I know, I know…around here, we’ve had
a hate/hate an intense dislike thing going with Lena Dunham almost from the moment we met her. I’ve struggled myself, both with Girls and Dunham, and ultimately I’ve found myself in a place where I find the series and the girl interesting at times, but I don’t care enough to argue and fight over them. That said, Dunham is only 29 and Girls is only 3, and given their relative youth, there’s room for personal growth. Do I think Dunham will ever outgrow or overcome her privileged perspective? Probably not. Do I think she says some interesting and possibly valuable things? Yes, yes I do.
This is one of those times you could really like Lena Dunham. I know it might be difficult, but put your feelings aside and try to see through the blinding hate for just a second. The actress recently scored a sit-down with Hillary Clinton, and whatever your political leanings, if you’ve a single active brain cell, I think you can agree Clinton trumps a Trump. Dunham’s interview will feature the presidential candidate discussing her college experience, career path, and her feelings on women’s issues — asked if she’s a feminist, Clinton helps clear things up for those who might be confused.
“Absolutely. I’m always a little bit puzzled when any woman of whatever age, but particularly a young woman, says something like, ‘well, I believe in equal rights but I’m not a feminist.’ Well, a feminist is by definition someone who believes in equal rights. I’m hoping that people will not be afraid to say, that doesn’t mean you hate men, it doesn’t you want to separate out the world, so you’re not a part of ordinary life — that’s not what it means at all! It just means that we believe that women have the same rights as men.”
Like it or not, Dunham has a voice and an audience, and even Hillary’s smart enough to know how to use it. Beyond that though, Dunham is growing into herself, and in a Q & A with espnW, she says some pretty great — and surprisingly relatable — things.
Speaking for the kazillion of us who aren’t naturally athletically inclined, Lena discussed how shooting a simple Girls scene led to discovering her own body’s power. And granted, most of us would never be afforded the same opportunity that allowed this particular breakthrough, but push past the privilege and catch the humor, and the stuff you can relate to. It’s in there, I swear!
“I have never been a physically engaged person. Like, I was not an athletic kid. I was the kid who came up with a thousand excuses not to take a gym class. Even now, if I could, I would do all my work from bed. My boyfriend always says that I’m the most mentally energetic, physically lazy person he’s ever met. And it’s true. I would like to be lying sideways on a divan at all times, like being carried.
Running had always been off the table for me. It just looks embarrassing when I do it. I viewed it like learning a new language — best to learn it as a child. But there was an episode of Girls that I’d written with the idea that my character was going to be running. And I figured it would just be typical — we’ve seen Hannah run a lot and it’s pretty goofy, and I figured that’s what we were doing. Then my producing partner, Jenni Konner, had this idea that a good way to signal character development would be if my character was running and it wasn’t quite as pathetic. She’s not Prefontaine, but she understands what she’s doing.”
I don’t know about you, but I so empathize with her self-image, and the experience of running. The only way I ever started was because I was forced to, and I went through a similar revelation and understanding of what my body could do if I actually believed it could.
“They brought in this amazing running teacher named Matt Wilpers, who works at New York’s Mile High Run Club. We did two sessions, and he explained things to me that I hadn’t understood for my entire life about my body and about how exercise works.
I started from a place of, ‘I’m so annoyed I have to do this.’ It was the last thing I wanted to do. When it became something that actually gave me pleasure, I was shocked. Also, endorphins are real. You run with someone for an hour, you feel pretty good. Running for an hour does not make you feel worse.
I just feel good knowing that if I were to choose to try and run, it would be possible. Literally, last week I had to run because I was late and I used my principles and I just ran down the street and it felt nice. To run with this increased confidence and the sense that I could actually use my body to get places, that was a pretty big revelation considering I’ve already been alive for almost three decades.”
She admits though, she’s no professional — nor does she seem destined to become one of those insufferable “converts.”
“I feel so much stronger and more capable than before, but it’s not like I’ve like started joining my boyfriend on his daily run. I don’t have a mastery of it. Friends are saying, ‘You should do a triathlon!’ And I’m like, ‘How do you say, ‘hell f—-ing no’ in Spanish?’ That’s just not gonna happen.”
I’ll just let you know to skip past the part where she’s been semi-Goopified by Gwyneth Paltrow’s trainer, because that won’t endear her. We’re trying to focus on the good here, remember?
Moving on to the meat of the interview, Dunham spoke to the connection between professional media, social media, and the body image messages going out to young girls and women. (Dunham had removed a photo of herself wearing her boyfriend’s boxers from her Instagram because instead of seeing it as amusing, people were — surprise! — slamming her body.)
“I was so excited when Women’s Running magazine put a curvy woman on the cover this August. It’s important to see examples like that because it’s not like exercise leads to an all-purpose result where all of us look like models.
[On the Instagram picture] …it was just meant to be funny that I was wearing my boyfriend’s underwear because I was out of underwear because my dog ate all of mine! But people missed the point of the picture. It became a chance for them to critique my body, and that, in turn, sent the horrific message that my body was ‘unacceptable’ to everyone who visited the page.”
I love that she points out how exercising makes her feel powerful and good…but, that doesn’t mean she’s magically transformed to a socially acceptable representation of the female form (whatever that is). There are certainly girls who do look up to Dunham, and regardless of whether or not it hurts her feelings (it does) when people are assholes about her photos, she also realizes the message getting across to her fans.
“…when I see those comments now, my first thought is that I have girls who read my Instagram and care about it and connect to it, and I don’t want them seeing those remarks and thinking that’s the way that they’re going to be received. I also don’t want to give trolls a place to have a sexy troll meetup. Bottom line is, I’m 5-foot-3 and 150 pounds. That is literally, I think, statistically the average American female body. So when trolls come to my page and they say all that s—- and other girls see it, those girls are getting an unrealistic picture of what femaleness looks like, and I just can’t let that happen on my watch..”
Here’s where things really get interesting. Dunham has a take on why people are so focussed on the particulars of women’s bodies.
“Fixating on bodies is a way to police women. We can no longer keep women from owning property. We can no longer keep women from voting. But we will find a way to police and repress powerful women and let them know that they do not matter to us and that they are not in control of their own destiny. I really think it comes down to misogyny. And then women join in because that’s what they’re being taught from the time they’re born. They don’t even recognize that they’re agents of their own oppression.Not to sound too much like I’m, like, Andrea Dworkin-ing out on you, but that’s what I think. Sorry to really pile it on there.”
I don’t necessarily agree with that entire statement, but I do believe people who body shame are, in a sense, policing people — and we women absolutely do it to each other. That’s legitimately the worst thing we can do, pick each other apart, and it’s the one thing we should be able to easily stop, cold.
One of Dunham’s most powerful statements comes after the interviewer points out that even athletic icons like Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey are body-shamed.
“With Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey, men are thinking, ‘You could beat me up, that f—-ing scares me, you have achieved more than I ever will in my lifetime, so I’m going to get online and tell you that you don’t look like someone I want to f—-.’ That is where I believe it comes from. And it’s so unenlightened. And man, it’s a bummer.
The fact is, Ronda Rousey could punch you in the face anytime she wanted, and she has completely created her own life and she’s having an incredible career that most of us could only dream of and she doesn’t give a s—— what you think. And that point of view is really, really threatening to certain people, especially when it comes in the form of a woman, because to a man, a woman not caring what you think means that all your power is gone. You can’t control her anymore.”
Therein also lies the power behind Lena Dunham. She’s in our faces, doing and saying things we can’t control, and if you don’t like that, it’s cool. You might think she’s nothing more than a spoiled, rich girl spouting nonsense. You might dislike her because you think what she described doing with her sister wasn’t innocent, rather, sexual abuse. Maybe you just get a weird vibe whenever you see her or hear her voice. But, if there’s one thing she’s on the money about, it’s every person’s right to exist in her own body, and to feel good about herself. So, if you don’t like Lena Dunham, don’t express those feelings by attacking her over Girls’ nude scenes or how her body looks, because that doesn’t make her the asshole. It makes you one.
(via/read the full interview at espnW)