Beauty Tricks To Remove Your Power

Ashley Judd’s face looked puffy in the promo for her 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.

A rerun for the holidays.

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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 December 28, 2016, in body image, women and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. As I ponder Ashley Judd’s experience and thoughts, I recall the judgement which Hillary Clinton faced during the most recent presidential election where she was also shamed for her appearance. Whether she put on too much or too little make up, the clothing she wore, and how she styled her hair were all subject to public approval as determining factors of her qualifications to validate if she was really fit to become the President of the United States. Moreover, these were things of which absolutely none of her male opponents had to deal with.
    Women have always been susceptible to unfair critique of their appearances, especially those holding influential positions. It is often used to degrade their self worth and control their abilities. Yet, each society has different standards of beauty; like European women are celebrated for a more voluptuous body type and American women must embody a skinnier image. This reminds women that it is important to concentrate on how we perceive ourselves, not how the others do.
    Like Judd stated in response to the objectification she confronted from her latest TV series promo, “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.”

  2. I watched the videos of Ashley Judd’s interviews where she supposedly had a puffy face. I honestly didn’t notice her face seeming unusual at all. The comment that she gave to the ‘Daily Beast’ responding to her criticism was astonishing. Every single word she said has truth to it and I’m so glad she decided to publicly share her comments. There are constant conversations judging and picking apart physical details of a woman’s appearance privately and in public, not only between men but also between women. Just a random thought, I think advertisements may sometimes purposely show attractive women, images or create scripts to make women viewers feel ‘less than’ so they will spend more money to ‘fix’ or ‘better’ themselves. This may work in real world socializing too. For example, a group of men at work constantly make comments on how unattractive it is for a woman to wear flats. A woman coworker may over hear them and feel that she’s not socially presentable. She may soon enough show up wearing boots. It’s social pressure to feel attractive even though you may not feel the want to do so.

    • Ms. Judd is so insightful and articulate!

      Sounds like those guys are control freaks. Trying to control what women wear. Women should wear whatever and they feel comfortable with.

  3. Social media is always looking for a defect in the body of actress and models. Which in return some actresses and models try to get plastic surgery in order to fit into the idea of a perfect women. When actresses look older the only roles they get to play are mother’s or grandmother’s. Its rare when we see an older women play the role of a single women. In result they get surgery in order to hide the wrinkles that make them look older. When women pose for magazines, what do they magazine people due. They edit the picture in order to make the women look more skinny.

  4. If SHE, with that beautiful face, is picked apart that way, little hope for the rest of us! Gee. Except for these conversations. Thank you.

  5. *******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*****

    Oh, I love the paragraph above!

    When I hear words like this talking about women/Judd, I am TOTALLY angry & offended.

    Why would any of us stand for it?

    • I love her words!

      Why do we put up with it? Good question. We have probably unconsciously internalized the idea that it’s a woman’s job to look perfect. When society unconsciously gets into our heads we tend to accept things that are hurtful to us.

  6. Another way to control women, and make them feel bad about themselves so they buy more stuff that will make them “better”.
    It’s sick.

  7. I think we really need to start stigmatizing this constant need to talk about women’s bodies (because it happens almost exclusively to women) – this needs to be universally reviled, because it’s pretty reprehensible.

    • Yes, I agree!

      It doesn’t do women any good because it hurts their self-esteem. Who can live up to the constant scrutiny and impossible ideals?

      Oddly, it even hurts men who end up thinking they can’t get women who look like “that.”

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