Read Ashley Judd’s Thoughtful Response to Personal Attacks About Her Appearance

A sample of headlines related to Ashley Judd’s appearance, from the last month: "WTF happened to Ashley Judd’s face?" "What’s Up With Ashley Judd’s Face?" and, charmingly, "Unfug it up." That women’s appearances are focused on so intensely in the media is not news, but in a newly penned op-ed column for the Daily Beast, Judd addressed how it feels to be at the center of negative attention, and how the conversation needs to be changed. "I hold that it is none of my business what people think of me," she writes. "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."

Going on, Judd makes a number of wide-ranging observations, all of which you should read. I’ve excerpted one of those passages below, which seemed like a particularly wizened view on how the attention comes from all angles.

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.

As Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams points out, the piece isn’t without its flaws, but it’s mostly just quibbling here and there over how self-satisfied she may or may not be. Which, I mean, yeah: She’s an award-winning millionaire actress with an extensive humanitarian background. Saintliness and abnegation of the ego only go so far before the little part in you screaming "I AM AWESOME!!!" just rips out of your skull. Anyways, it’s a really good column that isn’t worth cannibalizing further in block quotes, so just give it a read.

Morning Links: Kim Kardashian Outraged By Cosmo Cover, Ashley Judd Blames Editor for Hip-Hop Comment

● Amanda Bynes tweeted about the death of her four-month-old Pomeranian, Little Angel, last week. “For those asking if it’s too soon for me to get a new puppy, it isn’t too soon,” she wrote, introducing her replacement pup, Tiara, to the twitterverse. [PopEater] ● Kim Kardashian, who has Armenian heritage, wasn’t pleased to find herself on the cover of Turkish Cosmo this month, coinciding with Genocide Remembrance Day. This is not the first time Kim has been upset by a magazine cover bearing her image, though this sort of post pub-date outrage must be good for sales. [TMZ/Kim Kardashian] ● Nicki Minaj puts her clothes on first and then decides on a wig. “Never did I think I would be rocking the Marge Simpson, so shout out to Marge.” [ONTD]

● Drake’s really too young to be looking so old: A look back at his un-raperly sweater collection. Is it time for a new stylist? Oliver, we’re looking at you. [NYM] ● Bloggers beware: Donald Trump is the nastiest line-editor in the game. [VF] ● An excerpt of Ashley Judd’s forthcoming memoir, wherein she calls hip-hop “the contemporary soundtrack to misogyny,” garnered responses from everyone from Questlove to Tyler, the Creator. She’s since apologized via Russell Simmons’ Global Grind site, but she’d like you to know that the offensive slip was her editor’s fault, too: “Thumbs down to all of us for not having the sensitivity and acuity to catch the paragraphs might be hurtful.” One for all and all for one. [AV Club]

Ashley Judd on Battling Depression and Her Political Activism

Ashley Judd is best known for that string of pulp thrillers that always seemed to costar Morgan Freeman (there were, in fact, only two—Kiss the Girls and High Crimes). And while her career has cooled down commercially, the 42-year-old actress is keeping busy these days as a political activist and survivor of and spokesperson against clinical depression. But Judd still makes films. Her latest is Helen, an independent picture from Sandra Nettlebeck in theaters today. In it, she plays the title role, a pale-faced woman who spirals into severe, numbing depression. It’s never easy to watch but compelling throughout. Here is the actress on the challenges of this role, her own struggle with depression, and the importance of activism.

How did you get involved with this film? I was sent the script by my agent and I was making one of my exceedingly rare trips to California. I read the script on the flight and I kept having to get up to go the bathroom to cry. As soon as I landed and I could turn my phone on, I sent my agent’s office an e-mail and requested to send a copy of the script to two of my mentors, both of whom are exceedingly gifted people as well as very gifted clinicians. I wanted them to read the script because my immediate question was, “Can I play the disease without being in the disease?” Neither of them had ever read a screenplay before, but they got in it in the mail very quickly and read it straight away, and both called me back and said, “Ashley, How dare you not?” I thought, “Well, there’s the green light for me. As far as I’m concerned, I have to do this.” I composed an e-mail that was sent to Sandra Nettlebeck. Then, when I got back to Tennessee I heard from her. I was in my husband’s office and we said, “Oh great! It’s from her!” And, I opened the e-mail and she said, “Why did you read the script? I gave that part to someone years ago!”

So, what happened? Well, I first stopped and said the serenity prayer because there are things I am powerless over. My first thought was, “I’m being protected. This is something I was supposed to read and not supposed to do. Things happen for a reason and work out for my highest good. Obviously, I’m going to have some feelings of disappointment, but it is what it is.” Then, we just became e-mail friends and visited back and forth. I believe it was in the Spring. That summer, I guess Sandra just got really tired of trying to make the movie with the other actor. The producer Christine Haebler was on her summer holidays sailing in British Colombia and got a phone call that I was interested. We pulled the movie together literally within weeks.

How did you approach the role? It is such a good script. I approached it as a powerfully written and vividly detailed screenplay with all the information I needed in order to successfully portray the character. I didn’t approach it any differently from any of my other roles.

What do you hope that people will take from this picture? It definitely doesn’t give any easy solutions. I hope that they’re so interested in the movie that someday Sandra has the opportunity to present her real cut of the film. I am telling you: what is in the film you just watched is literally a fraction of what I did in that film.

So what else would we be looking at? There was just so much that was cut! It was a powerful script and there were just more periods of depression and more suicide attempts and some really big relationship stuff. There was some arguing where I’m actually really trying to leave him to protect him from me spewing my disease all over him and he refuses to let me leave. There’s a solid three-hour movie!

So, there’s a good hour more. Oh yeah. I think it’s abusive to talk about a problem without actually talking about a solution. It’s not necessary in this day and age to live isolated in the disease of depression. Mental illness no longer needs to be treated with a sense of secrecy or stigma. There’s a lot effective help that’s available, whether it’s on a short-term basis in a stabilizing ward with appropriate medication prescribed by qualified pharmacologists with really close supervision and then there are different cognitive and behavioral modalities that are increasingly effective. There’s a lot of hope for people with depression.

What other issues are close to your heart now? Well, I’m getting ready to go back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Doing something about gender violence is a major priority of mine. I continue to do international public health work on all fronts– maternal health, child survival, family planning, STD and HIV prevention, malaria prevention and treatment, all the work I’ve been doing with Population Services International for the past seven years. I’m still deeply invested in that.

Do you feel it is your responsibility as a person in a certain position of power and visibility to use that? I don’t pay attention to it. I just do the next good, right thing and try to be of maximum service to the God of my understanding. You know? I don’t do it because I’m an actor. I do it because I’m a human being.

Cuddly Critters Find Friends in Britney Spears & Ashley Judd

imageIt’s a brutal, bloody world out there. And in these tumultuous times, if you’re especially concerned about the welfare of your cuddly four-legged friends — be it the pomegranate-sized rat that lives behind your kitchen sink (good morning, Hester!) or the alley cat that trails you to your favorite bar — it should come as a grand relief to know that the full force of the Hollywood elite is out there, advocating for animals’ rights. Titans like pop star/memoirist Britney Spears and Ashley Judd are both in the tank for critterhood.

On her Circus Tour, Spears is refraining from using animals. PETA is quite ecstatic at Spears’ animal-friendly creativity, boasting that it may even compare to Cirque du Soleil productions. Everyone quick to heap praise on the star’s pro-animal tendencies should consider this. Perhaps it was the same companies, happy to supply Barnum & Bailey, who were withholding pachyderms from the popstrel. But this is all considering that the show actually happens.

Judd, meanwhile, has embraced a much more ambitious undertaking. She’s become the new face of the anti-hunting movement. This is much to the trigger-happy dismay of Sarah Palin You-Know-Who. To her further dismay, Judd, along with the Defenders of Wildlife, have taken aim on the Alaskan governor, alleging that now that she’s been denied access to the Oval Office, You-Know-Who has returned to her favorite pastime of aerial wolf-hunting. In the video, Judd says that a $150 bounty has been placed on each severed wolf leg, among other facts. Worse yet for You-Know-Who is this website — also endorsed by the Defenders of Wildlife — dedicated to curbing her anti-critter instincts.

But naturally, all of this has been refuted. “Our predator control programs are scientific and successful at protecting vulnerable wildlife,” gripes the Governor. “Shame on the Defenders of Wildlife for twisting the truth in an effort to raise funds from innocent and hard-pressed Americans struggling with these rough economic times.” But if her logic is to be believed, then I too am a hard-pressed American struggling with these rough economic times. And being so, the only way that I can cope with this blustery shit-storm is by renting out a chopper, loading a hunting rifle, and trolling the seedier back roads of my neighborhood, calling out Hester’s name.