Tag Archives: Ashley Judd

Women’s History Month 2013: Ashley Judd

11 Mar

Ashley-JuddToday we honor and celebrate a powerful woman who embraces the term feminist and stands strong against double standards. Ashley Tyler Ciminella was born in California in 1968 to Naomi and Michael Ciminella. By the time she was in school, her parents had split and her mother took her and her half-sister Wynonna back to her home in Kentucky. The girls were raised with their mother’s birth name, Judd.

Ashley attended a number of schools, graduated, and went to the University of Kentucky. She studied French and women’s studies, including a semester abroad, while she began to develop an interest in acting. Rather than graduating with her class, she drove to L.A. and worked as a waitress while she looked for acting jobs. She found some television work (including a stint on Sisters opposite Swoosie Kurtz) and quickly picked up movie roles. She has worked steadily as an actor for two decades.

During that time, she developed a passion for activism and civil rights. She is an active member of the Board of YouthAIDS. In her travels for that organization she became increasingly aware of the global problems of poverty and has worked tirelessly to engage with organizations and leaders dedicated to broad political and social change. She has worked with Women for Women International and Equality Now and in 2011 joined the Leadership Council of the International Center for Research on Women.

Fully aware of how Hollywood treats older actresses, she also continued her formal education, receiving a a Master in Public Administration degree (MPA) from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2010. As a well-known celebrity with strong opinions, Judd has frequently come under fire by the Right and the press. She takes what comes and fires back, brilliantly using any attacks as an opportunity to expose hypocrisy and patriarchy.

Judd has indicated some interest in running for the U.S. Senate; she would oppose Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) in the 2014 election if she runs. The Teahadists are so afraid of her strong, smart presence that they’ve already started the attacks. Karl Rove is running context-free quotes in ads that slam her as an “out-of-touch Hollywood elitist”–elitist theatre, white power and privileged, sounds like Rand Paul to me. Conservative e-rag Daily Caller ran an ugly piece attacking her for having nude scenes in some of her movies. (Strange that Scott Brown’s centerfold spread didn’t seem to matter to them…)

Judd takes it all in stride, simply repeating that she is a feminist and a progressive and that her values translate well to what the people of Kentucky need.  Given the hollow grandstanding exhibited by McConnell’s junior counterpart, Rand Paul, someone with real values and a dedication to justice would be a welcome addition. The idea of a Sen. Judd joining Sens. Gillibrand, Warren, and Baldwin is pretty exciting.

No matter what she chooses to do next, we can count on Ashley Judd to stand up for women and for the marginalized everywhere.

Ashley Judd Tackles Patriarchy

11 Apr

Today it’s a pleasure to celebrate the words of a woman who clearly understands our world, misogyny, and its power structures. I’ve found Ashley Judd to be a strong voice for social justice, surprisingly so given her upbringing and fairly vapid relatives. A strong advocate for youth empowerment, a voice for HIV education and prevention, and an activist against exploitative mining practices, this ardent feminist has a powerful voice that needs to be heard!

When she was recently attacked in the media for daring to look “puffy” during an interview, Judd spoke out. The whole article is required reading, serving as a brilliant indictment of the power of patriarchy. She starts with a smart analysis of the fact that most of what poses as journalism is attack pieces and pop culture obsession. Dismantling the 24-hour frenzy on her puffiness, she notes that she was attacked both for possibly having had plastic surgery AND for not doing enough to improve her appearance on TV. That one interview led to reporters picking apart her every appearance (including scenes shot when she was in character for a show), leading Judd to observe:

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.

Building on these observations, Judd smartly observes that many of the attacks came from women, demonstrating an ugly internalized misogyny:

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.

She then clearly articulates why she chose to use this personal public moment to start a conversation and makes a call to action:

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?… 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?… Is what girls and women can do different from what boys and men can do? … 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.

It’s also worth noting that Judd is healthy enough to generally ignore the press pieces about her. She understands her own power and privilege and knows that irresponsible journalism is a consequence of that position. Brava, Ashley Judd, for taking this opportunity to craft a brilliant teachable moment about larger issues and how we must evolve as a society to ever achieve true equality.  Brava, Ms. Judd!

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