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Ashley Judd Makes Me Think About My Own Body Issues by Amy

This post originally appeared on my blog

As an aging woman with body image issues, I couldn’t resist clicking on this title when I saw it on Facebook the other day: “Ashley Judd Slaps Media in the Face for Speculation Over Her ‘Puffy’ Appearance.” I applaud Ashley for her cutting examination of the press’ objectification of women and especially of the women in the media who participate and, therefore, perpetuate the problem. I admire Ashley for speaking out, and I must admit she made me ashamed not only of the media — which is nothing new —  but she also made me ashamed of myself. Ashamed for making those kinds of comments while watching the Red Carpet reports and while thumbing through fashion magazines. Ashamed of my own fight with body issues for as long as I can remember and, mostly, ashamed of the harsh thoughts I constantly and consistently unleash on myself.

I am both a victim of and participant in what Ashley describes as the “assault on all women.” I can and do blame the media, the fashion industry, Hollywood, and every advisor, director or movement teacher who ever publicly humiliated me by talking about my looks in a disparaging manner, summing me up as no more than a collection of physical characteristics that do not fit into the limited idea of the aspirational American beauty. But I also need to accept some of the blame myself. For believing them. For taking those comments and images to heart. And mostly for seeing myself the way they saw me, the way all the outside sources trained me to see myself and my mother before me and my daughters after me for what we are NOT instead of what we are.

Ashley puts it quite well when she writes, “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.”

I have to ask myself, “Do we do it just because we are so used to hearing it, reading it, seeing it on TV? How did this happen to us? Why do we let it continue? Why can’t we stop ourselves?” For, if we can’t stop ourselves, if we can’t muster the Ashley Judd in ourselves, then how can we expect others to stop? I’ve had four conversations in the last few days with different women of different ages about what was happening to our bodies as we hit “a certain age,” and how disgusted we were with the change. One woman was in her mid 40’s, the others in their mid 50’s. Each of these women are intelligent, capable, educated, accomplished strong women in many areas of their lives — but not in this area.

I can rationalize the reasons for my own weakness at every age and stage of my life. And this age is no different. At this age, I see my reaction as sad more than weak. Sad that I have wasted so much time and energy feeling this way. Sad over the passage of time, over the change that is indeed happening, that can no longer be ignored. If I don’t look in a mirror, I don’t know how old I am. I don’t often feel in my head, in my heart, like the almost 50 year old woman that I am. But when I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t see the self I feel, I see the list  … the list that needs tightening, smoothing, whitening, coloring, shaping, minimizing, dieting and there I go again.

I guess I have some work to do. Thank you, Ashley, for speaking out and inspiring me to do the work.


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