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April 10, 2012

Ashley Judd: I Blame The Patriarchy For The Nasty Things Women and Gay Men Are Saying About My Puffy Face

Ashley Judd's face is puffy.

Did you know that? I did not. This is an important point. I did not know her face was puffy, and if you are a straight man, I'm betting you did not either.

As a member of The Patriarchy in good standing, I did not know this. I did not know about her puffy face. Even if I had known about her puffy face, I would not have remarked on it, as Ashley Judd is not relevant enough for a guy to discuss.

But she is relevant enough for the gossip blogs to discuss.

And who writes and reads the gossip blogs? Pardon me for indulging in stereotype, but it's not "The Patriarchy." It is women and gay men, well-nigh exclusively.

I've actually been meaning to ask about the gossip blogs -- like, why? I know a lot of women read them, women who consider themselves cultured and above tawdry nonsense in The Star or whatever.

Gossip blogs transmit the exact same crap in The Star and the rest of them, but they package it in a "Gee We're So Above this Silly Shit" and add a bit of ironic distance via snark.

And this serves as an adequate bit of self-deception for the consumers of these sites. They want to read this trivial nonsense; they just want someone to pretend they're all Above It, so they can enjoy it.

Look, if you're reading this trivial stuff, that's fine and all. I read about embarrassing stuff at night too (like, what's the design philosophy behind the new D&D? No seriously, that's not a joke, it's a confession-- many people have a soft spot for silly crap.)

But own it, damnit. If you're reading crap culled from The Star, even if some idiot blogger with the screenname Napoleon Cellulite is digesting it for you with some add-on f-bombs and insults, you're actually reading The Star.

Anyway, this is a bit of a tangent, but I note it to reinforce my point: Straight men do not read this crap and further are actively hostile to it. Even if "Napoleon Cellulite" does add so much lovely snark to an article on Beach Body Bombs culled from The Globe.

And right now, I guess, they're talking about the Mystery of the Puffy Face.

And why would someone be talked about simply because we know, vaguely, who they are? Well, I think it's just the childhood urge to pick out the One Who's Different and say mean things about her, to create a bond among the people saying cruel things, and to "lift" them while putting the object of their Two Minute Hate down.

It's playground baiting and social dominance bullying, adapted for adults, and adapted for adults who are strangers to each other and who thus do not know the same "normal people." As they don't know the same "normal people" to gossip about and be cruel to, they need to find some people who are constructively part of their Social Group; and celebrities fit the bill.

No, we don't really know them per se, but we've seen them, we know their names, and we know a bit of their work. So they will serve the purpose of the Ugly Girl/The Girl With Braces who Gleeps When She Talks/The Slut/The Girl Whose Boobs Grew Too Early/The Girl Whose Boobs Are Growing Too Late.

And the point is that this is not really a trait of "The Patriarchy." Men do this, yes, but not as much. We don't need to seek out the Girl Bullying-Session Playground in our adult lives. Oh sure we'll do it on occasion, but we don't really seek it out.

We are cruel as it comes to us.

So that's my thought on the curious need for otherwise smart, mature, cultured women to seek out material that seems to me to be absolutely trivial dreck and cruelty for the sake of cruelty alone.

Adult men have told me they like this site because they get to do something here they don't do much since they were 8th graders: Riff on the same joke, over and over, varying it, pushing it, morphing it. And that's fun as hell. I miss that 8th grade pleasure, the riff that goes on until it stops being funny (and then starts being funny again), and so I am glad that I have an outlet, as an adult, to indulge in this pleasure.

So it's my guess that women are attracted to the gossip blogs for similar reason. You're not supposed to indulge in pointless cruelty as an adult; do it too often in your actual life and you'll probably find your social options declining.

But you can enjoy a bit of this via some pointless venting at the bad plastic surgery choices of, I don't know, whoever. Lindsey Lohan, right? She's relevant. (Well, not really, she doesn't work anymore, but she did up to like five years ago, so I guess in gossip that makes her a Currently Super-Hot Celebrity.)

My point really isn't to judge. If this is as I think it is, it is certainly understandable from a psychological perspective. We have certain animal sentiments which are coached out of us through culturalization and maturation, but they never really go away.

I often think that human psychology is pretty simple, if you understand that we're all selfish, immature, position-seeking little animals like we were in 7th grade, just with superstructures of maturity and sophistication tacked on in somewhat rickety fashion. But, look past the superstructure, and the basic engine and hull are the same as they were when we were Little Monsters.

So I'm not really bashing women. I get why this happens. People are people, and there's no changing that.

But I repeat my point: This is a Girl thing, which a lot of gay men join in on.

People theorize -- and I think they're right -- that man participate in sports and games as a socially-benign method of channeling their own need to assert dominance and act, basically, like assholes.

If women want less of the catty gossip game, they need to look within themselves -- is there some more socially-positive manner by which the primal, pre-pubescent urge to assert social dominance can be satisfied? Like something competitive, but not cruelly so -- I don't know, like a nice game of Bridge? (Before any feminists whine that I'm suggesting something horrible -- I love bridge, dummies. I'm giving you a recommendation, not an insult. Bridge is fun.)

So why does Ashley Judd write in a faux-sophisticated manner to claim that The Patriarchy lies behind all her Puffy Face Travails?

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.

"The Conversation." Something to control women. As you'll see, it's created by The Patriarchy.

Seriously? I can't imagine the last time I thought about Ashley Judd, nevermind the last time I had The Conversation about her face or body or whatever.

Little secret: Men don't have The Conversation about most women. They have The Conversation about women they specifically think are hot or near-hot. They argue about who is hot and who is not hot.

But the point is, you sort of have to be in the mix of People Who Might Arguably Be Hot to have The Conversation centered around you.

They don't have The Conversation about fading actresses, you know.

Straight men have never discussed Oprah's weight fluctuations. Because she was never hot.

Ditto Carnie Wilson. Guys do not talk about Carnie Wilson. Women do.

Christina Aguilera? Maybe. She was hot once. Maybe getting there again.

I know this is a cruel thing, but men's cruelty really consists of saying nothing at all, doesn't it?

It's really a woman thing to knock the looks of someone who isn't really a stand-out in the first place.

I'm not trying to say Men Are Better. I'm trying to say Men Are Different, and we are not sitting here worrying about Ashley Judd's puffy face.

Now, if Megan Fox got bad plastic surgery, we'd notice, and say something.

Ashley Judd?

Sorry, that's a woman thing.

After discussing The Conversation about her Puffy Face, and the various speculations about what is causing it (which I didn't read, because I don't care), she gets to villain.

That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient.

They are not "joining" it; they are driving it. They are well-nigh the sole participants.

Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate.

She's determined to rope me into this.

I did not notice the Puffy Face and still, as I write this, have not bothered to look fro a picture showing your allegedly Puffy Face.

I do not care.

Women care. Not men.

So this particular expression of The Patriarchy seems to be of a very strange sort -- the women-only Patriarchy.

It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women.

No, it's about women cutting on other women to make themselves feel better about their own flaws.

It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it.

Like right now. Because women are not "engaging in it." They are driving it. Men don't care about Ashley Judd.

I can't stress this enough.

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.

This is one of those times.

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


And now The Volokh Conspiracy has joined in, eh? Clayton Cramer is now writing about the Great Puffy Face Controversy of 2012, huh?


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?

I just told you. It's an extension of the primitive need to assert social dominance among women. Boys tend to do the cruelty stuff too, but boy's cruelty is ultimately physical -- beating. Cruelty of words first, but then cruelty of action.

Because any cruelty with men could ultimately result in violence, there's usually a Line that isn't crossed, and if it is, other men usually step in (acting essentially as "seconds" in a duel) to negotiate a non-violent resolution. (If there is no intervention or ritualized face-saving, or an abject retreat by a guy who knows he's about to get his ass kicked, we'll have an outbreak of violence, which is men's inborn flaw.)

Because physical violence is atypical in women, it tends to remain in the verbal cruelty phase, but also, as there is little threat of an outbreak of violence, it can get a lot crueler than it does between men.

I'm sorry, but if you're as intelligent a woman and as strong a thinker as you pretend to be, you're going to have to incorporate this into your theory, and stop attempting to shirk blame off by conjuring up an imaginary The Patriarchy obsessing about your Puffy Face.

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?

Well that's just them playing the same Playground Cruelty Games I was talking about. They have the biggest microphones, so they can drown out others' attempts to challenge them just by turning the speaker up to 10.


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

In terms of verbal cruelty, yes.

What does this have to do with how women are treated in the workplace?

Your Puffy Face? I don't know. Probably not a lot.

But look -- it's not really a Big Secret that women start playing Queen Bee power games with each other almost immediately, is it?

Every guy knows this. The moment after you and your lady depart from a meeting another female... Well, now is the time we're going to discuss that woman's flaws, isn't it?

Our contribution (as members of The Patriarchy) is usually limited to polite agreement like, "You're right, dear, she does comport herself like a shameless trollop from Whore College."

Be serious. "The Patriarchy" is not driving that particular post-mortem.


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.


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.

It is misogynistic. And it is also feminist.

Because feminism is largely about shifting blame from the self to a vague "Other." And thus, blame-shifted, no personal responsibility need be taken for it, and the phenomenon continues.

It's yet another bit of primitive coding which mature people have to confront and control. Men have it. Women have it.

Women need to recognize it, not make up feel-good stories to justify it/excuse it.

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.

No, not "our culture" generally. A specific part of the culture -- a part of the culture straight men have precious little to do with.


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.

Okay, I did. But I suspect that my input into "The Conversation" won't be received well, as it does not satisfy the actual urge of the Playground Mean Girls Bullying Game -- the rules of that game are to increase the bonding/self-worth/social status of the In Group, the group which is controlling the game and which has the numbers, by piling abuse and humiliation on the Out Group, which is smaller in number.

The "Out Group" in the game Ashley Judd wishes to play is "The Patriarchy," and she's lining up the Mean Girls to dump on them.

The actual way to exit the game -- to end the cruelty -- is to stop searching out desperately for external tormentors -- communal scapegoats -- and look within.

This is so elemental I'm surprised I have to say it. From the beginning of sophisticated human thought-- back to the Greeks, even before -- the general idea has usually been "stop seeking to pile blame on to others; look within yourself to find if you are contributing to the behavior you condemn. Seek to change yourself before trying to change others.

I dislike like Feminism, as currently conceived, primarily due to something besides its political ramifications (which are, frankly, minor).

I dislike it because it's always seemed to me to be so immature, self-absorbed, and trivial.

When I consider great philosophical movements, I do not conceive them as primarily concerned with "getting people to stop talking smack about me."

Nietzsche is not remembered for the aphorism: "I'm big and I'm beautiful, maybe you just can't handle a full-figured woman!!!"

And the great philosophies are largely about the journey inward -- discovering one's own flaws and biases and selfish and cruel impulses.

The great philosophies are supremely not about identifying an external boogeyman and blaming all of "society's" ills on that boogeyman.

That's just cheap demagoguery.

This is my problem with feminism, as currently conceived by most women: Whereas other philosophies demand something hard -- tough introspection, a change of life in accordance with the product of that introspection, etc. -- feminism (as currently conceived) seems to be little more than "You're the Best, Girl!" blanket excuse/blame-shifting.

This is philosophy? Blaming shit on other people? Making up various self-justifications and esteem-boosting narratives?

Haven't people been doing that since they began walking upright? And isn't that the source of most of our problems, rather than the solution to them?

Children do this, instinctively. Human beings' ability to blame others and dodge fault and convince themselves that everything they do is Good and Pure is inborn.

Three year olds instinctively know to blame Invisible Cookie Thieves for stealing the cookie.

I need a philosophy to tell me I should think in a childish manner?

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posted by Ace at 02:48 PM

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