Ashley Judd: “Hatred of Women” Spurred Puffy-Faced Criticism

Speculation about her face speaks to deeply ingrained cultural misogyny, the actress says

Ashley Judd hit back at her detractors again in an exclusive interview with "NBC Nightly News" Wednesday night, two days after she decried criticism of her looks in a high-minded feminist essay.

"There was an incredibly nasty, vitriolic and gloating tone about it," she said of what had been said.

The star of ABC's new show "Missing" had faced withering criticism for looking Ashleypuffy-faced — and, according to critics, Botoxed or operated-on — at public appearances last month. Judd later said it may have been because she was on a few rounds of steroids for an illness.

And in her column published Monday for The Daily Beast, the actress said the scrutiny seemed troublingly antifeminist and rooted in the notion that women's bodies are part of the public domain — a belief she elaborates on in her "Nightly News" interview.

“I think it’s hatred of women that invites the criticism. I think it’s the objectification of girls and women and this hypersexualization of our society that invites the criticism. It doesn’t have anything to do with me, really, and how I look,” Judd told "Nightly News."

She said the discourse on her looks and the speculation that she had undergone surgery — although no journalist ever called her simply to ask if she had, she said — left her in a "double bind": Whether she looked good or ugly, people would attribute it to surgery.

"There was no presumption of goodwill," she told NBC.

After attracting all the criticism for her puffy face, Judd — who holds a Master's degree in public administration from Harvard and is actively involved with several women's advocacy organizations — penned an essay arguing the sniping, which she said was "pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic," was symptomatic of patriarchal patterns.

"The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about," she wrote.

The piece bemoaning how normalized that objectification had become faced its own fair share of criticism — and praise.

While one writer for the Los Angeles Times called the story "elegant, impassioned and meticulously crafted," another writer for the same paper wrote that Judd as an actress seemed not to "understand how the game she signed up for, and has prospered from, is played" and said such objectification was hardly cause for feminist outrage. The Washington Post published a similar opinion piece.

For Judd, such reactions might seem to prove her point that objectification is all too normalized — and she told NBC she wasn't buying the claim that as an actress she should expect such criticism.

"I don’t think that being a public figure makes it legitimate to criticize people the way they are currently criticized in this cultural climate," she said in her interview.

And her article was embraced by plenty of other women — among them Miley Cyrus.

"This article was music to my ears. Beautifully said and beyond inspiring. I hope everyone woman reads this," the pop star, who has faced her own share of snipes about her looks, tweeted.

See the clip below, and watch the full interview tonight on "Nightly News."

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