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Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Lawrence vs. Our Toxic Misogynist Culture

Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Lawrence vs. Our Toxic Misogynist Culture

In the past week, actresses and their weight have been front and center. When moviegoers suggested that Kate Winslet was too fat in the 3-D rerelease of the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic,” she responded that she’s now thinner than co-star Leonardo DiCaprio. Jennifer Lawrence was described as not hungry enough in “The Hunger Games.” Supermarket tabloids plastered photos of Scarlett Johannson’s cellulite thighs. And Ashley Judd, in her must-read Daily Beast essay, insists that if there’s going to be a conversation about her weight, she wants it to be feminist, “because it has been misogynistic from the start”:

“The insanity has to stop, because as focused on me as it appears to have been, it is about all girls and women. In fact, it’s about boys and men, too, who are equally objectified and ridiculed, according to heteronormative definitions of masculinity that deny the full and dynamic range of their personhood. 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.”

The media is largely responsible for propagating these negative images of women. Because it sells papers and lures eyeballs, the media deploys a build-them-up, tear-them-down approach to celebrity coverage. And we’re not just talking about sensationalist gossip sites and tabloids.

Actors have become our fashion and beauty models and marketing mouthpieces. This isn’t news. But somewhere the already tenuous line vanished between celebrity and human being. Actresses know that they face constant dissection and comparisons: they are too thin, too fat, or look too good (have had work done). Not only are they held to ridiculous professional standards and ridicule; so are their fans. Women and girls are taught that “perfection” earns them attention, and fame, and value. That pursuit often ends in rehab, death or extreme scrutiny in the arena of careers gone beserk (watch that disturbing 60-second video of Lindsay Lohan aging).

Happily, “The Hunger Games” is kicking ass at the box office as it presents a parable that offers an admirable athletic heroine survivor along with a scathing review of our culture. Inevitably, Lawrence has been hit with the usual criticism about her “womanly figure” and “lingering baby fat.” How many actresses have we watched starve themselves after such unwelcome appreciation? Is Katniss Everdeen too healthy-looking to believably exist in her world? That’s no different than our noisy media promoting a narrow range of acceptable womanhood, as skin-and-bones young women are praised for “rocking a bikini.” This kind of dialogue is also damaging to our daughters, our friends, and ourselves.

Psychologist Kelly Brownell:

“These kind of messages are toxic. They pressure people, especially girls, to be at odds with their bodies and to fight against whatever natural weight they might have. They force into the public psyche an arbitrary and unrealistic ideal that is attainable by few and leaves a great many scars in its wake.”

Women and Film’s Melissa Silverstein:

“[Lawrence’s] male co-stars look even healthier (and have some seriously big muscles) yet no one thinks they are too healthy or big boned or big boobed or just plain old fat.”

Many of us have trouble with accepting a powerful female as feminine and/or sexy. Recall the attention to Angelina Jolie’s leg at the Oscars? We laugh, because it’s absurd.

The physically powerful female (see Lisbeth Salander) disrupts the idea that men are meant to be the burly heroes. It’s sending Hollywood folks to their doctors for $10,000 per year HGH prescriptions–and what starts in Hollywood will trickle down.

These attacks on actresses challenge our ability to accept ourselves and each other. We are not showing young girls (or boys) ways of finding or accepting their own intrinsic value. We put celebrities on a pedestal and feel better about ourselves when they crash and burn. We are impressionable and easily controlled by our insecurities (see: the economy), and it’s eating away at us. This is how our culture works. But who does it help?

[More: On Hollywood’s gender problem; The sexualization of women and girls on screen.]

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Seminal Jones

When privileged women stop creating drama where none exists, stop relying on laughable concepts like patriarchy and misogyny and just get it done, we will finally take them seriously as peers. Until then you are playing the damsel in distress card. Life is hard, if you can't take it get back in the kitchen and bake me a pie.

James Kustes

Misogynistic means men are the ones doing it. I have never heard of men calling a woman fat at the level women do. Most would have sex with Jennifer Lawrence or Christina Hendricks. It's like when black people blamed white people for a Hispanic shooting a black kid or when black people owned each other as slaves that built the pyramids and then blamed white people for slavery. You do the crime, we do the time.


There seems to be a disconnect here. Even when you're bemoaning the focus on the physical, you seem to fall back onto the importance of physical strength. What made Lisbeth Salander great wasn't her physical power, it was her intellect. (Not to mention that Rooney Mara was tiny in the film; hardly fitting into this discussion here any more than rail thin Zoe Saldana or Angelina Jolie, none of whom are making it easier on the bigger women out there.)

Also, I find it hard to feel for actresses who make millions off of their looks and then get upset when people fault them when their looks start to fail them. I'm not saying that Judd doesn't have some talent but for her to bemoan the focus on looks is kind of like her denouncing nepotism, in my opinion.

And the bottom line is that this is nothing new. The only difference is that the internet has given more people a voice and more often than not, that voice is insulting or, at the very least, without filter. Ashley Judd isn't going through anything than Rita Hayworth didn't deal with (well, Hayworth probably wore more uncomfortable clothes to try to give the illusion of an unreal body.)


While there's definitely too much misogynistic criticism of women's bodies, I'm not sure The Hunger Games criticisms fall into that category. Katniss IS from a place where people are starving, to the point that they risk a game to the death for an extra ration of food. That's not the same as posting paparazzi snaps of an actress's thighs.

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