When I recently started reading Ashley Judd’s response to media criticism surrounding her “puffy” face, I braced myself for the party-line response from celebrities who come under siege for their changing appearances. Seems there are usually two responses (1) mind your own damn business or (2) mind your own damn business. Instead, I read a response that was articulate, intelligent and inspiring.
Judd, who sates she has learned through the years to “abstain from all media” written about her (good or bad), took the opportunity to not just address the attacks on her own appearance, but to address the larger issue at hand. “The Conversation” (or #TheConversation – now trending on Twitter) about women’s bodies and appearance has become so engrained in our society. As women we, often without realizing, take pleasure in knocking each other down, criticizing each other’s appearances and speculating about what we are doing to maintain/achieve a certain “desirable” look. The pleasure that comes from this is normalized by reality TV shows like The Bachelor, The Real Housewives and others. I have often wondered if the women who sign up for these shows realize just what they are going to be subjected to…but after reading Judd’s piece, it hit me – they are already being subjected to it every single day…what difference does it make if it is in the public eye? It is plausible that some of these women might even feel that as long as they are getting attention it doesn’t matter what kind of attention it is. Misogyny, it seems, is what sells to today’s prime time audiences.
Next time you are having a “broad-bashing” conversation with your girlfriends about another woman’s appearance, think about this…that very conversation you are engaging in is a driving factor behind why women continue to feel the need to “alter” or “maintain” or “touch up”…it is a contributor to why we feel so bad about ourselves and need to tear others down to make ourselves feel better. Ms. Judd makes a good point that until we become hyper-aware of this fact, until we change The Conversation we are having, the normalization of misogyny, our acceptance of it and the pleasure we derive from it will never cease. As a mother, I fear what this will mean for my daughter and, ultimately, how she will feel about herself.
How do we begin to change The Conversation? Simple, age old advice, might be a good place to start. “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”…Oh, and, mind your own damn business.