By Hillary Busis
Updated April 12, 2012 at 03:34 PM EDT

Ashley Judd’s instantly viral “puffy face” essay slammed the media — and our culture more generally — for objectifying and hypersexualizing women. Yesterday, the actress appeared on Rock Center with Brian Williams to explain what inspired her essay, and to reiterate her central point: that the controversy around her appearance is a symptom of a much larger problem.

Last month, Judd sported swollen cheeks after taking a round of prescription steroids. The swelling sparked speculation that she’d had work done. According to the actress, an interview at a small TV station in Louisville brought the issue to her attention. “At the end of it, the reporter — and I get pretty emotional about it — just absolutely shocked me by saying, ‘What do you have to say about the plastic surgery rumors?'” Judd explained on Rock Center. “And I have never been so genuinely surprised in all my born days.”

The Missing star says that what upset her most was the lack of goodwill the media had toward her: “The conversation went straight to, ‘Oh my gosh,'” she said. What’s more, Judd soon found herself in a “double bind” — “I look bad, I’ve had work. I look too good, I’ve had work.”

The anger she felt motivated Judd to write her op-ed. And once the actress saw how quickly the essay went viral, she realized she had struck a chord. “This really isn’t about me,” she said. “My puffy-face moment is another person’s big-butt moment. So I want people to be invited to… share their puffy face moment, and talk about being humiliated, being objectified, being ridiculed.”

Though Judd realizes she’s a public figure, she doesn’t think that should give anyone carte blanche to criticize her appearance — or anyone else’s. Check out the video of her Rock Center appearance below, then tell us: Do you agree with what she’s saying? And has she inspired you to embrace your own “puffy-face” moment?

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