Beauty Tricks to Remove Your Power

Ashley Judd’s face looked puffy in the promo for her new TV series, Missing. Big deal. She’s aged since I last saw her, and maybe she’s gained a little weight.

And then the furor. Everyone talking about Ashley’s face.

So she responded in the Daily Beast. A few lines:

The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at 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. 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.


The lines linger, waiting to be soaked up.

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

The body detailed and critiqued, diminished and demeaned. An emotional trashing. Cut up, dissected. It feels like a killing. No wonder we are body-obsessed, declare nourishment the enemy and become terrified of aging.

With our bodies spotlighted the rest of us vanishes.

Our voices, our personhood, our potential
and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted
The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us

We become nothing but our “defective” parts.

And we can say nothing as the conversation bubbles everywhere, outside ourselves, removing our power to name and control.

But Judd doesn’t leave us, or herself, hanging in hopelessness. What is deemed good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations, she says, and so she has chosen to abstain from all outside judgments about herself and her body.

We are social animals. Our identities are keenly influenced by how others see us, and more so when those visions act in concert. When many see us a certain way, the agreement brings objectivity, while our solitary thoughts seem merely subjective.

But the declarations are not absolute. Especially when we discern shallowness and falsity. We may choose otherwise:

I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem
or my autonomy
to any person, place, or thing outside myself

 The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself
my personal integrity
and my relationship with my Creator

“It is ultimately about conversations women will either choose to have or choose not to have,” says NPR’s Linda Holmes.

Let’s have some new conversations.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 16, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. This topic interested me a lot to begin with because it is something I strongly believe in that women should never be judged for the way they look and think anyone is entitled to give there opinion based on how a woman looks and weather she has intelligence in her or not because that does not matter. Society has it based to be quick to judge on a women’s appearance and that is wrong on so many levels.

  2. I’ve always been concerned with how I appear, but I’ve recently recognized that it stems from other people’s opinions. Why would my 6-year-old self-care if my skirt matches my top The discussion about women’s bodies takes place primarily outside of us, but it is also directed at us and used to define and control us? Women’s issues are discussed publicly and privately everywhere. Our worth is determined and given based on the reduction of personality to sheer physical objectification. Our faces and bodies are scrutinized and pulled apart. Our bodies are subjected to such harsh criticism that we develop new insecurities seemingly out of nowhere. So many women are body-obsessed, fasting, or overeating to fit into a specific category.

  3. “We become nothing but our ‘defective’ parts.” Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? It speaks more truth that I thought possible though, because that is really what it is to other people and what we bring home to ourselves because of other people. And see our defective parts only refers to what’s on the surface, the stuff that other people can see. That it does not matter if you are smart, kind, intelligent, compassionate, empathetic, because you are a bit overweight or not as cute as other people, all that other stuff is completely ignored as if it didn’t even exist.

    I work for an older woman, she tells me stories about her growing up, the places she has been, the people she has met. Today she asked me if I knew what the term ‘Blue Stocking Girls” meant. I had never heard of it and did not have a clue as to what it meant. She told me that when she went to a high school where you basically took one of two paths, the girls who were going to go to college and the girls who were not going and just had plans to get married after school. If you wanted to go to college, you were called a Blue Stocking Girl, because that meant that you did not care at all what your image was like, you were deemed to be called ugly just because you wanted more for yourself. It did not matter if you actually were not ugly or that you had not let go of yourself, it was more that you thought education was more important than image, and that was weird.

    Women can’t have it all right? You can’t be smart and pretty. You are either normal or a Blue Stocking Girl.

  4. Our bodies are judged so harshly by society. People don’t see or acknowledge how amazing our bodies truly are. To have a physical body is such an amazing gift, with it we get the privilege to experience life through the senses! That in itself is so amazing. Appearances are such a surface-level thing and if you really think about it, who decides what makes a body beautiful anyway? The ones who decide what makes a woman’s body beautiful are the same people who oppress us! Why should we give them that kind of power? If I had the choice to decide what makes a body beautiful id chose my own body to be the ideal type and I feel that all women should feel the same way. What I mean by this, is that we should choose by ourselves what is beautiful and take that power back.

  5. I believe Ashely Judd was completely in the right in her response to the critiques on her appearance. However, being in the acting industry, you are continuously critiqued on little things. Opportunities are lost because your hair is brown instead of blonde, or the opportunity is gained by being 6’2″ instead of 5’10” like the other guy. The Hollywood people are known for critiquing for the littlest things, and they do not focus on one gender. Men and women are equally judged in the movie industry. Adam Sandler was always critiqued for having a large, egg-shaped head and curly hair, but he did not seem to care much, he just ran with it. My point in the end is: a person should not be critiqued about gaining a little weight or aging a few years, but people on the receiving end of the critiquing should not carry it on their shoulders because the person doing the critiquing does not have an ounce of relevance.

  6. I applaud Ashley Judd’s response to Daily Beast. The media was so distracted by her face that they forgot about her as a person and her accomplishments as she stated in her response. It was noble of her to say all the things she said in her response because it was all true and the media does not realize it. I feel like if the our whole society and the media were told what Daily Beast was told, they would at least calm down somehow before judging the appearance of a woman before reading about her accomplishments and what she has done. There should be more conversations about this and it should be brought up more so people can see the perspectives of women and how they feel when there are only seen for their bodies and appearances. Hopefully, they will eventually start to respect women and their lives since it is still not happening today.

  7. Your response to a comment above, “Maybe because historically men could gain status and esteem from things other than looks. But women couldn’t so much, until very recently” was something I hadn’t thought of as a reason why media exaggerates and focuses in on women’s looks so much. It makes sense, because women have been oppressed for so long on what they were allowed to do, that a lot of their worth was put on how they looked in both dress and body shape. As time has gone on, we have gotten more rights as women but that initial worth of “beauty”–whatever that may look like depending on one’s cultural standards of beauty–still lingers. I sure hope as time goes on, women and even men, will be less judged for their looks because it is character and ability and kindness that counts.

  8. Ashley Judd’s response to the Daily Beast is fantastic. It is ridiculous that women’s appearances are given so much attention. Women are judged, ripped apart, or celebrated solely based on their appearance. What about the woman’s soul? Woman and people for that matter should be treated or defined by their behaviors and minds, not their bodies. It is disturbing that it is a “conversation” that a woman enters just by existing. It is also sad that this conversation is internalized so women rip themselves apart as well. I am glad she is bringing light to this topic. It needs to be address and demolished.

  9. Roberto Iraheta

    We are part of not just a materialistic society but also one that adores a false ideal of beauty, that is constantly changing over time what was consider beautiful and sexy before now is ugly and vice versa take a women’s butt for example a small butt was once consider beautiful now we see women like Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj with exaggerated behinds and suddenly is a trend is the new ideal, the whole concept of natural beauty is lost and with that we have also lost some aspect of self identity trying to be as perfect as a fake image is hard for everyone .

  10. Pineet Grewal

    This reminds me of an article that I came across a few days ago. The article said that American Eagle’s underwear sale had increased and it is believed it is due to the new set of models they have wearing the underwear. The article showed the photographs of women that had not been retouched or reshaped. It felt so nice to see real women, with varying body types and stretch marks, model. It is honestly really beautiful. I feel that part of the reason we objectify bodies is because we have been fed this unrealistic idea of how women “should” look like or can only look like just to be considered beautiful. The problem with the objectification of women may never go away but having models be a realistic portrayal of society is a step forward.
    But one thing that I still don’t understand is why men aren’t held up to as much scrutiny as women. Why is it that mostly women are the ones with the puffy faces or the bigger waist but men aren’t usually dissected to that level. It is like this “dad bod” craze I heard about a few months ago. It can supposedly be considered attractive to date some guy with a “dad bod” but the same standard of beauty is not applied to women.

  11. I especially love the sentence “Our voices, our personhood, our potential and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted”. I find the body image of a woman is really over-emphasized by others, which makes the effort on other aspects powerless and useless. I never agree that the body images of women are worth more than their personhood. I feel Ashley Judd is really a wise woman. She is confident, independent and beautiful with her elegant smile. Women are objectified and degraded by the society, and in many countries, they are not even aware of that. Girls should raise their heads and appreciate their kindness, wisdom, and sensitiveness. And girls should take care of themselves, work hard, eat healthily, sleep well, and exercise regularly. It’s time indeed to have some new conversations!

  12. Julina Pohyar

    Our society, the media to be more specific has created a “superficial” view of women that even the models on the magazines claim they look nothing like. It is truly sad how our outer skin is more important than our inner. I see many individuals today that show a different level of respect and sincerity to others who are beautiful. I have personally experienced this myself. I have shopped at the same grocery store for years now and when I happen to walk in one morning with no makeup, I noticed the same cashier who rang me up yesterday was not so friendly. She quickly greeted me without eye contact and then looked away. But when I went back a couple days later with makeup, she was very sweet and asked me what I did over the weekend.
    Judd is a respected actress and instead of being acknowledged for her accomplishments, the media is acknowledging her body changes. Instead, the media should embrace any changes. I have seen countless magazines destroying the images of female celebrities as if they do not have feelings. For once, I would love to see female models comfortable in their own skin without the tabloids destroying their egos.

  13. I have to agree with this post. It is very sad how appearances matter more than internal qualities. It is so frustrating that instead of criticizing or praising her for role in the T.V. show, what its more important in our society and media is her looks. She was very strong in standing up for herself and defending her beliefs especially in her profession where she is constantly demanded to physically portray what is unattainable to most normal women. I can also respect her dignity in staying the way she is and not changing herself just to appease the critics to have their approval. She definitely makes a great point to others; we have to learn to value ourselves based on our own standards not what our crazy and superficial society wants. This however is very difficult to do and practice because since we were little we learn that appearances were very important and we must present and behave in a certain way to be loved, respected, etc.

  14. No matter what, someone somewhere is going to have something to say about how we look. Unfortunately, society plays a much bigger role when it comes to judging someone’s appearance. Us women, and men, need to find the strength within ourselves to not let these comments hurt us and change us. I love the quote:

    I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem
    or my autonomy
    to any person, place, or thing outside myself

    The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself
    my personal integrity
    and my relationship with my Creator

    It’s absolutely true! We shouldn’t give our power to anyone else. We have the power within ourselves to be who we want to be and look how we want to look.

  15. In my opinion, appearance and physical appearance regard as one of advantages of women in today’s society. Some people say “person shouldn’t be judged by their looking.” But ironically most of people do so. Women’s appearance also influences their job opportunities. For example in my country, a stewardess, news caster, weathercaster, secretary or woman who actives in public, representative from company, or seen by majority in society “need” to be beautiful women. Actually I’ve never seen those who are working this kind of jobs are not beauties. Thus, women who are good looking have more opportunities to have “exposed” job. Also, personally I think most of men who are high-social class or rich have beautiful wife or they date with beautiful women. Although we believe that “true beauty” comes from inside of heart, one’s personality, what we come up with someone’s impression at first sight is always their “looking”. Since people care about it, most of women start to care about their appearance, talk or criticize about other’s looking. But how boring is it? If all people become care about how we look only someday, what happens? Today’s technology of surgery is so developed and people can do surgery on their face or body easier than the past. Since surgery became common nowadays, many people become don’t hesitate or think it in negative way anymore. Let’s say all women in the world become beauty one day. Then how people judge women? We may notice what we care about is just empty and ridiculous. Important thing is go back to origin, try to see person’s inside. Having good looking is of course good thing and it’s one of advantages. But everyone have to notice that people are not only consist of looking, but they consist of personality, heart and inside which comes from within. But I don’t think people who judge someone by looking should be criticized, because what made people like this is our society. So we have to start to change this tendency.

  16. I believe that society always has been quick to judge on how we potray ourselves. We are getting judged always by the way we look, how we act and how we talk to others. People need to start understanding that looks are going to get old and what your only going to bring to the table is the knowledge you actually know. Some people are way to worried about how they look on the outside when they should be really worried about whats inside themselves.

  17. I can’t agree more with Ashley’s statements. I’m glad to find that famous women who are actress’ are aware of these problems and care about them. I also like that she spoke out against these issues that we all seem to face as women. Society really does seem to only care the little things, like how we look or act. What should really matter is our intelligence and what we can actually do as people, not get stuck on our appearances. I wish more actress’ would speak out about this issue and act on it to help our culture as a whole realize that looks aren’t everything.

  18. I really admire Ashley Judd for speaking out against the insulting discussion involving her weight. I can only imagine how hard it must be to gain weight when you are in the spotlight but to be able to turn the discussion around to pinpoint just how wrong our societies beauty standards are creates conversation among other women and inspires us to not beat ourselves up over the small stuff. I can only hope that more female’s in the limelight begin to create a stance against the impossible obsession with perfection.

  19. I love this post because it relates to the biggest problem I view in society concerning women – they are constantly judged solely on their looks and are pressured with beauty ideals that are impossible to attain. Social media is the main culprit in creating these false illusions, and other societal influences play a role as well. However, women should take responsibility for themselves. Yes we are scrutinized by all and especially demeaned by the overall objectification that underlies most of our relationships with men. That is why it’s necessary for women to build their confidence and pride not based on their looks but more substantive and meaningful pursuits. Most importantly, women should speak up against instead of being passive or even worse, submitting to the oppression.

  20. Can I just say that I love Ashley Judd…. Ladies gain a pound, loose a pound, someone always has something to say. Extreme change is so difficult and expansive if every lady could see their self worth in this multicultural world, these lady’s would see that we were meant to look different, we were created not just to look different but to act different in great respect to our parents . Way to go Ashley!

  21. What was most interesting about this particular quotes is that she never once discussed the need for a broader definition of beauty, of explaining that aging is a part of life, etc. While these are both important issues, the one Judd made created much more of an impact– stop valuing women for their looks and only their looks. If society were to shift its value system to appreciating women for their intellect, creativity, empathy, etc, it would eventually eliminate the need for a beauty standard and men and women would approach a more equal playing field.

  22. I agree wholeheartedly. Women are constantly being judged in every aspect of their lives. From how they present themselves in public to how they live their lives when they’re at home, women are always open for scrutiny from others. If a woman has introverted tendencies and doesn’t go out in public often then she’s considered to be antisocial or standoffish. On the other hand, if a woman is outspoken and assertive in her social life then she’s considered as a diva or a “bitch”. Another instance would be if a woman was overweight then they would be shamed for being fat or obese. However if they were underweight then they would be shamed for being malnourished or anorexic. These are just a few things a woman can get criticized for, and it is the reason why women can never let their guard down.

    It is a spectacle that men often get a free pass on, for they only get criticized if they do something out of the norm. For example, there is a stereotype that men are dominant and that they always want to have sex. If a man is seen as submissive or if a man has very little interest in having sex, people start to wonder what’s wrong with him. There is something that men can look back upon to see if they’re “normal”. Women don’t have something to fall back upon. They’re always damned if they do something and they’re always damned if they don’t.

  23. I find this statement brave of Ashley Judd to post, she is surely going to get backlash for her comments; but she chose to give them anyway. What she says is in many ways the absolute truth, women are constantly praised or condemned for their physical appearance, so much so that like, Mrs. Judd stated: “Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.” This hooplah over what the woman is wearing, her makeup, how much weight she has gained/lost detracts from whatever that woman is trying to accomplish, particularly, women in the public eye. As mentioned in class, growing up in American society certainly makes you feel like this scrutiny normal, appropriate and just “the way it is;” the fact is though–it doesn’t have to be. This criticism is detrimental to women’s self-esteem, I imagine it doesn’t feel good to be called ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ all the time, and surely, while being called beautiful all the time might seem great, I have a feeling it may cause problems later in life. As we all know “beauty” fades, and if “being beautiful” becomes the only way a woman defines herself or prides herself with, it can be a hard reality to face when she ages. I think to focus on the many other qualities women have (intelligence? humor? drive?) will change the way women feel about themselves and the way society views women. I really enjoyed this post!

  24. I found this post really interesting. Sadly today we are victims of the social media. Especially women. I recently visited Los Angeles. I noticed a huge difference in how people dressed there in comparison to the Bay Area. The women in Los Angeles are more physically ’‘fit’’ and more into their appearance. You can tell that there is more pressure to ’‘look good’’ in LA, than in the Bay Area. Little girls learn from such a young age that they need to look pretty. Sometimes we forget that our brains are more valuable than our looks. Beauty is what we aspire to have. We forget that outer beauty fades, inner beauty does not.

  25. Our society today has women consumed by weight and aging. Women of all ages are struggling to reach an impossible and unhealthy weight, by doing so the women have internalized this belief. We think we are going to reach this miracle goal and by reaching so we become more valuable. We believe men will value us more and we will be more worthy of the world. I believe that beauty comes from within and nothing physical and on the outside can determine beauty. I hope women will read Ashley Judd’s words and take her words internalize them and identify with them. Reading her argument and many others like it make me feel empowered. I feel as if women everywhere have the ability to determine their beauty and need to realize the surface is just that, surface.

  26. It is a shame but it is the reality of nowadays. More and more, people are putting greater value on others appearances than to their morals, character or achievements, as in the case of this post. However, I agree that we should not live to please other people’s eyes, we should do what we believe to be best for ourselves and do whatever keeps us happy and healthy. I can’t help but to feel sorry for those who make judgments based on appearances. I think it is a shallow superficial way of living/being. Perhaps, this is a trend of the current generation, because the “simple objectification” is everywhere, in musics, television, magazines. It feels almost like we can not run away from it.

  27. Our society has grown into a society where what you wear can have a statement to it. Wherever you go, you will get judged for it. You won’t have a say to it and most of the time, you would not know who is speaking it. It is wrong to judge someone based on their “cover,” but most people can’t help it. This creates a problem because with all the female celebrities trying their hardest to be “thin” and “fit”, it makes the audience want to be just like them do that they can feel beautiful. They created such a huge impact on the world, most girls would do just about anything to feel like that.

    I believe that beauty comes from within. Your exterior look may say one thing, but what’s inside is what counts more. I believe that your personality will define whether or not you are a good person. Looks can be deceiving, a bad personality can make a pretty person look ugly to you. Everyone and everything will always be judged. No one should have to feel low just because they don’t look a certain way. Everyone should love themselves and their bodies and be happy for who they are. Appreciate what they have even if it is not that much. Overall, you should not take anything for granted.

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