Friday, April 13, 2012

Who's The Worst Enemy Of Women?

4/13/12-worst enemy1
Modern art or objectification of women?

After three days of traveling, I returned home with a two-day migraine, plus had more trigger point injections for residual muscle spasms from my surgery.  All that made it impossible to complete the blog post I had started for today.  I’ll tell you all about Nashville on Monday.

Meanwhile I want to leave you with an op-ed piece I found as I caught up with this week’s news.  Actress/activist Ashley Judd is writing in response to comments made about a photo in which she looked “puffy-faced.”  By now she had become practically immune to nasty comments about her appearance, but she said that even her husband was outraged by all the judgments that appeared.  She decided that if she (who had a platform) didn’t speak up about the objectification of women then who would:

“The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. 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.”
read the rest of her statement here

One of the most interesting parts of her analysis of this situation is that women are just as guilty as men.  They judge each other just as harshly as any gossip rag with a paparazzi shot of a female celebrity leaving the grocery store on a Monday morning.

I’m not judgment-free.  I do have a tendency to look at women and form an opinion about their appearance.  However, it doesn’t go so far as to criticize them for not meeting some impossible standard.  Every day when I look in the mirror it’s quite obvious that nothing I see would meet that standard.  On the other hand, I make comments on how far they are from being their best selves.  I don’t say “She’s too fat,” but instead say “Doesn’t she know that is too tight/short/shapeless and makes her look horrible?”

This week while I was in Nashville some friends of friends encountered the great singer Faith Hill in the grocery store and were eager to tell everyone how horrible she looked.  In that instance I spoke in her favor, reminding them that she wasn’t young and fresh-faced anymore, plus she had three children she was chasing after.  Besides, I added, none of us are getting any younger either, adding, “But she sure cleans up good.”

Yes, I make judgments.  Brad Pitt should cut his hair.  Angelina Jolie looks unhealthy.  Any man over 35 should stop wearing muscle shirts and any woman over 35 should give up mini-skirts and the braless look.  Many women at my public pool have skin like cowhide because of their tanning obsession.  Any man not an Olympic athlete shouldn’t wear a Speedo.

But I’ve raised a daughter trying hard not to comment on her appearance except for health reasons.  For example, I may have commented on her skin out of a concern over her diet or lack of sleep at college.  And when she was in high school I couldn’t keep quiet about the length of her skirt because everything would show if she ever dared to sit down.  And I tried to get her to wear more color and less black because it made her look even more beautiful.  However, always aware of the images constantly bombarding her as a young woman in American society, I never said a thing about her weight or muscle tone or size of clothes she wore or adolescent acne.  I praised her athletic ability and the effort she put into her education.  I did everything I could to teach her about being good to herself through a healthy diet (Spinach, T!  More spinach!).

When I saw the picture of Ashley Judd that caused so much controversy I just didn’t understand the people who had such a discerning eye that they could consider her anything less than a beautiful, intelligent, talented woman.  Yes, it’s wrong for men to objectify women.  There are many days, though, when I think they’re not our worst enemy.

(You can go here to read what other women said about their “puffy-faced” moments.)

Do you think Ashley Judd is on target with her op-ed piece or do you think she’s blowing things out of proportion?  Have you ever experienced your own puffy-faced moment? Are men equal victims of this obsession with appearance?  Why do you think women critique other women so often?  How do you respond to it?  Share your thoughts in the comments box today.

Return on Monday to read more about my trip to Nashville
4/13/12-worst enemy2 


Laura@Catharsis said...

Julie, I just heard about the Ashley Judd thing, and I am so glad she spoke out against it. Fame comes with great responsibility as well as criticism. It's not fair. And as far as judging others goes, I'm guilty. I do it all the time, and it's terrible. I only wish we as individuals could move beyond this, self included. I think then we would move beyond it as a society as well.

Lena Corazon said...


Hey, Julie! I'm one of the WANA gang, and this is my first time swinging by and saying hi. This post really struck a chord in me, as I've been following the story about Ashley Judd since the "puffy-faced" picture first hit the blogosphere.

I do think what Judd is saying about women's culpability in perpetuating the unfair criticisms that are lobbed against us is valid. What I think is really important, though, is the succinct yet nuanced definition that she provides of patriarchy, the larger system that structures and affects our beliefs and our practices. I won't clutter up your comment section with any long-winded analyses (I've actually got a blog post of my own about that bit coming up), but I will say that I find it to be an important key in this whole discussion.

Great post, and feel better soon. Migraines are super yucky!

Anonymous said...

Julie, thanks for sharing. I think we all judge others on appearance first, although not everyone comments on it. Afterwards, when you know the person better, you often stop noticing her features or her weight. But it’s different with actors. In our culture they seem to belong to us all, like paintings. If someone repainted Mona Lisa, made her gain 20 pounds and acquire wrinkles, we would be unhappy. That person would probably be judged and sentenced for destroying great art. Unfortunately, the same applies when a famous actress loses her youth or gains weight or whatever: we’re offended. Our pleasure of seeing her onscreen in her youthful glory is gone – forever. So some people comment, and sometimes the comments turn nasty. They shouldn’t. It’s unfair to the actors, especially when it’s a public comment, but don’t you tell your friend, when you watch a late Judy Garland movie, how much better she looked in the Wizard of Oz? She is public property… almost. :))

Julie Farrar said...

Olga, I think you're right about us feeling we "own" or "know" celebrities, therefore feel a right to criticize. I will say that Judy Garland looked worse in later years because she was suffering from her addictions by then. However, these addictions did start when she was young because Hollywood was putting her on diet pills (speed, basically) during Wizard of Oz and earlier because she wasn't sufficiently svelte. It's not a new phenomenon, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie, I hope your headache is gone
I often try to read your articles. Although I can not understand all, I understand the essential.

To give my opinion, I think the stars are people like us with benefits and the problems of the life. However, the celebrity must try to keep a good image for us and this is not so easy.

Ma Citation (pour tous les gens) : "La bonté est constructive et la beauté est pleine de complexes ;
avec le temps la beauté disparait mais la bonté peut rester…."
My Quote (for all poeple): "Kindness is constructive and the beauty is filled of complex.
over time the beauty disappears but goodness can stay ...."
Maybe someone has already said this?

Martine-Virginia D'Hulster

Julie Farrar said...

What a lovely quotation, Martine. Yes, goodness stays. But aren't we lucky that with Keith we get both beauty and kindness.

Scrollwork said...

It's true, humans focus on appearances when we're not meditating on the spiritual.

What I find interesting is the contrast in reactions. Ashley Judd chose to make it a teachable moment. When Katie Holmes was teased about her unflat abs and asked if she's pregnant, she merely said, "Bad posture." End of story.

I'm less inclined to write a treatise on societal flaws when I'm criticized. The personal is not political, in my case. I am averse to making sweeping generalizations.

So, um, Julie, some women over 35 (48 in my case) can actually pull off mini skirts still. :)

Love Linda said...

I was pleased to read what Ms Judd wrote. It was so articulate and right on the money. I have fought against this for my own daughters and am sometimes discouraged to see how little things have changed in the past 30 years as I now watch my granddaughters go through trying to figure out who they are. I've been gratified to see this statement by Ms Judd re-posted in several places. Spread the word far and wide and yes keep reminding us to be our best selves and not be our own enemies. Thanks again for re-posting

Linda Maye Adams said...

I think we probably judge everyone because that's what we're fed on a daily basis through commercials and TV and film. Just about everything in the media is about how thin and pretty and perfect a woman has to be. During Star Trek TNG, they put Deanna Troi in a catsuit even though she held a rank of Lt Cmdr and should have been in a regular uniform. Someone told me it was how she regarded herself, and as she decided to progress, she changed the uniform. Except it doesn't work like that. Military people do not "pick" their uniforms. I think the producers realized they couldn't have cleavage and tight clothing in the uniform, so they made hers a catsuit. When it was changed to the standard uniform, the actress comment on the change in respect she saw.

And every time the media focuses on a woman's appearance, it automatically says she can't be any better than what she looks like.

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