Hollywood star and activist Ashley Judd says the 42 per cent women who voted for US President Donald Trump are a “confused lot”.
“It says that we are confused,” Judd replied tongue-in-cheek to a poser at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet about Trump securing the votes of so many women despite being “comprehensively accused of mysogynism” during the poll campaign.
Participating in a session headlined ‘Women’s Lives Matter” at the meet, the 48-year-old actress spoke on a variety of issues, including living conditions in refugee camps, religion, tafficking, low pay of teachers in the US and the movement for a $15 minimum wage.
All through the session, it was her candour laced with raw emotion stemming from life experiences that swept away the packed audience who seemed under a spell while the star Hollywood movies like “Double Jeopardy”, “Ruby in Paradise” and “Kiss the Girls” held forth.
Narrating an incident during her stay at a refugee camp in Jordan, Judd, also a global humanitarian and political activist, batted for Muslims — another take-off on Trump. “I support the Islam that I know.”
She said: “I was in a refugee camp in Jordan which then became my family.”
“I was so touched and so moved to lie on the floor of their refugee home and have mehendi done and Amana and I were of the same age. We got talking about religion,” Judd said, reminiscing her experience with the Muslim family.
Judd then went on to speak about her experience with a little girl at the camp. “Actually the littlest girl who I think was seven said: ‘Do you wear head scarf’ And I said: ‘No’. Then she said again: ‘Do you wear head scarf'”
“Because it was inconceivable to her that the answer was no so surely I had gotten my own experience wrong and she needed to ask the question again immediately.”
“Amana and I talked about head scarf and things like whether I could have a picture of her. I would love to have a picture of you — my family and would put it on a refrigerator,” Judd told Amana.
“And she said: ‘No you may not do that’. Allah does not allow us to put up pictures of human beings because it means worshipping a false God.”
Judd thanked her and put that picture up on her refrigerator, nevertheless. The Hollywood star has an ongoing acting career spanning over two decades.
“My point is they and I clearly had differences. And they are my family and I love those people,” Judd said welling up.
Judd said she still prayed for that family everyday and I thought about them. She even keeps enquiring about them from her Unfpa (The United Nations Population Fund) colleagues.
“How are they’ Have you seen them’ Are they getting enough to eat’ Is the water safe for drinking and have the working permits gone into action yet’ Are they allowed to have gainful employment'”
Judd accepts the fact that people have differences about how they interpret God and how they worship. “They are my family and I love them. And that is my message for Muslims everywhere who practice egalitarianism and inclusion,” the global humanitarian and political activist said.
Talking of women trafficking and ending impunity for violence against women, Judd vouched for the ‘beta male’ as opposed to ‘alpha male’ which she chastised.
“I do know plenty of feminist men and feminist boys and they deserve more air time because they are successful and when we have that modelled for all of us, I think it becomes easier for girls to women to gravitate towards feminist men,” Judd said.
“I heard an expression that’s new to me — beta male. I think we have more beta males participate in the public space and that would help them to be seen for what and who they are.
“The idea of the — alpha male — will become less aspirational and the beta male will be understood as a happier person,” Judd hoped.
On teachers, lamented they are paid “what should be unacceptable (amount)”.
“I pay teenagers who work for me in my home, more than teachers with masters degree earned in the US Public School system,” Judd said making the comparison.
“There is something terribly wrong about that,” she said.
Talking about the fight for $15 an hour wage, an international movement started in New York and now spread over 300 cities in six continents — of fast-food workers, home health aides, child care teachers, airport workers, adjunct professors, retail employees — and underpaid workers everywhere, she said, “I believe in the fight for 15”.
“I think that $15 an hour should be the entry minimum wage. But we don’t have that kind of equal pay dignity throughout our country,” she said.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Debayan Mukherjee