This is a beautifully-written essay by Ashley Judd, in response to criticisms of her appearance. Now, more than ever, women are judged and defined by how they look–both by themselves and others. I am sad to say that I also grew up in an environment where one “type” of appearance (i.e., thin and “pretty”) is preferred over another (i.e., full and “ordinary”), and with this being the case, I have also imbibed this kind of mentality. I have mentioned in a previous post that for a long time I was not at peace with my body and my self… and because I didn’t know otherwise, I tried to make up for my insecurities by bashing other people–especially women–through their appearances as well.
That is what make this cycle especially vicious–because women themselves participate in it. Catch two women in conflict with each other at a particularly bad time, and you’ll find that the “best” weapon in their arsenal is a well-aimed remark about the other’s physical appearance. Lord knows, I have made a lot of degrading comments in my lifetime.
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.
I am working hard to change this mentality of mine. It’s a huge challenge, and there are many roadblocks ahead of me… so I am thankful when public figures like Ashley Judd step up to the plate and call everyone out on their role in spreading such a damaging way of thought. Women have fought–and continue to fight–for gender equality, but how can we truly win that war when we ourselves keep bringing each other down?