Judd Not Lest You Be Judd

The media said that Ashley Judd’s puffy face was obviously the result of plastic surgery. The internet-at-large called her a liar. Read how the actress fought back and changed my head.

Unless you’ve been living under a media rock, you probably at least glanced a headline or two last week about Ashley Judd and her “puffy face.”

The story goes something like this: back in March, actress Ashley Judd appeared on a Canadian talk show to promote her new television series, Missing. Apparently, during that appearance her face had a fuller look than fans and the media are used to. Several outlets were quick to whisper to their worldwide audience (just between friends, naturally) that Ashley appeared to have “had some work done.”

Ashley’s rep immediately released a statement denying any plastic surgery and stating that Ashley “has been battling an ongoing, serious sinus infection and flu” and had “been on a heavy dose of medication to overcome it.” Her rep also gave a sexy little slapdown to people who were dwelling on it, saying it was “a silly and erroneous topic of conversation.” You go, Ashley Judd’s rep!

But that wasn’t enough. Internet comments were split between those who were satisfied with the explanation and those who called Ashley dishonest and demanded she tell the truth about her plastic surgery.

So, like any good Judd woman, Ashley stood up for herself, penning a piece for The Daily Beast pointing at the people who were judging her but also eloquently jumpstarting a dialogue about the larger problem.

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.

You gotta love this woman, right? Wrong. Many people were miffed that she would defend her own honor, so brazenly. From the comments on the same article:

Another hot chick complaining how tough it is being a hot chick. Come on give me a break. The only reason she’s feeling she’s being treated badly is because her whole life she’s been hot and now she actually sees what the rest of the world-male and female-go through on a daily basis and she’s pissed because its happening to her.

I think the lady protests too much. Why would she be so absorbed with the issue if it did not hit a nerve. She is attractive at best and a mediocre actress so get over it. No one really cares.

Hey, is she the hugely fat one with the red hair and the enormous head, or, the other one? And, what’s with the hideous puffy face? Why don’t people like that just stay home?

boring actress on a horrible show, nip tucked from head to toe. PR smokescreen and total hypocrite

“Hot chick”? Misquoted Shakespeare? Sign me up for this so-called “internet” I’ve heard so much about!

But that’s neither here nor there. After all, if you let the masses express themselves anonymously you’re going to get a few who take full advantage of that.

No, what stuck with me about the essay was one particular passage:

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.

I kicked this around for a while. Particularly the line “good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations.” Hear that? Good and bad are equally fanciful. Equally subjective. And equally fraught with pitfalls. Feeling good about yourself because someone thinks you are attractive is as big a trap as feeling bad about yourself when someone thinks the opposite.

If we rely on others to validate us we create a vacuum that sucks in all kinds of debris. Filling it with love for ourselves (or at least opinions that we have formed on our own) leaves us too full to take in other people’s issues.

So good on ya, Ashley Judd, for calling a spade a spade and then brushing that spade right off of your shoulders. I wish more women would stand up for themselves and point out the foolishness and destructiveness of judging and criticizing women based on a constantly changing and completely subjective ideal.

I’m almost sorry for those things awful things I said about Dolphin Tale. Almost.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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