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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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Ashley Judd and Kentucky’s Senate Race: Plenty Left to Show Us

Ashley Judd and Kentucky’s Senate Race: Plenty Left to Show Us

Ashley Judd has yet to announce that she plans on running for Senate in her home state of Kentucky. In fact, the actress and social activist has denied the stories claiming that she plans to announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in May, around the time of the Kentucky Derby. Despite her denial, media sources still seem pretty confident that Judd is gearing up for the 2014 Senate race.

Assuming she does decide to run for Senate, Judd has a tough race ahead of her. She’ll be up against Minority leader Mitch McConnell in a largely conservative state. She’s also currently not a Kentucky resident, and so would need to declare residency soon.

Outside of her acting career, Judd seems to embody the stereotype of the left-wing liberal feminist that conservative leaders love to tear apart. (Senator Rand Paul has stated that Judd is “way too damn liberal for our country.”) Judd has always been rather vocal about her views. She is a strong supporter of President Obama and worked on his 2012 campaign. She’s also a huge supporter of Planned Parenthood and a vocal spokesperson for reproductive rights. While speaking about violence against women, she has opened up about her experiences as a survivor of rape and sexual assault. Judd has also been criticized for being so outspoken about her desire to never have children of her own. In her 2011 memoir All That Is Bitter and Sweet, Judd expresses the opinion that she would rather help the children already here living in poverty rather than bringing children of her own into the world. Much like every liberal view that Judd has expressed, conservatives have criticized and decontextualized her comments in an attempt to discredit her. In fact, the Daily Caller came up with a list of some of the more “outrageous” comments Judd has made in the past in an attempt to delegitimize her. All of this before even announcing her intentions to run for Senate.

But their biggest problem with Ashley Judd has nothing to do with her political views. The real reason that conservatives are up in arms about the possibility that she might be running for senate is because she has appeared nude in some of her films.

Taylor Bigler, Entertainment Editor for the Daily Caller, expressed her distaste for Judd when she wrote, “We are used to knowing just about everything there is to know about serious political candidates. But will Judd be the first potential senator who has — literally — nothing left to show us?”

Bigler points to MrSkin.com, a site whose tagline is, “Fast-forwarding to the Good Parts since 1991,” categorizes female celebrities based on how much nudity they have shown on screen. You can even narrow down your search based on breast size and type (real or fake), body type, hair color, ethnicity, and whether or not the woman has “shown bush.” The website also helpfully points to “sexy” scenes, which I assume are scenes where the woman appears scantily clad without showing any breasts or butt. According to the website, Judd is a five time nude offender, while also appearing in numerous “sexy” scenes. She has a four star rating, which apparently is enough to rank her as “Hall of Fame Nudity!” Essentially, the website literally strips down an actress’s worth in a film, placing her entire value on whether or not and how much skin she shows. One of Judd’s sited nude scenes takes place in her 1996 film Norma Jean and Marilyn, where she plays Norma Jean Dougherty opposite Mira Sorvino as Marilyn Monroe. In case you don’t know anything about Marilyn Monroe, the actress was famously oversexualized and dehumanized by audiences and media leading up to her overdose in 1962, which has not lessened with her death.

Conservative publications like the Daily Caller are doing something similar to what MrSkin is attempting: Both publications are placing a woman’s entire value based only on their body. The website takes away the larger context of the rest of the movie, such as whether or not the nudity took place with the consent of the female character. That part doesn’t seem to matter to them, nor does the speech and actions of the character during the rest of the film. But whereas MrSkin only gives these actresses value if they show enough skin, conservatives are claiming that Judd cannot possibly have anything of value to say because she has shown skin.

Let me repeat that statement. Conservatives are making the claim that, because Ashley Judd has consensually appeared nude in a handful of films throughout her acting career, she has absolutely nothing of value to say. They are making the argument that, because we have seen her naked, her voice does not matter. Not as a politician or a person.

It’s hard enough to be a woman in politics without the slut shaming. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who has cultivated a successful political career as a New York Senator and Secretary of State after eight years as First Lady to President Bill Clinton. Her 2008 race for the Democratic Presidential nomination was littered with questions about whether or not she was up for the task. Not because she wasn’t qualified, but because she is a woman. Newscasters questioned whether or not it would be a good idea for a woman to be Commander in Chief due to the constant “mood swings and PMS.” During Clinton’s Benghasi hearings in January, the Secretary of State grew impatient with Senator Ron Johnson as he  interrupted her attempts to answer his questions. When Clinton was finally able to fire back at the Senator’s provocation and continuous insistance that the White House purposely mislead the American public, Johnson attempted to discredit her testimony by giving interviews in which he claims that Clinton faked her “emotional outbursts.” Some conservatives also believe that Clinton’s concussion and hospital stay in December were both faked in order to avoid the hearings.

Female politicians are also heavily scrutinized more for their physical appearance and clothing than the content of their policies. Just a few weeks after Clinton’s testimony, she unveiled a new website featuring a picture of her smiling and looking hopefully into the distance, which many think indicates preparation for a 2016 Presidential race. The sexist hosts of Fox & Friends decided to analyze the website’s merit based solely on the new photo, claiming that this picture indicates that Clinton may have had a face lift. Additionally, many interviewers seem more concerned with how Clinton styled her hair when she was out of the country as Secretary of State than what was accomplished on her visit.

Although I’ve only used Hillary Clinton as an example, this heavy scrutiny of political worth based on appearance and question of validity based on a woman’s menstrual cycle is the norm for female politicians. So it seems to me that the Republican party doesn’t actually need the “excuse” of nudity to claim that Ashley Judd has no value, although they certainly seem thrilled to be able to use it. They’ve already done enough to prove that a woman’s entire worth is with her physical appearance. Those who do not meet their seemingly impossible physical standards are immediately discredited despite any credentials or political values that may speak otherwise.

What’s ironic is that there are several male politicians who have appeared scantily clad at various points in their career. Mother Jones helpfully lists a few of these male politicians. Perhaps the most famous of these politicians is former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was successfully elected despite appearing completely naked at the beginning of the movie Terminator 2. That’s not to mention his career as a bodybuilder, where he often paraded around flexing his muscles wearing only a speedo.

Is it just me, or does it seem like the only nudity Republican’s actually have a problem with is female nudity?

So I’d like to take a moment to thank these Conservative publications like The Daily Caller and Fox News for making your sexism even more obvious than it was before. It seems as though your tactics are yet another attempt to exclude women from the so called “boys club” that is politics in the United States. You have narrowed down our entire worth to our bodies. You take away our voice if we show too much skin while simultaneously criticizing us for not showing enough. You call us cold and bitchy for not showing enough emotion while claiming that we are “too emotional” to be President, all the while scrutinizing any displays of emotion. You treat women like a fringe group when women actually make up 51% of the population. You have treated women as objects, decontextualized our words in an attempt to discredit us, and done everything possible to strip us of our voice completely.

And if you haven’t noticed, despite your best efforts, your infuriating rhetoric has yet to completely bar women from the political sphere. Hilary Clinton has managed to cultivate a very successful political career in spite of you. Ashley Judd, should she chose to run for Senate, can likewise become a valuable politician despite your claims that her nude scenes show you all she has to say.

Written by Jackie Klein
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