By Anjuli Kolb

On Monday, Ashley Judd, star of Double Indemnity Jeopardy, one of my all time favorites to watch while high and twerking my friend’s mom’s StairMaster™ in high school (see also Backdraft) wrote a searing rebuttal to the various media outlets who have been speculating about the state of her face. Their conclusions ranged the whole of human experience and beyond, from “fat” to “injectable fillers.” Darwin had it that the beautiful face of Nature was packed tightly with sharp wedges, driven inward by incessant blows. This exhausting and precarious situation is probably why we ladies had to rest on easy chairs and suffer what Florence Hartley, in her 1872Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, called "the worst species of debility": fat.


“[T]he recent speculation and accusations…feel different, and my colleagues and friends encouraged me to know what was being said. Consequently, I choose to address it because the conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.”

—Ashley Judd, open letterThe Daily Beast, April 9, 2012.


“The face of Nature may be compared to a yielding surface, with ten thousand sharp wedges packed close together and driven inwards by incessant blows, sometimes one wedge being struck, and then another, with greater force.”

—Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859.


“‘Yes! We are a self-indulgent race, this present generation. Witness our easily excited feelings; witness our late hours of rising, our sofas and easy chairs, our useless days and dissipated nights! Witness our pallid faces, our forms, sometimes attenuated and repulsive while yet in early life, age marching, not creeping, on before his time; or witness our over-fed and over-expanded forms, enfeebled by indolence, and suffering the worst species of debility—the debility of fat…. "In the education of women," writes a modern physician, "too little attention is given to subdue the imaginative faculty, and to moderate sensibility...we find imagination and sentiment predominant over the reasoning faculties, and laying the foundation of hysterical, hypochondriacal, and even maniacal diseases."’”

—Florence Hartley, “Hints on Health,” a chapter in The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness: A Complete Handbook for the Use of the Lady in Polite Society, 1872.

Let Me Recite What History Teaches (LMRWHT) is a weekly column that flashes the lavalamp, gaslight, candlelight, campfire, torch, sometimes even the starlight of the past on something that is happening now. The form of the column strives to recover what might be best about the “wide-eyed presentation of mere facts.” Each week you will find here some citational constellation, offered with astonishment and without comment, that can serve as an end in itself, dinner party fodder, or an occasion for further thought or writing. The title is taken from the last line of Stein’s poem “If I Told Him (A Completed Portrait of Picasso)."

Image: Benvenuto Cellini, Perseus with the Head of Medusa