04.13.12

Your Puffy-Face Moments, Inspired by Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd’s ‘puffy-face’ op-ed has inspired a healthier dialogue about the times we’ve been excoriated, humiliated, or objectified. The Daily Beast publishes our reader’s own honest, funny, and touching ‘puffy-face moments.’ Plus, read Kelly Bergin on why the issue hit so close to home.

In a powerful piece on The Daily Beast on Monday, actress Ashley Judd took on those who had been speculating about her “puffy” appearance, which she said really amounted to a misogynistic attack on women in general. Her essay went viral and even spawned a segment on NBC’s Nightly News, where she asked people to share their moments of being “excoriated” and “objectified.” Her invitation prompted a broad, healthy discourse on the issues she had raised.  Readers submitted their own puffy-face moments over email, Facebook, Tumblr, and in the comments right here on The Daily Beast. Below, we present reader submissions of their own puffy-face moments, in their own words.

MORPH

As soon as I saw Ashley’s face, I immediately said to myself “hmmm, her face looks puffy, she must have taken steroids recently. I wonder what was wrong.” I am a 28 year old female who suffer from the autoimmune disease lupus. I had to endure 10 months of steroid treatment and I’m scarred by the experience. I went from having a slender face to having a “puffy face” myself and so I know what it looks like and I know how devastating it can be to watch your face morph into an image you barely recognize. It’s NOT about gaining weight or having a “fat face.” It was mentally disturbing to me to not be able to recognize my own face in the mirror or in a photograph. With that said, I applaud Ashley’s response to the media, not only for defending herself, but for standing up for women and speaking up against how our physical appearance is always picked apart and scrutinized. It’s just ridiculous!!

—Trisha Grant

DOCTORS

About 25 years ago, I was working in a hospital in PR and saw lots of doctors every day. I had come back to work after having a baby, and one of the doctors shouted at me down a crowded hall “Where did that cute little figure go?” and I said “Still on maternity leave.”

—Nancy Line Jacobs

UNPROVOKED

I remember walking down the street once in NYC and a guy saying really loudly to his friends, about me: “I’d do her, if she lost a few pounds.” It was such a random and unprovoked insult that I didn’t know what to say. But what is there to say, really.

—countrygirl

PARTY

A few years ago my Mom was very sick, I was going into Menopause and was stressed out, tired, puffy and sad. I continued to put my best face forward, until, I went to a party hosted by long time friends. As I walked into the room I heard someone say, “She use to be so beautiful, now, she is just a fat old woman”. My weight was 130 lbs. I fell apart emotionally inside for a few months, on top of all the other stuff going on. Just cruel! Pure pain!

—kscr14

MORTIFIED

When one of my old clients picked up my five-year-old wedding photo off my desk, looked at me, squinted, and said, “that’s not you, is it?”. I was mortified.

—lLorie

PRESSURE

Quite like Ashley, I was on steroids, however, I was on them for an extended period of time. I was diagnosed with vasculitis (the swelling/constriction of veins) back in 2008, and was taking steroids constantly for over 3 years. I have finally been weaned off of them.

Having vasculitis was bad enough. The swelling made it hard to walk, since it was concentrated in my lower legs, and every step sent jolts of pain up my legs. I was then told that steroids would help relieve the swelling and began to take them. My rheumatologist started me off at 40mg daily, and yes, it relieved the swelling!  However, the side effects were rather nasty.

It has been 6 months after I last took steroids, and I have been slowly but surely losing the weight I gained because of the steroids, including the puffy face and the double chin.

I have always been full figured, but have managed to avoid extremely puffy cheeks and a double chin until steroids, and let me tell you: I HATED EVERY MINUTE OF IT. However, your physical health needs to trump the social pressure of size 2 perfection, as it did with Ashley and myself. My vasculitis is in remission, thanks to the help of my medication, and I wouldn’t trade lack of a puffy face for excruciating leg pain any day of the week.

We are perfect the way we are. If someone gains a puffy face because of a dose of antibiotics, that’s nothing to be smeared about! The fact that Ashley was trodden upon because of this is a horrible sign of the times. We need to move past physical appearance and misogynist visions of the perfect woman.

—Amanda DuPriest

EIGHTY

I am almost 80 and have been on prednisone since 2003 for an inflammatory disease. I have been on pred so long that I can’t get off the drug. Trying to stay reasonably trim is a nightmare. But the worst part is what it does to one’s psyche.  Good thing I have a husband who understands my wild mood swings or I would be living alone.

—Joan

MATERNITY

When I came back from maternity leave—30 pounds heavier than pre-pregnancy—one of my coworkers commented on my “boobs” and could not stop staring at me. Not a man. A woman.

—Molly Porter

DAUGHTER

My friends’ 4-year-old daughter told me that my legs were fat the other day. It burned a little, but I knew that this is where we all start judging one another, as little as this. I knew her mom’s body consciousness was taking a bad turn. I looked the little girl in the eye and told her that I am fine exactly the way that I am and they are my legs and I love them.

—Sarah Elizabeth Dall

INVISIBLE

I am sharing my puffy face moment because as a middle class average woman, there are not many perks to being sexually objectified or criticized—just pain and bewilderment. My moment happened when I lost 30 pounds and went from my average size of 12 with 38c chest to a size 6 with a 38c chest. Now I struggled to get down in weight for all the typical reasons: to attract men, to be healthier, to be faster on the tennis court (I adore tennis). As a size 12 no women are threatened by me and I fly around the tennis courts invisible. BUT when I lost the weight a woman made the following comment, “gee, when did you get the money to have implants and a lift?” At that moment I felt the wind go out of my sails and my tennis game.

Being from the working class, implants are far less needed than the braces my parents couldn’t afford or the pool I have always wanted. It is heartbreaking and feels so overwhelming to try to conform to the “beauty” ideal in our society and for what: do our marriages last any longer, are we safer from accidents or cancer, can we be happier in our careers or as mothers? My problem lies in the idea that somehow if I could be beautiful then happiness would follow. I have looked for love in all the wrong diet pills, skin products and hair colors. The beauty industry must be thrilled to have low screeners like me eager to transform.

I am back to size 12 and no one ever comments about my 38c bra size and it is just as well. My skin is forever freckled and wrinkled—but I have my daughter with me and I am happy to be invisible I suppose.

I just want Ashley Judd to know, honestly there are some fans out there that just are happy that the steroids helped her infection. And we thank her for highlighting this brutal objectification of women in our society.

—Invisible working class woman, America (aka Maura Mckenna-Rossow)

MAKEUP

When my ob/gyn told me at a follow up visit after I had surgery: “You look great! I mean...I know you were feeling like crap in the hospital but..now you look great!” I said “I wasn’t wearing makeup in the hospital but I am now...”

—Kate Ward

LOOSER

A male friend once told me that I looked really good in the pants I was wearing. They’re looser, he said, aren’t they? You should wear them more often, instead of those tight ones you wear.

Not sure if that’s a true puffy face moment, but it’s the first one I thought of.

The same male friend also once said, Isn’t that So-and-So’s dress? Yes, I replied. I’m surprised it fits you. Oh.

rambleonchinacat

ENRICHED

I was so glad it wasn’t medication or anything making you sick. Anytime I have too much salt or sodium enriched foods I’m having a puffy face moment. Especially after I get up from a nap or in the morning. Puffy! It’s in their face.

—Bobbie Walker Mitchell

MOON

About 20 years ago I had a severe asthma attack and was hospitalized for a week, I was put on prednisone my face puffed up, I looked like the man on the moon: (I got so depressed that I took to my bed and found comfort in chocolate. I gained about 30lbs, 20 years later I’ve managed to drop more than half of it but my face has never been the same, I still have to take inhaled steroids daily but I can’t complain I look very good for my age (46) and I’m happy to be alive.

—Thea Susan Lausa

THYROID

When my thyroid wasn’t working right I started to put on weight rather quickly. Someone I knew, who didn’t know about my thyroid problem looked at me and said, “I think you’re eating too much”. I wasn’t eating more than usual and was even angrier when my own Dr. said the same thing, until I demanded a physical and my TSH was 87 (supposed to be 0.5-3).

—Kari Gaglione Hunter

PENGUIN

When I was a kid I was made fun of for walking like a penguin. That’s common for kids to say those things...but for an adult to say, that’s plain childish.

—MrNickster Failauga

NEEDLES

My entire life has been one big “puffy face moment.” I’m not what anyone would call “traditionally pretty.” I seem to have inherited all of the negatively stereotyped traits of the varied races of my ancestors.

Growing up, my nicknames were “Squaw Bitch” and “Indian Nose” due to my part Native American heritage.

I suppose the most violent “puffy face moment” came when I was around twelve, and had put on a little bit of weight, along with not “growing into” my face. The boy around the corner, a few years older than me, grabbed me at a street corner when I was on my way to the market. His brother was diabetic and he had stolen one of his used needles. He held me down and stabbed me with the needles repeatedly, telling me it was because I was an “ugly bitch” and was now fat aside from being ugly.

I managed to get away from him, but this abuse continued throughout the years, from his friends, and from classmates in general. By the time I got to high school, I couldn’t go out to lunch, nor could I sit inside to eat lunch. Some of the assaults were sexual, some just plain violent, but always because I was “ugly.”

I can’t say that I ever really “got over it,” because it was sustained for such a long time. But, I have still always tried to look for something positive/funny/weird/extraordinary because of it.

If you are at all interested, I actually have a 6 minute film documenting this event, and the horrific/funny/bizarre events that followed it.

—Jules ‘Ilikeanani Kd

MOMENT

I was bullied for years in school for being the ugly one. Wasn’t just a “moment.”

—Frances Wells Staev

ASTHMA

My “puffy face” moment is not quite as dramatic as Ashley Judd’s as I wasn’t subjected to such wide public scrutiny. I have been an asthmatic for almost 30 years; about twelve years ago I experienced a very difficult time with my asthma and was prescribed a prednisone burst every month for three and a half years. I ended up exhibiting the “puffy face” (or what some refer to as moon face), overall weight gain and lived with it for about 5 years. I was tormented by my own father with horrible comments about my weight and appearance. It got so bad that I stopped dating and then my own paternal grandmother thought because I was not seeing a man, assumed I was a lesbian. My father never spoke on my behalf to defend my situation. He continued to let my paternal grandmother believe that since I was not dating a man, I must be a lesbian. Don’t get me wrong; homosexuality is not my issue here, being portrayed, as something I was not solely based on my appearance was my issue. My father knew why I looked the way that I did and never came to my aid or defense. When your own father won’t support you, it’s the most devastating experience.

Finally, I took action and over the next several years with the help of a new primary doctor, he was able to help me get my asthma under control with new medication which helped me enough that I was finally able to exercise, lose weight and I became a healthier person. That has not alleviated the asthma; I will always battle asthma and will always be prescribed a prednisone burst until a cure for asthma is found. What I did discover is, how to surround myself with those people that care enough about me to be my support system and my husband is my biggest supporter. As difficult as it is at times, I’m learning to ignore those people who judge me based solely on my appearance.

—Cathy Sorensen, Centennial, CO

ANOREXIC

I was super skinny while growing up and was picked on constantly. As an adult, asked by a few people if I was anorexic. I hated that and to this day, I remember it and who did it. It’s bullying, pure and simple. I don’t put up with put downs anymore :>)

—Diana Greene

OUTCAST

When I was around 12 I got an acne problem nobody would ever want and with it all the terrible comments and was treated like an outcast. I also was bullied by several people, but one used to follow me home every day telling me he was going to beat me up if he caught me. That is why I hated High School and still can’t look in the mirror and see someone I love. It has caused me emotional problems and always seem like someone is talking about me all the time.

—Gerald J. Arnone

FATHER

I’ve spent many years as a single mother, always was lucky enough to have a good job, bought my own home, raised two children and the only comment my father ever makes is about my weight. Never about ANY accomplishments I’ve had in my life. I’ve learned to just tune him out.

—Joni Kenney

MIRROR

Heck! My puffy face moment is every morning when I look in the mirror. No one has to tell me I don’t look the same as I did when I was in my 20’s (I’m 45). But I know I feel sexier than I ever have. That may be hard to believe all you young turks...but someday you’ll get there too :-) Ashley, you will always be beautiful in my eyes...and the fact that you are so intelligent...heck that just makes you hotter....can we be puffy faced friends :-)

—Michele Proulx Bamford

SLICK

Every time you walk by a mainstream woman’s magazine... bullying going on. All women are more than 5’10 and stick straight? I think not.

—Lori Douglass

TROPISM

When I look back on it, bullying made me who I am; to say I wouldn’t be as creative or as free minded as I am today, minus the harassment regarding how big I was or how I performed at sports on the playground, that would be an informed supposition, but we can’t change the past, so who’s to say? All I know is that in many cases, I grew accustomed to putting my image before my happiness, and I hated it. I’m 22 now, so I’ve been doing it for about 18 years, day in and day out, questioning whether I’m good enough to even be seen, or whether my decisions to not be a part of a crowd was spurred by my insecurities, or a simple state of unrest. We live in a messed up society where children are taught to judge or be judged, but I became something great as a product of my own pain. I’m proud of the person I’ve become, so to say that I wouldn’t be the same man I am today without my various puffy-face-moments would be an accurate and slightly frightening assumption, but If I had been given the option to not be judged, and to grow without having to bend or cower under the lights and nature of society, I’m not entirely sure I would not have taken that chance…. after all, tropism is for the plants.

retro-therapy

INFECTION

In order to fight an infection, I was put on large doses of steroids (prednisone) for 9 months. The result was extreme swelling in my face (particularly in my cheeks) and increased weight. I looked so different that I had to constantly answer questions about my appearance and health. Not only did I not look like myself, but I also because extremely self-conscience. My face was no longer my own. Eventually I stopped taking the steroids and after a few months the swelling subsided. Thanks for making this an engaging dialogue.

—Meghan Kiley, Providence, RI

ASSESSMENT

You go, sister! I’ve spent this long and rich life full of travels and stories and friends and family and what do I recall most? Every comment, every slight, every mean assessment of my body, my face, my physical womanly beautiful outside. I cannot remember all the details of my wedding day, but I will never forget being chastised for gaining weight in my 30s. So you tell them, Ashley!

—Justin Newberry

PICTURE

When I was in junior high, our 8th grade class took a field trip to Florida. We stayed in a hotel with a pool, and were told we were allowed to swim in it as long as the girls wore either a one-piece bathing suit or a two-piece suit with a t-shirt covering our naughty midriffs. I followed the rules and wore a t-shirt, but of course the second it got wet it became see-through - it was like I was wearing nothing but my bikini. A boy in my class snapped a picture of me at the pool, then brought it to school afterwards to show some other boys in our class. The picture quickly began to circulate the entire school, and while I was aware of what was going on via my friends who’d seen the picture, I was too embarrassed to do anything about it.

Part of the problem was that the boys in the school faced a dilemma: here was a picture of a half naked girl that they actually knew, but this girl was nerdy, tall, skinny, and severely unpopular. The result was that every boy in my class saw the picture, and every boy in my class reacted by laughing at my body and ridiculing my appearance. Some of what they said was snickered behind my back and reported faithfully to me by friends, but others felt entitled to make digs at me directly to my face. I was humiliated, but also incapacitated by my desire to not be further alienated by becoming a “snitch.” Thankfully, one unusually mature and kind boy (who I still have the utmost respect for today) was offended by the picture, and took it to the principle’s office. Unfortunately, this worked to continue my shame when the incident resulted in an assembly to talk about sexual harassment. I received dirty looks from those involved who were punished during the assembly, and dreaded coming back to school for a long time after.

Years later, the boy who took the picture contacted me via Facebook. Both in our mid 20s by then, he apologized for the photo and admitted that it all began because he had a crush on me and was too immature to make sense of his feelings. I forgave him, although the cruelty that he and the boys at my school displayed stayed with me for many, many years. When he reached out to me, I realized that it had been hovering over me and my self-image for over a decade. I was genuinely grateful for his apology, which resolved issues that I was unaware that I was still coping with from adolescence.

As a young teen, I felt as though my body was on display every time I walked out the door. For a number of years I was intensely insecure and private about what was underneath my clothes. I know now that this one incident was not the cause of my insecurity, but rather the symptom of something sinister in the social shaping of young women in the United States that affects both boys and girls. It is amazing to me that a boy’s attraction to a girl resulted in her objectification, belittlement, and public ridicule. He did not intentionally try to shame, dominate, or take control over my body, he was a boy with a crush who didn’t know how to express his emotions. But in our society of intense scrutiny of physical appearance, my humiliation was not an abnormal outcome of his careless actions.

—Lucia Palmer

NATURALE

Good for her! There is a fantastic trend in high schools right now. Girls are going without makeup. A la naturale. Let’s be real. Boys too. We all get pimples, under eye circles, ponytail hair days, & puffy face moments.

—Trisha Maley

HAGGARD

I used to take strong allergy meds. In the morning I’d look tired... One day this guy told me I looked “haggard.” So I had my meds changed which didn’t alter my face anywhere near the side affects from the original medication. And they all lived happily ever after... pfff... Ashley Judd Fan always... Loved ya in Simon Birch and many more. You’re beautiful...

—Michael Galindo

BRUTAL

Growing up, I never looked like the other girls. I wasn’t tall and thin. I wasn’t pretty. I was the “puffy” girl. School was absolutely brutal. We are a society that places far too much emphasis on looks when we should be focusing on accomplishment.

—Tracey L. Powers

BUG

I know how it feels to be made fun of I wore Coke bottle glasses and my eyes looked big so everyone said I looked like a bug and called me 4 eyes. When people say negative things it hurts no matter what.

—Michelle Johnson

LINES

Not bullied but put down for the lines in my face (I am 62 and battled back from Stage 4 head and neck cancer). I am proud of every line in my face and neck.

—Nancy Wasen

VIVA

YOU BETTER START RUNNING FASTER, HONEY, BECAUSE YOU NEED TO LOSE ANOTHER 20 POUNDS BEFORE YOU GET AWAY WITH RUNNING IN A SPORTS BRA!

This comment, like most cowardly things, was not said to my face, but rather in passing as I ran past a group of guys on St. Patrick’s Day. I was running back to my apartment in Minneapolis, wearing shorts, sneakers, and a sports bra. They were presumably walking to a bar down the street, wearing shamrock beads, green Miller High Life t-shirts, and an eau de male privilege.

The circumstances leading up to this point had been anything but lucky. A nice afternoon of sipping iced tea on the rooftop veranda of a local restaurant with a former swimming friend had been suddenly halted after a more-belligerent patron of the same restaurant threw up all over me.

After the initial shock of being barfed on wore off, I had expected an apology—I am a patient and understanding person, and realize, too, that people make mistakes, especially in their judgment of “how much they can handle.” What I got instead was blame.

Why were you so close to me? I wouldn’t have thrown up on you if you weren’t sitting so close to me. And then he threw up on me again.

I was fuming, but remained rational. I was not going to let this jerk ruin my day—it was beautifully warm in Minneapolis, a rarity to be celebrated. So after asking around if I could buy a shirt from the restaurant (none in stock) or borrow an undershirt from a male patron (apparently, no one has been wearing undershirts since the 1960s), I took matters into my own hands. I was wearing sneakers. I was wearing a sports bra. I could easily throw my puke-stained shirt into a bag and run back to my apartment, only four blocks down the road, to change. I figured if I looked like I was on a run, no one would ask any questions. It was better than the alternative, anyway—having everyone in Minneapolis think that I had thrown up all over myself.

And it was on this run home when my body became the punchline: when someone who didn’t know me, this stranger, thought it appropriate to let me know what I could and could not wear, what I should and should not look like. He didn’t know anything about me: that I spend almost everyday at the pool training for Masters Swimming meets; that I am an MFA student who is working on her first book of poems; that I have devoted most of my life to helping others through sexual assault survivor advocacy work. He didn’t know how deeply I love my family, or how much I admire my friends, or how quickly I will respond to those in need of help. But he didn’t know any of this because he never asked. He didn’t know any of this because he didn’t care.

I allowed myself to get angry.

I stopped, turned around, and ran back to them. I confronted that coward.

“I’m sorry,” I said, putting my hands on my hips. I’ve always loved the support my love handles have given me. “Did you say something to me?”

“No,” he said, mumbling. He wouldn’t look me in the eye.

“Well,” I said, forcing eye contact, “I heard what you said. I had no idea I was dealing with an expert on woman’s bodies, because it appears to me that you have never seen a real woman’s body before. But let me tell you this—my body can, will, and does change. But what will never change is the fact that you are an asshole.”

And with that, I excused myself and ran back home.

Three strides in, I began to weep, not because of what this jerk said to me, but because a group of girls who had witnessed the entire thing from across the street. And they were clapping for me. And as much as it made me happy and proud and strong to tell off this guy, it made me sad to think why they were clapping:

Because they had probably been the victims of this misogynistic practice, too, and that I had probably vocalized something that they never had the chance to say aloud.

—Friedlanduh

AWARENESS

A dental mishap happened to me, hospitalized me having no choice of this drug administered to me. Since this drug was placed in my system, my life has taken a turn for me. When I use to sport a beautiful slim face, as well as figure at 135 lbs, now I am 185 lbs fighting daily with the puffy face, bloated belly, feeling bad hoping to have just one good day.

My entire attire was replaced, from a size 8 to a size 14. This is surly not what I’ve looked at my life to be fighting with. I will be 50 years old in 6 month. Before this steroid episode, I was always commented how beautiful I looked, and how I dress myself when I go out in public. Comments that were so up lifting. Now I stay home more than I have ever in my life. With the support of my husband and kids, I’m trying to live again when steroid placed me in a dark place of my life.

I would like to support Ms. Ashley Judd and what she has gone through. It’s not a happy place and I would like to work with people along side with Ashley to show awareness of what this drug can do to anyone, being famous or just an average person. If I had a wish, I would wish off the round face and bad side affects steroid does to humans.

—Bettye Ceaser, Louisiana

SOCIETY

I can still recall the time a group of men passed by me and rated me with a number.It really is a sad state of our society when a human’s worth is judged by their looks. The media can help to change that attitude, but it’s all about money. I don’t see any magazine willing to take the first step to stop such superficiality.

—Maggie

THANKS

When I was in high school I overheard some guy say, “I don’t like her,” to a friend. I looked up to see he was looking at me. His friend asked why and he said, “I just don’t like her face.” Thanks for that...

—astra99

BUTTS

Gosh. I have had tons, but I think at some point you have to realize opinions about others are like butts. Everyone has one and most of them stink : )

—Polly Apostolopoulos

DEPOSIT

Like Ashley, I have had to take steroids. I take it for asthma and have gained close to 50lbs the last 10 years because of steroids. Last summer I was on them from June-September and gained 23lbs! My face was huge with the moon face. Steroids deposit fat around your middle, and I looked like I was seven months pregnant. I also developed facial hair like a beard and around my hairline. I’m fair skinned so it wasn’t that noticeable but had I been darker, like Ashley, I would have had a beard. Steroids also make your skin thin on your arms. I have scars and purple bruising still on my arms from the steroids. People have made comments about my looks. Women would ask me what was wrong with my face, arms etc. I’ve had young guys yell “fat ass” while walking down the street.

—Nancy Bealmear

GRAVITY

Had a sinus infection this year complete with puffed out face and nose. No steroids involved, just the symptoms that went along with it. Went on to work and endured the comical comments because none of us take ourselves too seriously. That is the problem in the world today. Everything is about how you look, not how you act. No one cares if you don’t have two gray cells to rub together if you have great pecs, six pack abs, or implanted double D’s. I have news for the masses. GRAVITY RULES! Unless you plan to keep having surgery after surgery, dye job after dye job, injection after injection it will all catch up with you. Did anyone ever think what those implants will look like in a few years? The implants may stay in place but the skin around it will wrinkle and sag as the loss of subcutaneous fat takes place. It is just part of the normal progression of the human body. GOD forbid we do normal.

—Marsha Dunham

YO-YO

I had lost weight in high school after a prolonged illness and then gained it back plus some just in time for our drill team’s Spring dance show.; The drill team instructor caught me checking myself out in a full length mirror just before performing and said, “I’ll bet you wished you hadn’t gained all that weight back now.” Her preoccupation with my weight in this and other comments resulted in decades of unhealthy yo-yo dieting and poor self image.

—Becky Rippy, New Castle, CO

COMPETITOR

I became the president of my family owned ready mix concrete business in 1990.

In 2004 I was seen on the local news in an unrelated story, but it didn’t stop the competitor’s sales representative from calling me personally on the phone to tell me he had seen me on TV, and that I had gained weight. Then he said, “I will be watching your fat ass,” which was shocking and intimidating enough for me to hang up on him. I didn’t know they guy, had never seen him, but he was bold enough to tell me who he was. I still don’t know how to be a part of an industry that I have worked in for my entire thirty year career. The customers don’t accept me. I have to put men managers between me and the employees. Other women in the industry distance themselves by sharing as professionals (usually engineers or academics) or they just don’t want to be seen as part of the minority and disassociate themselves by fiercely competing with other women. No one has successfully brought about change. At my local association meeting just last fall there were 175 in attendance. Four were women and one was and African-American woman. Is it hopeless?

—Kitty Hoyle

FACES

I can sympathize with Ashley Judd. As a woman, and a human being, I understand the humiliation Ashley has gone through. I was always considered a pretty person until the medication I had to take for emotional problems made me have a “puffy face” as well as a puffy body. It is funny how friends disappear when they see you at a class reunion and you are not the beautiful person you once were. I cannot tell you the hurt and depression I suffered because of my swollen face and body. I was able to change medications about 10 years ago, and a transformation occur ed, and you won’t believe the compliments I get now on my appearance. I went for years, being ignored and overlooked because of the way I looked. I have a surprise for everyone: I was the same person (with the puffy face), as I am now. The compliments I receive now, make me realize that we, especially women, are judged by the way we look, not what is on the inside. So the compliments, even though they are flattering, mean very little to me. I remember the people who rejected me when I looked different. They seem to adore my now that I am pretty again. What a shallow world we live in. I remember, too those who stuck by me and accepted me the way I was. They are the real friends. They are the real human beings.

—Barnet Tobin

MOCKED

Our story started in January 2011. My 16-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. In a matter of three weeks after starting mass doses of steroids, my 5’2, 95-pound beautiful daughter had gained 60 pounds. She was unrecognizable even to immediate family. It’s hard to look back on the pictures and realize it was really her. In April 2011, she had to have her colon removed … so in addition to life changing so much already, she now had to learn to live with an ostomy bag too. The kids, and even parents were so mean at first. Pregnancy rumors started in February, as she had suddenly put on a lot of weight. She was too sick to be at school to even defend herself, and she was beyond devastated. Her dream was to be a model prior to getting sick. She had to be in the hospital (mostly icu) for over 110 days in 2011. She was chosen by the Make a Wish foundation to be a wish child, and our family was privileged to go on a cruise. She has since stopped taking the steroids, and is now down to 118 lbs. Her entire body has changed so much, and it is so hard on her. It is appalling to me that my little girl would have to endure being mocked and picked on in addition to literally fighting for her life. She is a fighter, with an amazing spirit. Her colectomy took place in San Francisco, and per her request, we made her a shirt that says “I left my colon in San Francisco.” She claimed “anyone” could leave their heart there, she had to leave her colon.

—Tiffany Brouwer

INSENSITIVE

Have to start by saying Ashley is brilliant for creating this forum! When I was in high school I gained about 10 pounds over the course of one school year. I didn’t think it was such a big deal, but when I returned in the fall it seemed like all the boys were commenting on my weight (I’m sure not all of them were, but it seemed that way), and that they didn’t think I looked pretty anymore. Some even made remarks to my face. I was so livid that I took the attitude of, “I don’t look nice simply for your viewing pleasure; that is not what I am here for.” I was a vain teen, but because that situation made me so angry I spent my senior year (only when at school) wearing my hair in a pony tail, zero makeup, acne medicine all over my face, and turtlenecks under t-shirts. That was probably my very first conscious political statement. One last thing, several years later I found a videotape from around that time that showed me wearing a cheerleading uniform … and I was completely shocked by how amazingly fit I looked. Taught me to take every insensitive thing people say with a grain of salt!

—Amy Utley

VIOLENT

When I was in junior high school I was constantly teased by the popular girls—the ones who always thought they were better because of the way they look. In high school it got worse and they even got violent sometimes. In my opinion I think everyone should be judged by their personality, not how they look. If even one of those girls would have taken the time to get to know me they might have found out that I am a really funny and fun person to be around. But they didn’t because I didn’t look the way they thought I should. When girls or women criticize each other because they don’t look the way public opinion thinks they should it makes me really disappointed. I like the way my dad taught me to think when I came home crying one day. He told me the only one who’s opinion I should care about is mine.

—Tamara Verhelst

WHEELCHAIR

I too have been on high dose steroids 500-1000 mg a week and virtually unrecognizable to myself I would ask myself who is this person staring back at me in the mirror so I can truly empathize with you. It is so shameful that many tend to judge or criticize before just simply asking what happened. Its like staring at someone in a wheelchair and pointing fingers instead of asking “why are you in a wheelchair?” People can be ignorant … trust me I know I am 38 battling a rare autoimmune disorder and lose the use of my legs and have to ride in those scooter grocery carts with people starring and pointing fingers even whispering how lazy I am because I don’t look like I have a disability so I have left many public places in tears in fact I refuse to go out anywhere alone without the support of my family. Again I am truly sorry this happened to you but very proud that you stood up and fought back.

—Sonja Tosto

ENLIGHTENMENT

I would like to commend Ashley Judd for her eloquent response to the accusations regarding her “puffy face.” Being almost 70 years old, I have observed we as a society have not made much progress in accepting women just as they are. My puffy face moment was actually a puffy tummy moment. As a very young bride to be, my mother and I were shopping and ran into an acquaintance of my mother’s. The conversation turned to my upcoming wedding and she actually reached over and patted my stomach! I don’t even remember what comment she made but the incident has stayed with me all these years. I was appalled. Apparently my very slender figure wasn’t enough to protect me from that kind of action. It saddens me that young girls and women are still being scrutinized for any so called flaw in their appearance. My heart breaks for my granddaughter who is constantly berated by her peers because of her being overweight. So, is there hope for future enlightenment?

—Grama Neil

ASSUME

My name is Melanie and I have multiple sclerosis and while I was pregnant I got very sick and was on steroids from 5mo until my baby was born and let me tell you I had a puffy face. I got teased and lookeed at and people asked “what’s wrong with your face” because it didn’t move it was so swollen. I just wanted to share because you shouldn’t assume that person and surgery or something. There is always a story that maybe you dont know looking from the outside in.

—Melanie Treasure

BALLET

A ballet teacher, whom I respected and actually wanted to please (as opposed to most others who I didn’t think understood that I was really in it for the love of dance) once took me aside after class and told me that I was good enough to be in the more advanced parts for that year’s Nutcracker. However, she wanted me to know that the only reason I wasn’t being cast in them was because she couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) put me in a tutu. As though that would help me understand? This is probably the one time the message was stated without any beating around the bush whatsoever: lose some weight, and then, literally, you’ll be good enough; talent shmalent, I can’t have you on stage looking like that.

It wasn’t an accidental comment, it wasn’t ignorance, and it wasn’t a joke that I didn’t happen to find funny. It wasn’t an indication of someone’s implicit opinion of my body, like when you watch another girl look from your face to your legs as you walk by. It was right there, clear as day, and yet she seemed to honestly think it wouldn’t affect me, or that it was an acceptable thing to tell a teenage girl.

For god’s sake, make a bigger tutu. You’re not running American Ballet Theater. (Even if you were, it wouldn’t be okay).

ambleonchinacat

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