Actress Ashley Judd is in the news speaking out against the media’s obsession with women’s bodies. Her article in the Daily Beast is a response to comments made about her face.
Journalists felt compelled to report on its “puffiness” and consider if it this was due to weight gain or cosmetic fillers. Ms. Judd detailed claims about her that were intrusive, unfair, and mean-spirited. Her reply to the rumor and innuendo was an intelligent commentary on the evils of patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism. Some argue that as a celebrity, Judd should accept the negative press that comes with the territory. Yet her experience is a reminder that women are held to unreal standards of physical perfection. We just don’t talk about it much. And one of Judd’s observations resonated with me in my own, less public life: “this conversation [about her face] was initially promulgated largely by women.”
I remember the dialogue beginning in junior high. Girlfriends banded together to measure and compare hormonal changes. My mother offered up her own brand of Parisian-borne verbal digs. She had no qualms about discussing my weight with her friends, total strangers, or the general public. Once as I was getting in my car after a weekend home from college, she yelled at me in the street, “and I hope you lose some weight!” At my job, I was pulled aside by a female supervisor who asked me to “please stop sticking out your chest.” It made other (female!) employees uncomfortable. I would have gladly hidden my bosom behind a baggy sweatshirt, but that wasn't proper law firm attire. And while I’d heard plenty of offensive and sexist remarks from men, the ones from my own sex had their own special sting.
When it comes to our breasts, the body snark is hard to miss. Bra fitters uplift the spirits of clients who blame their own boobs (too big, small, saggy, lopsided, etc.), rather than the confusing sizing system that makes it difficult to find the right support. Lingerie bloggers argue over which fashion models represent our “real” shapes. I hear women call each other “skank,” “slut,” or “ho” when commenting on stories about cleavage, cosmetic surgery, and even breastfeeding in public. The battle continues between women, not with the system Ashley Judd condemns.
What do you think? Can women change the conversation?