Ashley Judd’s facial war

In a bold new essay, the actress confronts the critics of her body head-on -- and makes some incisive points

Topics: Body Wars, Feminism,

Ashley Judd's facial warAshley Judd (Credit: Reuters/Jean Amet)

Ashley Judd would like you to get out of her face. The 43-year-old actress, activist and sometime controversial memoirist has had a high-profile return to the public eye, with the debut of her new drama “Missing.” And it’s a profile that has been the subject of much snark and WTFing.

In the past few weeks, Radar has lamented that she’s gone from “pretty to puffy” and “fattened her face with fillers” while Us declared her “nearly unrecognizable.” SheKnows hit her even harder, complaining that “the pretty face we’re used to [has been] replaced by a puffy disaster.” And when her reps declared that her swollen look was the result of steroids for a sinus infection, they only fanned the flames, leading The Stir to snap of her “way chubbier than usual” look, “Come on, Ashley, we may be dumb, but we’re not stupid.”

Now Judd, never one to shy away from expressing her feelings, has penned a rebuttal to the face haters. In a column for the Daily Beast, Judd addresses the tongue wagging about her “puffy” face and straightforwardly declares that “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.”

You Might Also Like

While it’s a vast step up from Samantha Brick’s already notorious defense of her looks, Judd’s piece is not without its own flaws. Even in high dudgeon, she manages to come off as impossibly pleased with herself — she humbly brags about her “nearly flawless” skin and still has time to mention her “serious work, such as publishing op-eds about preventing HIV, empowering poor youth worldwide, and conflict mineral mining in Democratic Republic of Congo.”

But the point Judd makes — about how wildly screwed up the relentless public scrutiny is — is valid and necessary. Of her weight fluctuations, Judd says that “We won’t even address how extraordinary it is that a size eight would be heckled as fat.” And, perhaps most tellingly, she addresses the absurdity of the suggestion that she’s “messed up” just because “my 2012 face looks different than it did when I filmed ‘Double Jeopardy’ in 1998.”

The lengths to which celebrities — mostly women – go in the name of youth and beauty are a matter of public discourse. We grapple with questions about women and aging and body image by talking about Nicole Kidman’s forehead and Megan Fox’s nose and plus-size models. But the gotcha! put-downs any time a woman expands or contracts in size or seems too creased or too smooth — the “general incessant objectification” and “abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies,” as Judd calls it — create a culture of viciousness and perpetual dissatisfaction. Look at that girl. She’s so fat/thin/wrinkled/fake. Who does she think she is? How dare she? That’s not just hateful. That’s lazy.

That Judd looks different than she did in 1998 is a fact. How she arrived at her current look is her business. By confronting the speculation head-on, Judd has acknowledged her place in an often cruel, unwinnable war of public opinion. One opinion column likely won’t make the tabloids and blogs pause in their daily digging on who is displaying cellulite or a trout pout. But by calling out the critics, Judd reminds us how useless and hollow the sport of body snarking truly is, and the fact that expecting anybody to be the same kind of “pretty” she was 14 years ago is, in her word, pure insanity.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>