I would like to begin by stating that I cannot stand Lena Dunham. Even though watching Girls is a sadistic guilty pleasure of mine and I greatly respect the success that both the she and the show have enjoyed, she is not my cup of tea. And that is probably not something that she would care too much about, as she is far too confident, self-assured, and opinionated to care about my humble opinion. And even though I respect Lena Dunham’s confidence and abilities, I do not think she is using her potential in the best way, and I do not consider her the voice of my generation, nor do I think that anyone should.
So why am I writing an article in defense of Lena Dunham?
Lena Dunham may not be someone I would want to spend any time with, and I would not go to her for any sagacious judgment regarding important life matters. And I do not understand why she is nude so often on her show; however, I think it’s time we all shut the fuck up about it.
For the record, I am neither in favor of nor opposed to Lena Dunham’s consistent nudity or near nudity (such as in the episode with the now-infamous green bikini). The human body should be appreciated rather than abhorred, and hers is no exception. While I might personally make some different style choices than she would make, that does not mean that my more conservative style of dress is superior to hers, it just makes them two different choices.
The issue I have, which is not Lena Dunham’s fault, is the outrage that the episode where she wore a green bikini sparked. “How dare she wear a bikini?” they said, shocked that a woman of that size would ever have the gumption to wear a bikini. “I hope she never wears one again,” male facebook friends of mine said, as though their bodies were so flawless.
Not only is this a ridiculous double standard of the scrutiny of men versus the scrutiny that women face based on physical appearances, but I will defend Lena Dunham’s right to wear whatever the hell she wants. It’s her body, a body that many do find attractive and desirable, and if she has the balls to wear a bikini on a television show, then that is her business and as a viewer, we all have the choice to either continue watching or to change the channel. (For the record, I think anyone of any shape and size who wears a bikini has serious chutzpah.)
Lena Dunham has been slammed by the media and laypeople for her weight, her unique sense of style, and most recently, the bikini. To that I have two responses, the first of which is that I wish everyone would shut the fuck up about it. I am a solid size ten, I haven’t been called thin since about the third grade, and I probably never will be. Lena Dunham is thinner than I am. I am not going to pretend that I am vulnerable to the criticisms of physical features that are so hackneyed in society; I am much too strong for that and I have had far too many years to get used to being the chubby girl in the group. But what message does this send to young girls? Would men be subject to this strict scrutiny? For girls who are on the verge of developing eating disorders, or who already have these unhealthy habits ingrained into their psyches in the name of weight loss, this is a terrible message. Girls of all sizes can be beautiful, both physically and otherwise, and I have had enough of this criticism of Lena Dunham’s size. This is a terrible message, and members of the media are guilty of sending the message that a woman’s body must be lithe and tiny to be appreciated, and even to wear a bikini. This is ridiculous, and I, a size ten American (I know, the horror! Try not to gag as you picture someone who might be larger than a size four!) have had just about enough of it.
My second response is, again, that everyone should shut the fuck up about Lena Dunham’s weight. This response is for a different reason. I’m not going to pretend that a woman’s accomplishments are ever judged independently of her physical appearance – we all know that that is just not the case. Objectively speaking though, Lena Dunham is a success. She is just 26 years old, yet she is the creator and star of an HBO series, has received 8 Emmy nominations, two Golden Globe Awards, and is the first woman to ever win a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Director in a Comedy Series. Regardless of one’s opinion of the show Girls, Lena Dunham has clearly done very well for herself. And yet, all anyone can focus on is her weight and the specific style choices that she chooses to make. This is a terrible reflection of the superficiality that our society exhibits, and a clear indicator of the double standard that exists between men and women who are trying to make it.
I am not Lena Dunham’s biggest fan, and I am not the most avid watcher of Girls. However, I am physically larger than she is, I am appalled at the way that her physical appearance is scrutinized while her professional accomplishments go undiscussed, and I’m worried about the larger effect that this sort of criticism will have on society. I would like everyone to shut the fuck up about Lena Dunham’s weight because I care about the negative impact on women’s perceptions of their own body, and frankly, you should too. And honestly, there are so many more important and worthwhile things to be discussing rather than how Lena Dunham looked in a bikini. Therefore, let’s just all shut the fuck up about it.