PSI’s (First Ever) Person of the Year: Ashley Judd

By Marshall Stowell, Vice President of External Relations & Communications, PSI

It’s time.

From the slew of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a sea change is occurring.

Women are finally being heard. And, believed.

And to a great degree, it’s a result of Ashley Judd’s courage to share what happened to her in Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room years ago.

The floodgates opened. Countless women now feel safe enough to share their experiences, and new life has been breathed into the #metoo movement.

Men are being removed from the powerful positions they’ve long exploited and the rest of us are hopefully taking inventory of our behavior.

It feels like we can’t turn back.

I’m not surprised it’s Ashley who helped tip the scales. She’s brave.

She’s been working for this moment her entire life.

For the past 12 years, I’ve had the distinct honor of calling her a friend and colleague. We’ve travelled throughout the global south visiting slums, brothels, schools and clinics to bring light to the devastating effects of poverty, social injustice and gender inequality.

Her work started well before then. It was sparked in college from the music of U2 and the words of Nelson Mandela.

She’s honed her personal, professional and spiritual journey to become an extremely effective advocate – recently having pushed for the passing of the International Violence Against Women Act.

She’s been widely celebrated for her social justice work and has supported countless organizations and efforts to make the world more balanced for girls and women.

But it’s the combination of her bravery, intellect and humanity that’s always struck me.

I remember a trip we took to India in 2009 – and in particular, one visit with a mother and her daughter who were fighting for the right to receive treatment for HIV.  What I didn’t know at the time was the abuse Ashley experienced in her own life, and how her work was both a way of healing deep personal wounds and doing what she could to protect other women.

In her book, All That Is Bitter and Sweet, Ashley writes:

I was told how, during their hard times when Kausar was so sick from AIDS, Nasreen scrounged for her family to stay alive. She begged. She worked. Eventually, she herself went hungry; a teacher finally reached out to her, learned the story, and personally gave her money for food. A lovely girl, Nasreen wants to be a doctor. I braided her hair, undid it, and braided it again, just to be able to nurture her more. The sweetness of the moment was almost unbearable. Before I left, we had a little talk about our bodies, because Kausar admitted that she hadn’t ever discussed sex with her nearly adult daughter. Nasreen leaned into me, holding my hand (she grabbed it back whenever I released hers), listening. I said to her, my own voice surprising me, as it was now thick with emotion and I was flailing inside, trying not to break down. I had suddenly been sucked into a squall of emotion that it took great control to modulate. “Your body is beautiful and sacred. Do you believe me when I say that?” (Yes.) “You are beautiful and sacred. Do you believe that about yourself?” (Yes.)

She ends the passage with this line:

I came to India for Nasreen.

Actually, Ashley, you came for all women.

Follow Ashley on twitter @AshleyJudd

Follow Marshall on twitter @MarshallPSI

Watch Ashley in conversation with Nicholas Kristof about her experience exposing sexual harassment and teaching others how to fight it:

And watch her in this Teen Vogue video.

Watch her at the Women’s March.