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Ashley Judd’s Puffy Face and Being a Good Role Model for Girls

April 17, 2012

For those who missed it, Ashley Judd had a pretty bad sinus infection last month. You might not think the state of her health is particularly newsworthy, and you’d be right, but the puffy face she got from treating the infection with steroids is a different story.

Her fuller-than-usual face happened to coincide with a media appearance, which was bad luck for her because the gossip blogs and people on Twitter and even supposed news sites like MSNBC reporte on her face, with many volunteering their opinion as amateur celebrity plastic surgery experts: Ashley had work done. Probably botched cheek implants.

Judd chose to set the record straight in an op-ed for the Daily Beast, clearing up the cheek filler rumors and, amazingly, turning the whole thing into a feminist conversation. Now the same sites that were running judgy accusations of plastic surgery are quoting her editorial and doing interviews with the actress.

Judd writes that she felt compelled to respond because the chatter about her face 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.” If you want proof look at the HD makeup for sale at Sephora or see how carefully young girls prep and pose for Facebook photos. As Randye Hoder pointed out in Motherlode last month, 13-year-old girls now feel they have to look their best anywhere they might be photographed—which is just about anywhere.

My favorite part of Judd’s editorial is her acknowledgement that misogyny should not be blamed on men. Men might participate, but women are generally the ones pushing these public takedowns. The “puffy face” gossip was largely reported by women, on sites that target women, and women wrote most of the scathing comments I read online. And, sadly, some women’s sites like The Stir continue to accuse the actress of plastic surgery, even now. In her op-ed Judd writes that we need to “leverage strong female-to-female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women,” and she’s absolutely right. We’re sending an awful message to our daughters and to ourselves every time we contribute to objectifying gossip.

What Ashley Judd has done with her op-ed and subsequent interviews is impressive and fairly unprecedented. It’s refreshing to see a celebrity who wants to be a real role model for girls and isn’t afraid to use the word “feminism.” Hopefully the conversation that Judd has started will stick around. To keep things going the actress is asking people to share their own “puffy face moments” to the Daily Beast. I think people will have a lot to say.

Tagged with: Pop Culture, Sex and Gender
Rachel Ehmke
Rachel Ehmke is a freelance writer and the former managing editor at the Child Mind Institute. She holds a BA … Read Bio