Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ashley Judd Speaks Out

by Dick Mac

Women in America are objectified in many ways.

That is the nature of patriarchy.

The objectification of women as Madonnas and/or whores is the most effective way we disempower women. It is not just men who participate in this objectification. Many women (most women?) subscribe to notions of beauty, fashion and success, that are intended to keep them subservient to men.

When famous women are discussed in the media, we are generally treated to lavish and/or vicious analyses of their physical appearance: body shape, piercings, facial expressions, clothing, tattoos, gait, etc.

I remember reading an interview with Cher after the filming of "Witches of Eastwick." I like Cher. I have always liked Cher. I will always like Cher. I think it's sad that Cher has chosen to alter her physical appearance so many times so that she fits in patriarchal notions of female beauty, but that is not my point here. Cher was quoted about working with Susan Sarandon (perhaps my all-time favorite actress), saying: "She has the best tits in Hollywood."

I think this is probably true. It was certainly true 25 years ago when they made that movie with Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson.

We have been treated to displays of Sarandon's tits throughout her career: In a bra in "Rocky Horror Picture Show." With lemons in "Atlantic City." On Catherine Deneuve in "The Hunger." Sarandon is a brilliant, hard-working actress whose work stands the test of time, irrespective of her "nice tits." She has used that particular asset wisely and judiciously.

Few women have the talent or physical beauty that Sarandon, Pfeiffer, Deneuve, and Cher enjoy. Yet we hold these women up as images of beauty, a very narrow, exclusive definition of beauty. And in our patriarchal society, we expect women to strive for that narrow interpretation of beauty.

When they don't pursue that goal, we call them names: fat, ugly, bitchy, aggressive, butch, lazy, etc. We conclude that they are power-hungry, feminist, male-hating bitches.

This is real. I am not making this up. And we all participate to some degree. We have no choice really, it's what we know, how we have been acculturated. The only thing we can do is be mindful, stop actively participating in it, work to change the language we use to discuss women and beauty, and speak out about sexual objectification of our daughters/sisters/mothers.

This is not easy. When we do, we are called names by people who quite like the comfort of patriarchy, are profiteering from patriarchy, or are too stupid to even consider an alternative to what they have been taught. You know the words: feminist, liberal, pussy, fag, sissy, pansy, cunt, etc. We've probably all done it at one time or another, to some degree or another.

It's hard to change, so mostly we don't change. Some of us learn to give convincing lip-service to it, but are then called those names. We aren't even DOING anything more than talking about it and we still suffer those consequences.

I do not know very much about Ashley Judd, except that she is an actress/star/personality. I thought she was a country singer until I started seeing advertisements for a television show in which she stars. The singers are different Judds. I don't even know if they are related - but, that really has nothing to do with anything.

Ashley Judd has been all over the media in connection with the massive advertising campaign for her new television show "Missing." So, I know what she looks like. She is white, she is attractive although not beautiful in the patriarchal Hollywood way we like to think of beauty, she appears to be in her late thirties, and from the clips of the show, she appears to be a good dramatic actress.

Being this exposed in the media during a promotional campaign has the unfortunate side-effect of being exposed in the media for the duration of the campaign. This means that everyone gets to express their opinion about you: your hair, your face, your politics, your clothes, your body shape, etc. And sometimes even your professional abilities are discussed (but not often, especially if you are a woman).

I stumbled on an article titled "Ashley Judd Slaps Media in the Face for Speculation Over Her 'Puffy' Appearance" at the Daily Beast site. The article is actually not only "about" Judd, but is also written by her.

In the article, Judd discusses the issues of misogyny, patriarchy, beauty, and feminism.


Yes! She is a Hollywood type who is not generally lumped-in with the radical-fringe-feminists that the right-wing media (that is: all of the media) like to discredit regularly. I think she is mostly known for being a young(ish) successful, monogamous, Christian star who volunteers to prevent animal cruelty. And I never even thought I would ever know that much about her.

In the article, Judd is addressing those in the media who make their money on the objectification of women, and the fallacies they perpetuate about women, beauty, health and fitness.

I was pleasantly surprised (pleasantly shocked?) to read the article:
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. . . . Continue reading at Daily Beast.

Well done, Ashley Judd. You have a new fan and supporter. If you were a singer I would buy all your records right now; but, you're not, so I am going to have to try to watch your television show.

Watching television series is not an easy or pleasant feat for me, so you better damn-well be grateful for it!

I hope you keep this discussion alive. I hope you can introduce this conversation to other Christians and people of faith (I do believe that Judeo-Christianity is the basis for patriarchy), and I hope you can teach other women, young women, how to speak-out against objectification.

Ashley Judd

No comments: