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Ashley Judd Addresses Puffy Face Talk With Op-Ed Piece

Ashley Judd Addresses Puffy Face Talk With Op-Ed Piece

Ashley Judd has taken a stand against the recent comments made about her “puffy face” and has written an op-ed piece, her rep tells

“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… 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 43-year-old actress said in the essay, originally published in the Daily Beast.

“Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place? How, and why, did people participate? If not in the conversation about me, in parallel ones about women in your sphere? What is the gloating about?” Ashley added.

“A case in point is that this conversation was initially promulgated largely by women; a sad and disturbing fact.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK about the points Ashley Judd brings up??

Click inside to read Ashley‘s entire piece…

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.

As an actor and woman who, at times, avails herself of the media, I am painfully aware of the conversation about women’s bodies, and it frequently migrates to my own body. I know this, even though my personal practice is to ignore what is written about me. I do not, for example, read interviews I do with news outlets. I hold that it is none of my business what people think of me. I arrived at this belief after first, when I began working as an actor 18 years ago, reading everything. I evolved into selecting only the “good” pieces to read. Over time, I matured into the understanding that good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations. I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself. I thus abstain from all media about myself. The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself, my personal integrity, and my relationship with my Creator. Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that.

However, the recent speculation and accusations in March feel different, and my colleagues and friends encouraged me to know what was being said. Consequently, I choose to address it because the conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. 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.

A brief analysis demonstrates that the following “conclusions” were all made on the exact same day, March 20, about the exact same woman (me), looking the exact same way, based on the exact same television appearance. The following examples are real, and come from a variety of (so-called!) legitimate news outlets (such as HuffPo, MSNBC, etc.), tabloid press, and social media:

One: When I am sick for more than a month and on medication (multiple rounds of steroids), the accusation is that because my face looks puffy, I have “clearly had work done,” with otherwise credible reporters with great bravo “identifying” precisely the procedures I allegedly have had done.

Two: When my skin is nearly flawless, and at age 43, I do not yet have visible wrinkles that can be seen on television, I have had “work done,” with media outlets bolstered by consulting with plastic surgeons I have never met who “conclude” what procedures I have “clearly” had. (Notice that this is a “back-handed compliment,” too—I look so good! It simply cannot possibly be real!)

Three: When my 2012 face looks different than it did when I filmed Double Jeopardy in 1998, I am accused of having “messed up” my face (polite language here, the F word is being used more often), with a passionate lament that “Ashley has lost her familiar beauty audiences loved her for.”

Four: When I have gained weight, going from my usual size two/four to a six/eight after a lazy six months of not exercising, and that weight gain shows in my face and arms, I am a “cow” and a “pig” and I “better watch out” because my husband “is looking for his second wife.” (Did you catch how this one engenders competition and fear between women? How it also suggests that my husband values me based only on my physical appearance? Classic sexism. We won’t even address how extraordinary it is that a size eight would be heckled as “fat.”)

Five: In perhaps the coup de grace, when I am acting in a dramatic scene in Missing—the plot stating I am emotionally distressed and have been awake and on the run for days—viewers remarks ranged from “What the f–k did she do to her face?” to cautionary gloating, “Ladies, look at the work!” Footage from “Missing” obviously dates prior to March, and the remarks about how I look while playing a character powerfully illustrate the contagious and vicious nature of the conversation. The accusations and lies, introduced to the public, now apply to me as a woman across space and time; to me as any woman and to me as every woman.

That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.

A case in point is that this conversation was initially promulgated largely by women; a sad and disturbing fact. (That they are professional friends of mine, and know my character and values, is an additional betrayal.)

News outlets with whom I do serious work, such as publishing op-eds about preventing HIV, empowering poor youth worldwide, and conflict mineral mining in Democratic Republic of Congo, all ran this “story” without checking with my office first for verification, or offering me the dignity of the opportunity to comment. It’s an indictment of them that they would even consider the content printable, and that they, too, without using time-honored journalistic standards, would perpetuate with un-edifying delight such blatantly gendered, ageist, and mean-spirited content.

I hope the sharing of my thoughts can generate a new conversation: Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place? How, and why, did people participate? If not in the conversation about me, in parallel ones about women in your sphere? What is the gloating about? What is the condemnation about? What is the self-righteous alleged “all knowing” stance of the media about? How does this symbolize constraints on girls and women, and encroach on our right to be simply as we are, at any given moment? How can we as individuals in our private lives make adjustments that support us in shedding unconscious actions, internalized beliefs, and fears about our worthiness, that perpetuate such meanness? What can we do as families, as groups of friends? Is what girls and women can do different from what boys and men can do? What does this have to do with how women are treated in the workplace?

I ask especially how we can leverage strong female-to-female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women. It doesn’t actually matter if we are aging naturally, or resorting to surgical assistance. We experience brutal criticism. The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others—and in my case, to the actual public. (I am also aware that inevitably some will comment that because I am a creative person, I have abdicated my right to a distinction between my public and private selves, an additional, albeit related, track of highly distorted thinking that will have to be addressed at another time).

If this conversation about me is going to be had, I will do my part to insist that it is a feminist one, because it has been misogynistic from the start. Who makes the fantastic leap from being sick, or gaining some weight over the winter, to a conclusion of plastic surgery? Our culture, that’s who. The insanity has to stop, because as focused on me as it appears to have been, it is about all girls and women. In fact, it’s about boys and men, too, who are equally objectified and ridiculed, according to heteronormative definitions of masculinity that deny the full and dynamic range of their personhood. It affects each and every one of us, in multiple and nefarious ways: our self-image, how we show up in our relationships and at work, our sense of our worth, value, and potential as human beings. Join in—and help change—the Conversation.

Just Jared on Facebook
Credit: Dario Cantatore; Photos: Getty
Posted to: Ashley Judd

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  • ColinG

    Why is she so offended, her face is puffy!

  • hahah

    Amen Sister! her point is so what if it was puffy!! it then moved to “she has had plastic surgery” it’s insane.

  • Ghost

    She’s an idiot !!!

  • ha ha

    I can’t imagine either why anyone would speculate that a celeb just got plastic surgery?

    Yea, right…………..

    No need for a novel, Ashley

  • Gossipgirl

    I like Ashley. However, she is misdirecting her wrath. Hollywood is responsible for this image of women; the same Hollywood that is staunchly liberal. Hollywood objectifies women, over sexualities women and makes it impossible for a woman in the business to age gracefully. She needs to take this up with the President at his next Hollywood fundraiser, which is coming up soon. There is just too much lip service about women’s right. Why was Hillary not nominated? Because at the end of the day, the establishment still preferred a man to a woman. Think about it…..

  • okay

    When I was working on my dissertation my faculty advisor told me over and over to subscribe to the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid) that folks that use big azz words are not trying to convince you of their position moreso trying to flash what a smarty pants they are……..this has nothing to do with tearing down women Ashley, it has everything to do with your excess, no one is going to read all that crap

  • kami

    “promulgated”??? really? to summarize, she’s pissed off cause ppl noticed she got a face lift. duh!!!!

  • hello

    This is a case of plastic surgeons, doctors, and other beauty professionals not telling of the side effects of new treatments. Yeah, they may look glowing and amazing for a while(jen aniston) from their new facials, and poof, the face goes puffy(this judd puff), double chins appear(lindsay lohan) and woohoo soon we can see everybody who did a new treatment go puff in a year or so. Lets just hope the things these ladies get pumped into their faces in small doses does not do a more horrible lasting effect than all that new puffy we see around.
    Get the truth. Dont do new treatments. Botox and all other newer stuff are actually relatively untried and long term side effects yet to be seen. But the puffy faces are already here, obviously.

  • Lena

    I think she could have wrapped all that up in a couple of sentences but I do get her point. It’s ridiculous for people to nit pick at her or anyone else’s appearance like that. People aren’t robots they’ll change or go through things. So what if her face is a little puffy she’s still cute as a button and still making money off of it. She should have just told them to shove it and worry about what what’s looking back at ‘them’ in the mirror.

  • Ava

    She could’ve just said, “I didn’t get botox” or “i’m old, it’s part of aging… oh yeah, do you remember that I studied at an Ivy-league school?”

  • Elle

    I love Ashley and don’t think her face is all that puffy.
    Lindsay Lohan on the other hand… now THAT is a puffer face!

  • shove it Ashley Judd

    Does this bich not remember calling Winona fat, always on her case about being overweight. Ashley is mentally disturbed on top of being a liar.

  • Missy

    Her point is valid. She’ s right in that talk about women is externalized and objectified, which reduces women’s personhood. It’s a sad fact that women have to deal with everywhere. However, it’s nowhere as apparent as in Hollywood, where every little detail about a woman’s look is dissected.

  • Dora

    You are in show business, it’s about how you look. Don’t balloon and expect to not to catch heat. No one wants to see big people on screen!

  • B Warden

    “That the conversation about my face was initially promulgated largely by women is a sad and disturbing fact.”

    And completely undermines the charge of misogyny.

  • The Real Emma

    People are getting sick and tired of seeing actresses jack up there faces.

  • Catherine Anderson

    Thank you, Ms. Judd. Your article is thoughtfully written. That you are willing to cite your own experiences as examples lends insight and credibility. I was struck by your observation that patriarchy requires the participation of both genders. Your point reinforces my own belief that as women, we are responsible for how we participate, support, or otherwise enable the objectification of females.

    I have respected your past work as an actor, and admired your choice in roles, particularly in protraying people who are strong and determined … and who happen to be female.

  • From Paris with Love

    What a sudden opportunistic feminist. Didn’t complain about Hollywood and society when her very same beauty, slimness and youth provided her movie roles, did she? That’s quite easy to hate the game once you’re no longer a coveted player.
    It sucks but it is what it is and maybe she would serve her cause better if she showed the world she doesn’t give a crap what people think about her looks instead of writing a huge essay about it. There will always be Judy Denches and Demi Moores anyway…

  • Str84NOH8

    Gotta love the catty comments to her piece about toxic negativity and judgment. Way to miss the freakin’ point! I’ve come to the conclusion that at least one of the circles of hell is made up of online comments sections. Sheesh.

  • Kate

    Most comments miss the point. She is stating that instead of viewing her as a whole person, full of successes and failures, we tend to scrutinize the minutiae. For example, if a woman has no visible wrinkles she must have had work done. The point she is trying to make is, SO WHAT!! We are not just wrinkles and puffy faces – we are women who have achieved much both personally and professionally and still we are visually dissected and are told that we should feel bad about ourselves if people don’t think we are attractive. This is, of course, nonsense and educated women like Ashley know that but they are still picked apart for every tiny little flaw – as illustrated by many of the comments here. For example, Kathy Bates is a stunning actress – I love watching her act and I don’t care that she is not a size 0. Both of these women are far more talented and far more watchable on screen than most of the size 0 dimwits posing through scenes that are written to appeal to the people who think it’s vitally important to post comments that Ashley Judd is puffy.

    We have come a long way baby, but not far enough. More power to you Ms. Judd.

  • OK.

    stop reading your own gossip, idiot.

  • M

    So she didn’t do anything to her face? I don’t care if a woman has gained weight or whatever, but it looks like she got a face lift or something. Nothing else.

  • Polly

    Ashley, if you make your living in the public eye, don’t be surprised if they hold you up to scrutiny. You had work done. It showed. Get over yourself already.

  • Dave Franco

    This article was not written by Ashley, it was written by the gossip kings to start up shit no one cares.

  • kami

    i think the long comments of approval on here are written my miss ashley herself.

  • JC

    When I first saw her on the commercials for her new show, my initial thought was, is everything ok with her. Her face looks nothing like plastic surgery – it looks a lot like someone who is on steroids or some other medication that might cause edema. She has no visible indications of surgery and I think it’s utter garbage that everyone would jump to that conclusion.

    To those of you saying things like “no one wants to see big people,” and “you had work done, get over it,” how about you just stfu. What gives you the right to go around spitting vitriol at others? I’d like to see you say that to someone’s face in the light of day instead of hiding behind your keyboard. And, if you’re actually willing to say such idiotic, mean, lame things in the light of day, I’m happy to shun you publicly for your lack of class and inability to be a compassionate human.

  • Ze

    Hi ashley, you should by now learn how to play the game. Do not respond, do not participate. Period. The rule of the game is all willl be forgoten in 2 days IF you do not respond but if you do, it will get drag on. Maybe you want it to be drag on. Maybe.

  • stainless steel cookware set

    Valid point.

  • kitchen

    she looks good to me..

  • janewhite34345345345

    You may try to change your life now even the life before is well. But many people want to have another new found, a new kind of d-atin-g fe-eli-ng ~~ BillionaireFriends*C’O'M is a great pl-ace for sing-les to get to know each other, and talk about religion, work, sports, life, relat-ionsh\ip, or more. you can meet your true love, it’s worthy a try…Life is lonely and sometimes even boring. You may need a fresh thing to excite your mind. I can assure you that your will be ha-ppy he-re

  • alaia

    Calm down lady, nobody cares that much

  • shame

    welcome to the club Ashley! sitting on one’s a** and blogging cutting people down all day (particularly women) is at an all time high as is bullying. Women are the worst. I personally can care less about plastic surgery who did what why …worry about your own selves people!!!! get a life too!


    Very well-written piece. I’ve always said “the enemy of feminists are not men, but other women.” At this point, heterosexual women constitute the majority of misogynists, with their vitriol directed towards the “other” of their own gender. Competition among females for men turns women against each other, that and the subconscious fear in the female psyche that they are or might become like the ‘other’ (fat, ugly, whatever), or – what I believe might be a modern twist – that the ‘other’ has somehow escaped judgement because their intelligence (Hillary Clinton), their personality (Ellen Degeneres), their heart (Mother Teresa) has precluded them from it.
    Women participate in their own subjugation when they use their beauty as their means of production, when they become a commodity on the market to be bought and sold. And as horrible as it is for Ashley to admit it, she has been a part of that enterprise by becoming an actress. Actresses and models depend upon their looks to get parts, and unfortunately, this puts them in a hypocritical position. It’s safe to say that Winona did not get where she is because of her looks; Ashley, on the other hand…
    The only thing Ashley can do is admit she has been a part of the very mechanism that reduces women to their surface flesh, that enslaves girls and teens with unrealistic expectations, and that has undone every good thing feminists have been trying to do, which is to free women from the bondage of grossly deformed cultural expectations. Admit, apologize and then be converted to helping women out of their own willing enslavement to what has been patriarchal expectations.

  • Rocky


    WHY DON’T YOU GO AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU’RE A COMPLETE ASS!!!!!!!

  • Rocky


    AMEN! AMEN!!

  • Mlllllle

    Well Said !
    Now maybe that Jared agree with that and will stop showing each week someone “post baby debut”. What a stupid and vomiting way to respect a woman who just gave birth.

  • Mimi

    Beautiful women in Hollywood are only interested in entering this conversation when they get older and are no longer seen as perfect. Where was her outrage 10 or 15 years ago when the sentiment about her in this “conversation” was just about how gorgeous and thin she was?

  • Cruizin596

    @hello: Ashley Judd’s puffy face is the direct result of prescribed steroids. Given in large enough doses – it can make someone’s entire body “puffy”. Steroids are prescribed for a number of reasons – inflammatory diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis; skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis (it is even given for allergic reactions, ie poisin ivy is treated with cortisone cream – a steroid); breast cancer; anemia; osteoporosis; asthma; colitis and heart disease. She looks like someone who has been given steroids. Lay off of her – she is a beautiful woman.

  • in love

    Poor Ashley, it really doesn’t help her case when her mother and sister are both addicted to plastic surgery.

  • annie

    while i don’t disagree with the general message, i don’t need a lecture from a women who makes a living based largely on what she looks like. her line of work does nothing to advance women; if anything, it perpetuates the stereotypes that anger her.

    i also find it annoying that she claims that it is mostly women who are criticizing her. how would she know that? she appeals to women in one breath, and judges them and condemns them in the next.

    she comes off as arrogant here, and way too long-winded. we don’t need an essay on your annoyance with people wondering about your puffy face. why wouldn’t people wonder??

  • willanka

    I can’t believe how much she has changed. My mom and I used to thought she looks familiar to Angelina Jolie. Now not so much.

  • ninitos

    She criticizes the obsession with appearance but by “puffing” her face she’s just playing the Hollywood game!
    And how does she know mainly women criticized her (obviously too pillowy) face? Did she analyze all the comments made about it?

  • kit

    Whatever happened to short and concise. I wanted to hear her feelings on the subject, no read a dissertation.

  • Cynthia

    Most of Hollywood may be liberal, but, boy, oh, boy, are they not feminist. Most movies are made by men and for men (or boys). Most movies have only one or two female characters at most, and usually those female characters are young, attractive, and scantily clad. Even if Hollywood creates a movie with two or more female characters in it, they rarely talk to each other: they’re only there to provide relational support to men.

    It kinda sucks, actually. Especially if you’re a woman over thirty-five: you rarely see positive or even simply complex characters reflecting your demographic.

  • david

    I had trouble following the article because her pic with the puffy face kept distracting me

  • Susan stull

    I think u look very beautiful,You are fearfully and wonderfully,made in his image,Our Creator,of the Universe,You continue to grow and prosper,Your amazing,extraodinary,star,font put up with their bullshit,I don’t,Keep moving forward,Hopefully,Ill see u at the next Kentucky game?

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