Thank you, Ashley Judd. After a barrage of nasty media speculation about the actress’s looks – everything from questions about possible plastic surgery to denigrating comments about her weight – Ms. Judd this week decided she needed to respond.
And it was none too soon. This has been nightmare of a month for parents who worry about the body image messages we’re sending our little girls. There has been chatter about whether a thinner-than-normal Miley Cyrus was anorexic, with her response that she had food allergies and was on a gluten-free diet.
Jennifer Lawson, of Hunger Games fames, faced criticism for, well, looking like a woman. And this comes on a slew of other body critiques of women in entertainment – nothing new, sadly, but perhaps particularly virulent.
Which is why Judd says she stepped in. Normally she would not worry about criticism, she says – she says she long ago gave up reading about herself in the press – but the comments last month just felt different. They made her upset about the message we, as a society, are sending our kids.
So she wrote a response in the Daily Beast: “The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us,” she wrote, “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 focused on me as [the barrage of comments] appears to have been, it is about all girls and women,” she wrote. “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."
Who knows what Judd’s response will change. But at least she is speaking up. And that, it seems, is a true role model for our girls.