People sure have a lot to say about Lena Dunham. She’s rapidly become a cultural figure ripe for both conversation and criticism about everything from gender roles to racism to body image. What I like about her is that she’s actually participating in the conversation, too (with a healthy dose of self-awareness and humor), especially the conversation about her body. At a recent appearance at the New Yorker festival, she quipped: ”Get used to it. I’m going to live until 105 and I’m going to show my thighs every day.”
Lena recently took flak in the media for wearing some super-short, barely visible shorts underneath a long top, showing her “dimpled” thighs. (Thanks for that description, Daily Mail!) Lena’s response? “‘I don’t think a girl with tiny thighs would have received such no-pants attention. I think what it really was…”Why did you all make us look at your thighs?”
And she’s completely correct. Since the show she writes and stars in, Girls, came out earlier this year, Lena’s gotten a ton of attention for her body, which she says is a size 8. People seem both shocked and appalled that Lena appears both nude and topless on the show, especially considering her body is outside of the “norm” (the norm being what we usually see on TV and in movies, not the norm of what women’s bodies actually are). She said, “I realized that what was missing from movies for me was the presence of bodies I understood.” (I’d critique her for putting a vast majority of only white bodies on the first season of her show, but that’s a conversation for another post.)
Another quote from her during the New Yorker festival in relation to putting “average size” women on TV (many of the quotes were tweeted out as the talk was going on) was “Look at us until you see us.” That’s a powerful, relevant message for women today, women who, if they have a body that’s less than the ideal, can often feel invisible.
Let’s not forget that Lena also appeared on the Emmy’s telecast, naked, sitting on a toilet and eating cake, poking fun at both her image and her critics. Despite all of the talk and attention that Lena’s body gets, it seems like she’s still, ultimately, the one at the helm of the conversation. This is a rarity for a woman in the entertainment industry.
No matter what your opinion of Lena, her book deal, or her show Girls might be, it’s hard to fault her for what she’s doing to normalize normal bodies. And the fact that the body she’s using to do that is her own? I really think it’s both badass and brave. Bring on the thighs, Lena!