Great analysis from actor Ashley Judd in the Daily Beast regarding media speculation about her “puffy face” last month (after being on steroid medication for an illness). Here are the concluding three paragraphs:
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.
I’m several years now into the process of slowly de-conditioning myself from being, as I was taught to be by the whole misogyno-consumerist edifice around me, judgemental about the bodies of other women. Sometimes I still slide, and I catch myself quicker these days when I do, because not only are these judgements unfair to others, they are also self-destructive with respect to my relationship with my own body.
This is definitely a Conversation that we need to change.
Categories: arts & entertainment, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, health
One of the things I’ve found in dissociating myself from “The Conversation” is that I’ve effectively had to dissociate myself from the day-to-day mainstream media as well. I undertook this dissociation as a part of getting over the effects of ten years of attempting to lose weight (the weight always found me again), and what it effectively meant was that I had to give up the vast majority of woman-oriented media cold turkey (in particular, the “women’s magazines”, which were incredibly toxic on the whole subject). I’d decided I didn’t want to see constant belittling of my shape, size and gender expression, and the only way I could do this was basically to cut myself off from popular culture.
I started this project when I was in my early twenties. I’ve been at it now for about eighteen years.
The internet has helped immensely. Not long after I discovered the internet, I started participating in newsgroups to the exclusion of watching television, which reduced my exposure to toxic memeplexes about what women are supposed to be even further. These days, our TV is mainly kept for playing games, or for watching DVD series or movies we’ve purchased. I think another crucial point is that what I’m reading online isn’t the same as what’s available offline (so, for example, I’m not going to the websites of a lot of the big media companies for content).
Part of dissociating myself from the Conversation has involved becoming aware of who’s interested in me as a person, and who’s interested in me as a bundle of demographic information. The majority of large media providers aren’t interested in their readers as individuals – they’re much more interested in their readers as demographic groups. These days, I’m not interested in being sold to advertisers as another set of eyeballs. Hells, if I’m going to be sold, I’d rather be facilitating the process myself – at least then I’d get a cut of the proceeds, and I could use the money.
Great post, TT. Also, as someone who, like Megpie, boycotts womens’ magazines, I’m rarely up with younger actors, so Ashley Judd’s articulate writing has completely blown me away. What a champion!!
…Just finished Judd’s article. Don’t you love the wilful point-missing by the VERY FIRST COMMENTER. Jesus.
Ashley Judd rocks! However, I’m not sure if she qualifies as a younger actor, she’s 44. In my limited exposure to said mags (only glance at them at the gym) she doesn’t feature in them much so it’s even more offensive that they only deign to notice her when she’s not looking acceptable enough!
News with Nipples has written about the question of whether feminists should avoid reading tabloid magazines or not:
I just read that a moment ago, and my response was YES. I’ve been reading the magazines my coworker left for me when she changed jobs, and the viewpoints are so awful.