“I know it’s a good thing to do, it’s just not a very me thing to do”
It was International Women’s Day this week, and whilst I can think of a bevy of women who inspire courage, have torched through fences, and who continually challenge the patriarchy in grand ways, it’s Lena Dunham who I’m compelled to write about.
I feel slightly torn about that; there are some things that rub me the wrong way about Dunham. I’m not entirely won over by her media personality; sometimes shrill and often clumsy with words, there have been numerous occasions where her utterances have caused me to cringe. But actually, that’s kind of the overriding factor as to why she’s the one I want to root for.
I put my foot in my mouth frequently, suffering verbal diarrhea which leaks into unfortunate chasms of conversations that are too difficult to mop up afterward. Lena Dunham is someone who I find deeply comforting, and, at the same time she’s a phenomenon who’s enjoying ridiculous success and is incredibly powerful, a feat which shouldn’t be undermined. It’s her ability to express herself openly, with all the messiness that comes with that, which distracts us from her success.
Countless blunders have made her relationship with the general public a difficult one, and one which reflects her protagonist Hannah Horvath in beautiful symmetry. Here’s three that spring to mind:
- In 2014, Dunham put out a collection of essays titled Not That Kind of Girl. In the book, she described looking at her sister’s vagina, which caused many people to suggest that she’s enacted a form of abuse: “One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me. Grace [her one-year-old sister] was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn’t resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked,”
- She accused American Footballer of ignoring her based on her looks: “I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, ‘That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.’ It wasn’t mean — he just seemed confused,” After receiving a torrid of criticism, Dunham apologised suggesting that she’s projected her insecurities and made assumptions about Odell.
- On her podcast ‘Women of the Hour’, Dunham informed her audience that while she’s never had an abortion, she wishes she had so she could do her part to reduce stigma around the issue…a shit storm ensued.
We all have the capability to say the wrong thing, and some of us flex that muscle more than others. Dunham’s ability to reflect, and admit wrong doing when she hears her critics is commendable, and something which Hannah Horvath doesn’t have the same proclivity to do.
The HBO series Girls is always shot in the Summer in New York: bring on Jessa in flowing Boho dresses or Wu-Tang T’s with hot pants. It makes the bleak days of March in sunless London seem even less lit. But the lives of Hannah’s girl gang are anything but idyllic, Girls is a celebration of mess. Even the most straight-laced half of the quartet, Marnie and Shosh, have delivered some epic fuck ups that dislodge their shiny lives.
As the lead of the show, Lena Dunham exposes herself repeatedly. Both physically and, we can assume on numerous occasions, personally. Her breasts, her mental health, her frailty, her strength, her curves – the sense of exposure seems liberating
Some of the strongest Girls’ moments have exposure at their core. A fevered Wednesday night out, buoyed up by cocaine and ‘fuck ’em’ attitude, Hannah finds herself in a yellow mesh tank top, sans bra, sweating it up on the dance floor.
It perfectly sums out how jumping out and down, giving zero thoughts about how you look, can solve a lot of things. (temporarily, sure. And maybe give the coke a miss).
Admitting insecurity and then being brave enough to hold a spotlight on yourself is brilliant and that’s what makes me a Dunham fan. Also, as I’m googling dance scenes in Girls, it’s dawning on me that the show is somewhat of a dance epic and that has gone ludicrously unrecognised….