Helen, Twisted, Bug and TV show Missing (2012–present) Actress Ashley Judd slammed the tabloid media and celebrity bloggers, after enduring weeks of online speculation over her looks. But the piece isn’t just about Judd’s appearance — it’s a feminist call to arms that charges both men and women to stop playing into a patriarchal system, one that equates female beauty with worth. The bottom line: Judd is, emphatically, not just another pretty face.
In a column in the Daily Beast, Judd describes what she calls the “misogynistic assault on all women” that results when the appearance of celebrities is picked apart on air and on the internet. The complaints stemmed from a March appearance by the 43-year-old actress while she was promoting her new series Missing, in which she plays a mother searching for her son.
After those appearances, she was variously described as having gained weight, having aged badly or having had plastic surgery, with some media outlets consulting with surgeons to discuss how much work she has had done. Judd says she had been on medication that made her face puffy, though she did not specify what illness she was battling, in her long essay in the Daily Beast.
She claimed that she has learned, as an actress and activist, not to pay attention to media speculation, but felt she had to address the coverage because it was so degrading. “I choose to address it because 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,” Judd wrote.
“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.”
She also was critical of viewer comments made after an episode of Missing in which her character is up for hours and under extreme stress. Viewer remarks ranged from “What the f*** did she do to her face?” to cautionary gloating, “Ladies, look at the work!”
She addresses the absurd suggestion that she’s “messed up” just because “my 2012 face looks different than it did when I filmed Double Jeopardy in 1998.” Judd was particularly critical of women who speculated about her, saying they are supporting a culture in which women are judged solely on appearance and their accomplishments are minimized.
Judd’s cri de coeur has re-ignited debate through the internet and social media about the impossible standards of youth and beauty set by popular culture and the unwinnable war aging celebrities face over their appearance.