Feminism’s Many Shapes and Shades

You’re going to be pissed but I’m going to talk about Lena Dunham. I might be the last one who does.

You might not like what I have to say and that’s okay. You might not agree with any of it. I just need to get it out. Call me bias, but I took a trip to NYC back in 2012 and was bombarded by posters for this new show that was about to air on HBO. Since the pilot episode of “Girls”, I was devout fan of this woman and what it was she was trying to do. There had no been a show before that time I felt I related to so much. I could see the shows intentions from the beginning and it really hit home for me. “Girls”, as I saw it, addressed real issues in such a modern way in terms of sex, body type, relationships, education, and what it means to be a twenty something fresh out of college completely and utterly unemployed. This show struck a nerve and there were some serious tears that I did not fight to hold back when the show came to an end this past spring. It ended just as I had expected it to, but exactly as it should have. The four girls had drifted apart, one dating the others ex, one getting engaged without telling anyone, one having a baby by a random surf instructor she met at a beach, and the other in the middle of a divorce with an ex-band mate turned-junkie. The moral of the story – life happens. Friendship is not always an episode of Sex and The City and the women you surround yourself with on a daily basis are not always your soulmates how some of us wish they were.

That being said, as a feminist, throughout the years I have witnessed other feminists express their discontent for Dunham and the controversial comments she has made, more specifically, on her podcast. As a listener, I can most certainly argue that these comments were taken out of context, and though there have certainly been comments Dunham has made without necessarily thinking, this DOES NOT make her any less of a feminist than you and I (No, Dunham does not actually wish she had an abortion).

I’ve noticed some very outspoken women I know group her in with the likes of Taylor Swift, Amy Schumer, and Jennifer Lawrence, suggesting that these are examples of women that give feminism a bad name. Someone on my Facebook went as far as saying that if you read Dunham’s book “Not That Kind of Girl” and “The Fountainhead” side by side, that they are essentially the same read. As a woman, not a fan, this was a ridiculous statement to make, especially if you have actually read The Fountainhead. You simply cannot compare a work of “philosophy” by Ayn Rand to that of a young actress’s/filmmaker’s personal memoir. It was ignorant and dismissive and it was only paying attention to the bad Lena has done instead of the good; and if you want my opinion, which I’m sure you don’t, it seems to me that she at least tries to do as much good as she can. Being a liberal feminist in America in 2017 does not come without it’s relentless criticism.

It goes without day that any woman willing to promote their political views is going to be met with criticism and this is absolutely nothing new. However, I respect and applaud any woman who uses her platform to voice her opinion knowing full well what it means in terms of her career. As a political science major I can tell you first hand that it is and was not popular to support Hillary Clinton for as long and as loudly as Dunham did (shocking, I know). While Lena has openly support HRC well before she announced her second run, Dunham also supported her at a time when it was way more popular to support Bernie. Every time she posted a picture that showed her support for Hill, I would read the comments that essentially just said “why the fuck don’t you support Bernie Sanders?” Dunham, like anyone politically invested, had her reasons for supporting Hillary Clinton that can be summed up with that she simply thought Hillary was the man for the job. While Hillary Clinton might not have been the precise woman us liberals wanted in office, she was certainly a better alternative to the catastrophe we are currently dealing with now. A Woman in Chief has been long overdue and now I sit wondering to myself when there will be another woman who will have the same chance that she did to lead from the female perspective.

I will say, secondly, that Lena Dunham might not be your favorite feminist, but she is a feminist, nonetheless. I am always critical of those who fail to recognize that many different people suffer in various ways, however, I personally do not approve of woman tearing down other woman who try actively try to do good for other woman. I do not believe Lena Dunham is a celebrity trying to make money of the woman’s movement, as some suggest. Please maintain that this is nothing more than my own perspective and you might very well have a different one based on justified reasoning. I believe she sincerely cares about humanity, equality, and strives to convey that message in ways that do not always come out the right way. While she has purposely overexposed her body on television for the purpose of destroying generic body type standards we were so used to seeing on every other show, she was yet again met with fierce critique by other feminists. I had one girl comment on the February 2017 Glamour Magazine issue saying that just because Lena’s thigh was sticking out (cellulite and all) did not make the cover “progressive.” Although, I don’t know that’s what that particular issue of the magazine was trying to be. I believe Glamour’s only intention was to celebrate a group of girls who were all on a show that was now coming to an end after six seasons. While Dunham’s body type seems to be the only piece of diversity on the cover, I feel the critique should only come from the media’s intentions, not whether the cover is intersectional enough in regards to a show that was always majority white. And while Dunham was very proudly showing off the cellulite ridden thigh of hers, this is nothing new on Dunham’s end; and I for the life of me cannot understand why there was so much confusion on Dunham’s willingness to show her body so much on her show, as if she SHOULD be ashamed of how over weight she is, as if she SHOULD be embarrassed to show off her flabby stomach on television. I hear fellow feminists, woman I love, telling her to put that shit away because everyone was sick and tired of seeing it all the time; like we get the point. But did they? I, myself, am guilty of saying that she overexposed her body on her show, however, I do not feel this way anymore. I believe Dunham’s choice to frequently show her “unconventional” body type (by Hollywood standards) is a message she is trying to send about being confident in your own skin, even when you aren’t actually as confident as you would like to come across. I believe the comments she made in regard to Odell Beckham JR and the way he would portray her were truly a reflection her own insecurities sitting next to a very handsome and very fit football star. Her comments were not appropriate, but, as I’ve said, I do not believe they make her any less of a feminist than you or I.

If you don’t know Lena Dunham that’s fine, but I think other feminists have confused an actress’s love for equality with some kind of attempt to be the voice of feminism altogether and this is simply not true. If Lena Dunham is trying to be the spokesperson for feminism, then so were all the rest. Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Mary Daly, Beyoncé, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Susan B. Anthony, Emma Goldman, Elizabeth Freeman, etc. Think what you will but the woman’s movement was never about one single woman trying to claim the throne of feminism. In addition, I find it especially easy for others to critique those with fame and careers related to things outside of the woman’s movement; as if saying anything on behalf of what you think is right is inappropriate. Anyone famous, who had been given a voice or a platform of any kind can be critiqued and accused of attempting to become THE voice of woman’s liberation. Lena Dunham is merely one fish in a sea of woman who still fight against the inequality that still exists in our society and she only tries to make a positive difference in the small ways she is able.

Some small things Lena has done on behalf of the feminist voice includes starting her own podcast “Women of the Hour” (give it a listen!) where she discusses politics, style, culture, sexuality, cats, abortion, saying “goodbye”, BLM, How to Support a Woman’s Reproductive Health and Freedom, and more much more. She is also the co-founder a weekly newsletter with friend and boss Jenni Konnor called Lenny Letter that had featured pieces of personal writings by women including an essay by Alicia Keys and why she decided to stop wearing make-up, a piece by Kesha describing her journey to self-redemption after she devastatingly lost her legal battle with the man who raped her, a piece by Jennifer Lawrence (yes, I know) talking about the gender wage gap as it still persists in Hollywood, as well as a piece by Senator Elizabeth Warren talking about ways to make college more affordable and increase equal opportunity when it comes to education (plus some highly justified Trump bashing).

Who are we to decide what types of confidence need to be celebrated? While it is extremely important to remain intersectional, should woman such as Lena truly be shamed by other women for speaking on behalf of those who have no voices? As people, we critique celebrities quite often, saying, “who are you to be talking about this stuff when you don’t actually understand?” However, feminism is humanitarian. Not only is there nothing wrong with having compassion for people who suffer in ways that you never have or will, there is nothing wrong with helping your fellow women get their messages out. And I believe this is what Dunham successfully does through her podcast, her newsletter and charitable works. There are over 3 and a half billions woman on this planet and feminism as a movement attempts to speak on behalf of ALL women who have ever lost a job to a man, who were expected to fall second to a man’s achievements, was expected to accept a smaller salary for the same work that a man was doing, who were assumed to be both quiet and meek, who were expected to play the feminine role, who have ever been beaten within an inch of their lives by the boyfriend/husband, who did not know what they were capable of because there way always someone telling them they were not. There is no figurehead or face of feminism, rather successful woman who have chosen to let us know, proudly and loudly, that they are, in fact, feminist as fuck.

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