Now Ashley isn’t the first person to speak out against this kind of thing, but I really believe one of the reasons themes keep repeating themselves in our blogs here or in our conversations in life or in society in general is that we need to keep remembering—and reminding each other—to adjust. Because adjustment is so incremental (another common theme here!), we need to practice working and re-working our gears toward the truer and clearest path toward compassion and acceptance.
Why was Ashley lambasted? Because she’d “had work done” … or because she hadn’t. No one (in these articles) talked about how she’d scored a strong lead role in a new TV show, that she was setting a great example for strong female characters, one which didn’t need to be overtly sexualized to be interesting. No, the articles were all about her looks. And the mean-spirited writers of these pieces were usually (maybe exclusively) women! She calls it a misogynistic attitude. Not anti-male, but anti-female. That we are so conditioned to deconstruct each other that this is the only conversation worth having in our media right now: the insulting speculation goes viral, the nasty comments pile up, the media jumps in to ride this next wave of escalating vitriol. Ooh, we love to hate each other!
Now, I almost didn’t talk about this here because I know we’re not of this ilk. I’ve seen it over and over in how we support each other and celebrate our spiritual wellbeing. But then I also realized that if we don’t talk about it here, we’re missing a chance to spread the consciousness of a really important issue. We can put our feelings into words here—and everyone will have slightly different words—and we can make a difference in how women and men talk about women.
As an actor, I obviously have had to give my looks a lot of thought. But I was almost never cast as the “beautiful” girl, was almost always as the sweet mom. And so I didn’t really feel the onus of needing to look a perfect way. That said, the “beautiful” girl roles are usually the most exciting. And I do remember the whole “is she fuckable” question that was applied to who would eventually be cast in any given role. And, yes, this question gets applied to male actors too. But I’ve never been in a position where my looks have been scrutinized, picked apart, and spit upon like Ashley Judd has. People say Ashley was “asking for it” because she chose a career that puts her in the public eye. I have news for you: people who want to be actors are almost never in it for the fame. Is fame seductive, can it twist you around? Most certainly. But fame is really only part of the equation for an actor because if you’re famous, well, then you get to work—and actors want nothing more than to work (you can’t perform a little show by yourself, for yourself, the way you can, say keep a writing or drawing journal or dance or sing). People become actors because they have a deep-seated need to communicate with other people, to help share the human experience by showing you yourself. We’ve needed actors as story-tellers since the beginning of Man. Why would we excoriate them for not looking like some increasingly bizarre notion of "perfect"?
As a now “middle-aged” woman, I see my role in society shifting, my looks changing. Of course, I ask myself from time to time if I would ever get “work done”. Funnily, this is probably the one instance when I have been guilty of deconstructing a woman’s looks: when she’s had so much work done, her face looks like an unnatural mask. I don’t know where to look; I blurt out how “great” she looks because I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. And what am I doing when I do that? Implying that in her natural state, the one where she looked utterly like herself, she was somehow not lovely?
I had lunch with an acquaintance a little while ago. I had only met her once when we’d had an amazing dinner together years before. When we got together the second time, I was delighted to see her again. She asked if she looked different; I said no, she looked exactly the same! It was just so great to see her! But she was disappointed. She’d lost a lot of weight, changed her hair colour, and felt like she’d shed some old unhappy, unhealthy version of herself. I was gobsmacked. I swear, my connection with her had been through her eyes, through her spirit that one night, through her stories. I guess how she looked hadn’t made as strong an impression on me as how she WAS. Sure, she looked great the second time, but she’d also looked great—to me—the first.
I think, like with health and wellness issues, how we look is only important as far as how it makes us FEEL. And we all need different things to make us feel good, don’t we? But we’re also making it harder to FEEL good about ourselves when so much focus seems to be on how we LOOK.
By reading or passing around the nasty garbage about how this person has cellulite and that one has wrinkles and the other one is “puffy-faced”, we are giving this kind of discussion weight. We need to stop valuing each other and ourselves for how good we look (or not). It’s not “innocent banter” or “silly gossip”. It insinuates. It snowballs. It corrupts. It undermines. And it is so IRRELEVANT.
Think about it: the people we really admire, the ones we really love, the deepest, realest connections in our lives have nothing to do with appearances.
Maybe if we practice believing it, we might actually one day believe it.
Deb: This is a subject I have wanted to tackle for some time and have had in my notes and on my mind. Thank you, Barbara, for bringing it up. I have continued to marvel these last years about the continued and growing attack on woman—by women. I have much more to say on it, but it will be for another time. Right now and for this post, you have nailed it. But I must say, I think the conversation should continue at The Middle Ages. I think we have just landed on a theme that deserves some length of time. I might even suggest a spring theme if you will. I will build on what you have written if you like and you do the same. A great dialogue will ensue, I am sure. For women and for men, we MUST start setting new ground rules. We must. It has lost its way ... mostly, but not entirely. Not by a long shot.
Barbara: Yes, let’s do it!!!
PS Tomorrow, Annette is going to guest-blog here about her own hilarious encounter with trying to walk this delicate line!