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That Kind of Girl

2015 May 27

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Lena Dunham. You love her or you hate her. She’s one of the most polarizing actors working today. Say what you will about her, she’s talented and fiercely determined and she’s an excellent (and necessary) role model for women.

A few days ago, Dunham posted a photo of herself in lingerie on Instagram. Given how frequently her character, Hannah Horvath, appears in various states of nudity on Girls, you wouldn’t think that this photo would be a big deal, but apparently, it was. Articles appeared in Bustle, the NY Daily News, PopSugar, the Daily Mail, and MTV. It was a “top news” item on Facebook. Most of the articles praised Dunham for her “body confidence” and her recent “weight loss.” It all feels a little bit like patting a child on the head for almost doing a good job. “Good for her!”

I am an unapologetic supporter of Dunham. I think she’s a great writer and I love that she is so vocal about her love of books and her support for Planned Parenthood. Of course, she’s taken some missteps. In reading her essay collection, Not That Kind of Girl, I was a little disappointed at the specificity of her experiences. But, as much as we love to foist this “voice of a generation” nonsense on her, Dunham does not speak for women of my generation–or women of ANY generation, for that matter. She speaks for herself, and for that, she should be applauded rather than torn down because her views and stories don’t always conform to what we think should be the views and stories of a certain “kind of girl.” Lena Dunham is “Not That Kind of Girl” because she is no “kind of girl” at all. She grew up in New York City, the incredibly privileged daughter of two acclaimed artists. Zac Posen was her babysitter. She was featured in the New York Times before she was eighteen–for having a sleepover. She had extensive therapy throughout her childhood, a luxury most children don’t have, despite similar struggles with anxiety and depression. Her viewpoint is a very unique one–and it’s also smart, entertaining, funny, and sometimes poignant. If you’re able to enjoy her work on an entertainment level, it’s great–it’s when you try to equate her experiences with yours that it loses its luster.

Dunham gives us a lot to talk about. Her work, on Girls, in film, in writing,  and her activism should be plenty to keep the public busy. But, of course, what we hear most about Lena Dunham is about her appearance and her body–how much she shows of it, how much she should show of it, how “curvy” it is or isn’t, what her hair looks like, what an ugly dress she wore to the Oscars. Of course, we can’t get over our collective fascination with what Hillary Clinton is wearing or what her hair looks like, so I suppose it’s naive of me to hope for a cessation of talking about Lena Dunham’s body. So, in the spirit of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” here’s a collection of images showing Lena Dunham as a beautiful woman–because I think we need them, and I think that too often, discussion of her appearance is limited to how bad she looks. Because I follow her on Instragram, and when I saw that lingerie photo, I thought, “Hey, that looks like my body,” and we tend to underestimate how important that is, to see positive representations of all different kinds of bodies and appearances in the media.

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What do you think of Lena Dunham?

 

2 Responses Post a comment
  1. Kyley permalink
    May 27, 2015

    Thank you! I also love Lena Dunham. She’s flawed (like we all are!!) but the hate really, really bothers me. I think there’s a lot of sexism behind the rage (who is SHE to show off her body?), as well as jealousy at her early success (which even she would acknowledge has surely been helped along by her position of privileged). I also think people just aren’t that smart, and they don’t realize that a) you’re not supposed to think that Hannah is a good person and b) Lean Dunham =/= Hannah.

    I really enjoyed Not that Kind of Girl, and I love fashion choices. Even when she looks like something the cat dragged in, I sometimes get the sense that she’s playing a marvelous game of “eff you!” to the media.

    When Girls first came on (which I have since fallen behind on, because I didn’t have HBO for a while), I was so excited (for many reasons)–one of which is that I think she is stunning and looks a lot like one of my best friends. I was so excited to call my friend and say, “There’s this new show, and the actor/writer is super smart and funny and looks so much like you!” And it makes me really angry and sad that, with time, that excited compliment has turned into–something else.

    tl;dr I love her and this post.

  2. Amy permalink
    May 28, 2015

    I also love Lena. When Girls first came out I tried to watch it, but could barely get through the first episode due to Hannah’s abhorrent behavior and treatment of her parents. I thought, “Whelp, add this to the list of things I’m too old to enjoy.” Then a couple years ago I heard Lena on Fresh Air and I was sold. She was so smart and articulate and thoughtful and savvy. Soon after I tore through the first season of Girls, which I ended up loving. The outrage about her body is maddening and disheartening and, frankly, personally offensive because I, too, look at her body and see reflections of my own. Luckily all that therapy she had as a child has given her the tools to forge ahead despite the ridiculousness, and thank goodness for that.

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