Puffmaggeddon has stormed the Internet seas.
While working a promotional tour for her new ABC series Missing last week, Ashley Judd appeared significantly more puffy in public—and the media pounced.
Had she gone under the knife? Was she in filler and injection overload? Just what in the world had she done to her face?
The real explanation turned out to be a less glamorous: Judd was suffering from a lingering sinus infection for which her doctor prescribed steroids, and a bloated face is a typical side effect experienced during the course of treatment.
The 44 year-old actress, however, was not about to let the media off that easy. In an essay she penned for The Daily Beast, Judd lambasted her critics, blaming a culture steeped in the repressive mores of misogyny for physically ripping her apart, and reducing her worth to mere face value—literally.
But it's not really the boys she's after; it's the mean girls. Particularly the ones who are guilty of what we today term "bodysnarking" :
That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women's faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times-I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.
Naturally, websites, bloggers and tweeters of the world cheered for a woman who was finally saying "Enough is enough!" And then they returned to their regularly scheduled celebrity gossip-fest programming.
Personally, my feelings are bit mixed. I completely adore and admire Ashley Judd, and everything she has done for women and girls around the world. She's not an overly-indulged celebrity—she's a humanitarian who has dedicated much of her time to championing the rights of underprivileged women, from rape and war victims in the Congo, to sexually exploited AIDS sufferers in India. This is a woman who truly walks the walk of empowering her gender.
Yet a great part of what has lent Judd such strong voice and power is the fact that she's a Hollywood celebrity. She has collected millions for movies, walked the red carpet in dazzling jewels and borrowed designer names, and led a privileged life. While I don't think that gives the media a free pass to smear, I can see why she's a popular topic of public chatter.
At the end of the day, I do applaud Judd for making such a bold statement on what Naomi Wolf terms "the beauty myth"—which I think is most succinctly summed up in this excerpt:
The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.
And that, as women—whether "everyday" or "celebrity"—the feeling that we are chastised if we age, and chastised even more if we try not to age, that there is no winning this game.
And so, like Judd says, perhaps it's time we all stopped playing it.