I’m a worthless human being. But you know what? I don’t. I walk to the coffee shop in my pajamas with no bra and no makeup, and I know some men are thinking, what a gross woman. But I don’t care, because if I cared, that would give them power. So screw you and your ridiculous sexism, because that’s exactly what it is. The End.

    • It’s not only men who think a woman is gross when she goes out in the clothes she slept in. That’s just disgusting, period.

    • I also walk to the coffee shop in my pajamas with no bra and no makeup. You should have seen how I frantically ran to the store this morning because I had run out of coffee. It was epic, even by my own standards.

    • I’m not justifying sexism, I’m simply saying that there will never EVER be a time when it doesn’t exist and that’s not to say that people can’t complain about it or try to improve themselves to correct their natural impulses but it does exist and it will continue to exist and she as a person that has BENEFITED from investing in a sexist profession does not have the moral ground to now chastise her viewers when it’s not benefiting her. It’s like racism. It will never not exist but this “hug a tree and hope for a better day” high minded idealism is simply insulting to me and to you! You are a flawed human being that is trying to improve yourself … now beat yourself with a whip because you’re not perfect enough for me yet and you hurt my feelings.

      As far as all of this BULLSHIT about men not realizing what it’s like to be in a woman’s shoes, what a RIDICULOUS statement! I wouldn’t want to walk in your shoes in particular because I wouldn’t fit your “Sympathize with me because I’m a woman and have it sooooo rough shoes!” Grow up. Everyone’s imperfect and the people that don’t try to improve themselves belong in the past but so do the people that irrationaly expect perfection from all those who cross our paths. If you want to live in a world where you are respected solely for your ideas and intellect, expect to be lonely because even the women you take there will be evaluating your physical traits in a non flattering manner.

      And while I may talk about a celebrity’s breasts, I’m not deluding myself into thinking that my darling wife is the perfect human being whose existance you crave. She’s a human being and she’s just as depraved as I am and just because I’m more aware of my faults than the the average joe, doesn’t mean I’ve embraced them. I didn’t marry a slave. So you can take your “Women need to play dress up for credit” crap somewhere else because I’m not going to cut you any slack just because you’ve discovered “feminism”. People need to hold themselves to being better than what they are but they also can’t expect any better from others. That goes for the typical male that you’ve described in your comment that automatically dismiss you because of your sweatpants and lack of makeup (though I dare say it has more to do with your attitude that your attire – men like sweatpants cause it means you’re not high maintenance and more relatable btw). I’m sorry your ego can’t take the fact that other people can dismiss you for not being their ideal form of beauty and that you had to resort to “girl power” to prop yourself up. It’s a sad fact of life that a person is not always ideal to all people but it is what is…natural.

    • Hahaha… what a dumb thing to say. As a woman, I think people who go out in their pyjamas look gross and trashy to most people. What the hell is sexist about that? A lot of men AND women judge people who do that because is is rotten. How hard is it to put on some clothes?

  • What about guys in their pajamas, because I see a lot of that. Why is it gross for women and not for men?

    • Are you going to just keep posting the same question over and over again without reading the replies you’ve already been given? It’s equally gross for both men and women.

  • I don’t think it is. People can do whatever they want and shouldn’t feel judged by some priss in line at a coffee shop. Now go put on some perfume or whatever you people who wear real clothes do.

    • Oh, and as an aside, I don’t actually wear perfume. I just wear actual clothes when going into public places. Not really sure what one has to do the other or how you drew that line though?

  • PJ’s by their very nature are bedtime clothes NOT public clothes. Just because we as a country have apparently decided to embrace and empower our fat slovenly filthy selves makes it no less disgusting to see you standing in them next to us in line reeking of your night sweats (and god knows what other bodily fluids that have leeched out of you) since I’m SURE that if its too much trouble to find a pair of pants its also too much work to change into “clean” PJ’s. Mind you, nobody expects you to “Tammy Faye” your face and hair just to grab a dozen Krispy Kremes for your morning chowdown but for chrissakes put on some PANTS!!

    That being said– Ashley J, be less concerned about people’s innate bitchiness about physical appearance and worry about why you yourself bought/wore that hideous outfit.

  • It is called “SHOW Business” – It is your duty to keep up your appearance. Youthful looks are given priority. It is no secret. That is why it is actually normal for celebrities to get work done to ‘enhance’ their appearance & maintain or create a more ‘youthful’ appearance.

    Whether it is surgery, cosmetic dentistry to create perfect looking teeth/superficially white &/or to enhance lips via certain veneers over teeth &/or injectables in the face and neck; the vast majority of celebrities get some form of enhancement.

    So for publications and websites to be speculating about ashley’s facial distortion is to be expected, since she is in SHOW business. Would you park a muddy Ferrari in a SHow room? I don’t think so. People would talk. So Ashley’s verbosity/prolixity and garrulousness missed the point. Focus is – her look is abnormal. She is in show business. People WILL talk. The End.

  • This woman needs to grow up and get some thicker skin if she wants to stay in showbusiness. I’m not really interested in reading a novel about how hurt she is someone called her face puffy. Seriously? She should be lucky and thankful for the looks and successes she has. There are truly ugly people out there who never leave this house but again this woman is enraptured with herself and thinks the world revolves around her. Get over it and shut it/move on.