Judd is by no means the first to identify the way in which society polices women’s bodies, but she is undoubtedly one of the most high-profile women to decry it. In mid-January, Margaret Cho posted a similar smackdown on her Web site after some of the comedian’s Twitter followers pilloried her body after she posted a photo of some tattoos on her buttocks. Although Cho’s screed, too, went viral, it had none of the reach of Judd’s manifesto, no doubt because it was far more raw and feral than Judd’s more polished — and decidedly academic — effort.
Other women are pushing back, as well, in pop culture as well as politics. As the Guardian reported Monday, disgust with the normalization of demeaning commentary about women has fueled an explosion in the number of grass-roots organizations committed to fighting sexism in Britain. Late last month, the New York-based Women’s Media Center, a nonprofit advocacy group founded by Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan, released a media guide in conjunction with the Center’s “Name It Change It” campaign, which identifies and pushes back against sexism and gendered language in the media.
Writer, director and actress Lena Dunham puts societal expectations for the female form front and center in her much-anticipated HBO series “Girls,” which premieres Sunday. In scene after scene, Dunham’s character, the 20-something wannabe writer Hannah Horvath, is depicted, somewhat matter-of-factly, in various states of undress, her exposed, soft torso a challenge of sorts to those who like their television heroines model-skinny. “No, I haven’t tried to lose any weight,” Hannah tells her lover after he teases her about her belly. “You know, I decided I was going to have some other concerns in my life. I apologize.”
Amanda de Cadenet, a successful fashion photographer and newly minted TV host, says that the harsh objectification and misogynist analysis that accompanied her work as an actress in her teens and 20s was a major factor behind her decision to, as she puts it, “quit being famous.” Now 39 years old and the mother of two girls, de Cadenet decided to put herself back in front of the camera for a Lifetime show called “The Conversation” that premieres April 26.
“Women, especially young women, are given a really confusing message,” says de Cadenet, whose hour-long show will feature intimate interviews with notable women about some of the very themes raised in Judd’s essay. “On the one hand they are applauded for presenting themselves in any sort of sexual way but they’re also torn down for it. I don’t want my daughters growing up thinking that anyone values them only for the way they look. People say, ‘Your girls are so beautiful.’ I say, ‘Yeah, and they’re smart, too.’ ”
To read previous columns by Anna Holmes, go to wapo.st/anna-holmes.