In Support of Ashley Judd and The Conversation

I’m 41.5 years old. Wow.

Lately, I keep running into online comments that in the Information Age, people tend to “hide” their true appearance online. They pick out only the “best” photos of themselves to share via social media, hoping to live up to some idealized image of themselves.

That idea has been bugging me.

Because I think it might be true.


And if it is, then I’m starting to wonder if social media is becoming just one more way that people can pick apart themselves and other people. In editing out the truth of our appearance, we’re bringing the cultural baggage of the “the beauty myth” into cyberspace.

With those thoughts bumping around in my head, I stumbled across this post by Ashley Judd. She begins with the promise of starting something:

The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.

I think it’s time that we change that conversation and “unmask” ourselves online.

And that’s why there’s a picture of me today without a drop of makeup in daylight.

Because this is what I really look like, the face behind the blog posts, Twitter and Facebook chats.

This is me, an ordinary woman at 41.5 years of age–right down to the red birthmark on my forehead that flares when I’m angry, hot, or exhausted. The same mark that the dermatologist told me last year that she could “take care of” for me.

(I kept the mark–and got rid of the dermatologist.)

What about you–do you think that Ms. Judd is on to something? Do you think that social media is adding to the pressure that women feel to look a certain way? To fit an ideal?

Talk to me here, Twitter, Pinterest, or on Facebook.

UPDATE: Patty Fitch Hicks, as promised, went barefaced on her blog, too. Go check it out!



  1. You are a very beautiful woman, with or without make-up. 🙂 I have to laugh – I decided long ago to give up make-up except for very rare things (going to the opera, when I officiate at weddings, etc). I don’t wear a bra most of the time (except for when I’m “in minister mode” as I feel it’s proper). I’m me, and if people don’t like it, that’s fine. I probably don’t want them in my life. My partners are happy with me the way I am… ’nuff said. 😉

    • I actually am a minimalist with my day-to-day makeup, though I do wear a UV cream with a little bit of base to cover up allergy circles because that depresses me to see, makes me feel more tired. And the light base with bangs diminish my red birthmark. (Though it never really works and I don’t want to wear heavier stuff.)

  2. Yes, I do think social media is adding to the whole image issue. As much as I try to tell myself that my appearance doesn’t matter to me, the fact is, it does and never more than in the last few years, as I make my way well into my 50s. It’s only going to get worse, this aging thing, but really, I need to get over myself (to quote a good friend, who was dealing with the same self-image issues). To be honest, I chuckle a little bit when I see younger women like you without makeup with so few wrinkles and sagging skin. I want to look that way again. But it’s all relative, isn’t it? No one expects a 54-year-old to look like a … how old are you, Pam? 😉

    • I am really happy to hear from a 50-something woman on this! And I completely understand what you’re saying when looking back at the 40-something years

      Because I look now at younger photos of myself–when I worried about how many lbs. I had on my frame–and think “Golly, there was NOTHING wrong with you.”

      Yet there are the things that I can see and feel about my skin and body that are different, little signs of aging. Which is part of why I wanted to come clean now, as a reminder to myself that this is a a process that is unfolding for those of us truly lucky to continue living.

      • Pam, it almost makes me angry when I see people who’ve had so much work done and someone says, “Wow, she looks fabulous! Can you believe she’s (fill in the age)?” Well, I might look really fabulous if I had “work” done too.

        I’m not criticizing anyone for doing it, it’s just that the playing field isn’t always equal, even without help, let alone with it. I like to see attractive people, but I love it when people just let nature take its course, too, and they’re confident while doing it. THAT is attractive to me.

        Kylee from Our Little Acre

        • YES! As if “looking great for one’s age” means simply DENYING it!!!

          People are free to choose the knife, but I’d like to think that we could have an inclusive model of beauty that includes age-appropriate wrinkles and bumps. I recall vividly as a child looking at National Geographic and seeing an octogenarian with lots of wrinkles, grey hair and pearl earrings. She was LUMINOUS. I was transfixed by her and what a professor of mine once called “the rich map of [her] face.”

          P.S. The professor was referencing an early Italian Renaissance portrait sculpture of a late-middle-age, affluent male. It was “easy” for the class to see the beauty in stone.

  3. I wasn’t nervous to turn 40. In fact, I felt energized and looked forward to it. Imagine my surprise when just a few months after my birthday, I started feeling my age for the first time in my life. I had to get “progressive” lenses (let’s face it – they’re bifocals!), my skin started to show sun damage, my allergies got worse, it became harder to drop a few pounds. Now, at 41, I find myself nearly obsessed with aging, mostly because when I was a younger woman it didn’t occur that it would happen to me. Crazy, right? And, yet, here I am, aging (and lucky to be, I might add!).

    I’m sure social media plays a part in my hyper focus of how I look and feel about myself. Magazines, TV, and movies don’t help either. Ashely Judd is spot on about what goes on regarding women’s looks and how they’re picked apart. I love that she didn’t stay silent and that her response to the circus was so thoughtful and smart. And I’m glad you’re keeping the topic going.

    PS – You are gorgeous, makeup or not.

    • Dang, Colleen. I could have written that comment–especially the new fixation on aging and evidence thereof. I thought about working in the TEDx video with you looking strong and fierce at Pilates class. =)

      I think of you as a San Antonio “thought leader”–especially via social media, so I’m truly grateful for your post.

      P.S. You are lovely and amazing.

    • I felt the same way about turning 40. I think with all that we had going on with The Forty Project and the celebrations with the turning of age with all of our friends that it was more “cool” than 41. My body seemed to take it more seriously and my face went to wrinkles almost overnight it seemed. I do have good skin but have noticed that I need to take more care of it now. I also rarely wear makeup except at work and then it is minimal.

  4. I think you are absolutely right. I know I am selective about which photos of myself I post. In fact, when I first started blogging, I wouldn’t post ANY of me! I do now, but only the nice ones — then I worry when blog friends want to meet me in person, for fear I won’t live up to their “expectations”!

    • Becky, I didn’t realize that you hid your lovely face when you started blogging! I’ve seen you and person and you’re even more dazzling and witty than online. =)

  5. It does affect me sometimes…I take photos of myself and look at them and then am blasted by the media’s version of beautiful. It breeds a certain level of discontent in me if I let it. However, on the flip side of that, I honestly believe that thought social media does some damage this way, it has also given us this amazing platform to encourage truth about beauty and stem the tide of the madness that has done so much harm to women’s self image.

    You are an inspiration! I am going to join you in this!
    I’m off to write up my post! Great idea Pam!

    • Patty – Be sure to share a link here so other people can find you. Yes, let’s use social media!

  6. Who started this “make-up” thing anyhow? Did ladies in the 17-19th century worry/obsess about their night/day creams, foundations, eyeliners,mascara,where to put the 3 eyeshadows totcontour the eyes, where to pluck, highlights for the hair & color the gray? And I’m sure a male invented the bra so our breast would continue to point N. or S. forever in definace of gravity after the initial pregnancy or about age 21.

    • Well, one look at photos of Elizabeth I with all that powder, and I’m thinking the roots are deep on this. And she was a FIERCE female ruler.

      As for the bra, I’m keeping mine mostly to keep the back pain at bay from bike riding and gardening! LOL.

    • Sadly, they did obsess about it. But the specifics, and the utter tyranny of print media setting the standard for beauty is all for us.

  7. Okay, Ms. Pamela, I am doing as you “requested” and commenting here with a link to my very personal blog post. As I commented elsewhere to you, I agree with you 100%, love Ashley Judd’s post and as someone about to turn 5-0 in one month, I am going through the same thing.

    So, I started a personal blog to try to embrace my 50th and not dread it. And, last week I wrote a post about the fact that I have NEVER colored my hair and as my gray starts showing more and more, the decision is certainly more noticeable. And, as you request, here’s a link to my post,

  8. After the article hoopla last week about the British woman wrote discussing her immense beauty and all of the perks and difficulties I seriously thought of a parody blog – kind of Weird Al blogging. Maybe a “don’t hate me because I’m ugly” with those photos of me at my worst that I would normally NEVER post. Or another topic of “don’t hate me because I’m gorgeous” with our pets photos from the dog and cat perspective. I couldn’t decide. Now with Ms. Judd’s article I don’t know that I could do the “ugly” topic. Hmmm., any thoughts?

  9. I’m 51 now and when I see Ashley Judd’s face I see the evidence of well, age! Isn’t that what makes us more interesting as we get older? I try my best to take care of myself– sunscreen, skin care, hats. I also find myself looking for realistic older female models for me in ten years when gulp! I’ll be 61. So women like Helen Mirren make me think that growing older doesn’t need to be depressing, but an uplifting thought of the lovely older lady you will be, full of wisdom, energy, and spunk. At least I am practicing all that now for my debut as a 60-year old! As for Botox, it scares me, and I tried a facial filler once and only once– you look like a squirrel afterwards, and I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. So I shrug off the changing jaw line and deepening lines around my mouth and think…”Helen Mirren…Helen Mirren.”

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