Ashley Judd Fights Back Against Sexually Violent Twitter Harassment
March is one of actress Ashley Judd’s favorite times of year, for one reason in particular: March Madness and college basketball. The University of Kentucky fan was fired up about what she perceived as “unsportsmanlike” behavior during Sunday’s conference championship game against the Arkansas Razorbacks, and took to Twitter to call out the team for “playing dirty” and said they could “kiss my team’s free throw making ass.” You know, standard smack talk for sports fans everywhere, but the response Judd’s tweet received was anything but normal. In an essay for Mic.com, the actress describes being inundated by harassing tweets, “calling me a cunt, a whore or a bitch, or telling me to suck a two-inch dick. Some even threatened rape, or ‘anal anal anal.'” While her feminist advocacy has made her a target of misogynist harassment before, “this particular tsunami of gender-based violence and misogyny flooding my Twitter feed was overwhelming.”
Judd’s essay, “Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Toward Girls and Women Is What Can Kiss My Ass,” addresses the harassment she received as just one of the “ripe dangers that invariably accompany being a woman and having an opinion about sports or, frankly, anything else.” Pushing back against the harassment only resulted in further abuse, with trolls accusing her of bringing it on herself or making a big deal just to promote her movie, while others callously insisted that by virtue of being an actress, she should have “thicker skin.”
The themes are predictable: I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world. The Internet space isn’t real, and doesn’t deserve validity and attention as a place where people are abused and suffer. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart. I’m famous. It’s part of my job description.
The themes embedded in this particular incident reflect the universal ways we talk about girls and women. When they are violated, we ask, why was she wearing that? What was she doing in that neighborhood? What time was it? Had she been drinking?
Then, Judd shows just how these themes are reflected in her own life beyond the online harassment by disgruntled and misogynistic basketball fans, by explaining that she is also a sexual abuse, incest and rape victim. She recounts how she began to heal from these traumas in 2006, thanks to the support of other survivors.
“I have done purgative, cathartic work on those particular acts of violence. The nature of recovering from trauma is that it can be ongoing, with deeper levels of healing and freedom coming with indefatigable persistence to keep chipping away at it.”
But in January, nine years into her recovery, Judd writes that she uncovered an additional memory of sexual abuse from when she was 15, when a man attempted to orally rape her. Now well-versed in self-care, Judd immediately sought experiential therapy with the help of her psychiatrist, mentor and friends, and sought “deeper healing,” an experience she calls “astonishing.” But it was not long before Judd was reminded that violence against women lurks around every corner. Just a day after concluding her healing work, “I received a disturbing tweet with a close-up photograph of my face behind text that read, ‘I can’t wait to cum all over your face and in your mouth.’ The timing was canny, and I knew it was a crime. It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more.”
Judd is exploring what is “legally actionable in light of such abuse,” and has “supplied Twitter with scores of reports about the horrifying content on its platform,” as many other women, like writer and activist Lindy West, have also done. And with this piece, Judd calls upon others to do the same, and to speak out against the harassment women face every day online. “Keep at it — on the Internet, at home, at work and in your hearts, where the courage to tackle this may fundamentally lie,” she writes in closing. “We have much to discuss, and much action to take. Join me.”
Read the essay in full over at Mic.com.