Talking Back: Exhibit A

Ashley Judd recently responded to the criticism that she was facing in the media/celebrity blog sites/tabloids/magazines/everywhere. It was criticism not on her acting, choice of projects, humanitarian aid strategies, pursuit of a Masters degree, or various other actual activities. People were criticizing the ‘object’ that is Ashley Judd, the public face, and they were determining all the things that could be wrong, or surgically modified, or too fat. Judd has had enough. She writes:

“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…. The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others—and in my case, to the actual public…”

Please read her response to the body policing and objectification here.

I know (and Ashley Judd knows) that celebrities are public faces and will thus face some criticism, but what is the source of that critique? What is the basis for ripping down famous women? Bodies. Faces. The flesh and bones that keep these women walking around. I am no supporter of celebrity worship or hype, but if we’re going to do it, I so wish it revolved around what they did, not what they looked like. Judd would seem to agree. When celebrities speak out, they talk back to a culture that has done so much speaking for and about them. Using their fame to bring attention to the media’s cruelty is so important.

Kate Winslet is also well known for calling the media on their unrealistic demands on women’s bodies. When she was photoshopped outrageously, she said so and complained that, “I don’t look like that and I don’t desire to look like that.” This kind of message is critical, because celebrities are so often trapped in the position where their bodies are policed harshly by the public as well as their employers, making their careers reliant on conforming to the beauty standard. Their conventional beauty is often what gets them fame and fortune to begin with. But if the winners of the beauty game are pointing out that it is rigged, that it is unfair, maybe it will be harder to deny. Maybe the rules will change. As people who both benefit and suffer under the current body standards, celebrities are uniquely placed to speak up. Now, if only we would all listen.