I received a copy of Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl for my birthday, and although I haven’t read it yet, I’ve skimmed some reviews.
Let’s be honest – Lena Dunham is a firecracker for a lot of people. She used to be one for me. Either you love her to death or you wish she would shut up. Go away. Hide.
And to clarify before we go further, I have yet to watch a single episode of Girls because to be honest, if I want to watch a bunch of women in their mid-twenties complain about their lives in New York City I would buy a time machine and set it to Summer 2009 and just watch myself.
But as a person, feminist, and writer, I love Lena Dunham the human. She’s the shit because she just doesn’t give a shit. And in this newfangled notion of IDGAF Feminism that I’m expressing (the “Fuck it” wave, as I’m calling it), it strikes me as fascinating that so many people – WOMEN – are content to rake her over the coals because of her privilege. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read an article from Jezebel slamming her for one reason or another and most of it comes from people who are all butthurt about her being privileged. Or they just call her fat, because the worst thing insecure people can say about other people is that they’re fat.
If you didn’t know, Lena Dunham comes from money, and therefore the assumption is that Lena Dunham shouldn’t complain one iota about her life or act like she’s had struggles because Money, despite the fact that Lena Dunham is one of the few female celebrities who wears her feminism like a badge of honor, like a weapon instead of a shield. Like her work and success was handed to her on a silver platter.
Also, there’s that whole argument that her work navel-gazes. Meanwhile, EVERY OTHER MALE AUTHOR EVER does the same thing and it’s just being thoughtful on human nature or some shit when they do it.
Privilege is a funny thing. I never really thought of myself as privileged in any way until I went to a different high school than the one in my town and realized just how good I had it when a girl in my class referred to me as “sheltered”.
Let’s be honest – I’m a white cis-gender heterosexual girl who grew up in the United States in a liberal state that was one of the first to recognize equal rights for LGBTQIAASP peoples,and I’ve never been sexually assaulted. I’m privileged to an absurd degree before you even bring money into it. But I grew up relatively frills-free in a little one-floor ranch house until we moved to a slightly bigger home in a better neighborhood. All of our Christmas decorations were homemade, and I got most of my clothes at discount prices. When I asked for expensive dolls or clothes for Christmas, I was denied. I got books instead. I was barely allowed an American Girl doll because it was so costly. I’m also the weirdest human being in my family – I literally have a giant stack of pagan and history of witchcraft books crowding up an entire shelf in my house.
But there are still a lot of people who assume I don’t have to do things like “work for a living” or “pay bills” or “be a functioning and independent adult.” I rarely ask for help, unless I’m literally on my last penny. I’d never forgive myself for resting on someone else’s dime. Plus my mom would kill me. I pay all of my own bills, I watch my money, and I’m saving up for the future. Without anyone else’s help. To be honest, there have been times where due to the extreme strain being an adjunct professor can sometimes put on my bank account, I have asked for help and it was immediately given. But it was given because I only ask when I have no other option.
All of this being said, I will admit it is pretty damn great to get free stuff from Nike and to travel with the team and to be able to say that I met the freaking President, twice. The fact that I have these things readily available to me is amazing and I’m so grateful for these opportunities. I’d be a dick if I weren’t. Privilege checked.
Listening and creating dialogue checks your privilege. Showing empathy checks your privilege. Using your privilege for something other than personal gain checks your privilege. I would rather use my privilege to critique anti-feminists and fat-phobics (what the fuck is wrong with you people, btw?), and help girls feel better about their bodies by sharing my story, rather than use my parents as human ATMs. My privilege is a tool to make the world better, it’s not an excuse to be a rich asshole. How did I become so humble and privilege-checking? I wasn’t raised by assholes. I was taught to view every human experience as valuable. I was ordered to work hard and do my best at everything and to make something of myself. I was exposed to experiences that weren’t great. I went through some profound shit with my life that had nothing to do with privilege and everything to do with my viewpoint on myself and the fear of my own limitations.
Lena Dunham makes glorious public mistakes and she owns up to them. She fucks up boldly and apologizes, but she keeps on trucking. She’s impervious to the public ridicule that slanders her for even taking up molecular space. She proudly displays her body (which might also cover up insecurity, but who cares if that’s the reason?)
Lena Dunham uses her privilege to examine a specific part of the human condition. Sure, it may not be everyone’s experience, but it’s hers, and she can do whatever she wants with that lens. Part of being a feminist is giving people the space to make their own choices with their lives. And I think Lena would think the same. Pro-choice doesn’t just mean abortion, y’all. Does Lena mess up a lot and say bad things? Of course! WHO DOESN’T. Who in their right mind is perfect?But women aren’t allowed to be anything less than perfect, while guys can be all complicated and deep and stuff.
Giving everyone the freedom to make their own choices is kind of what being a feminist and a decent human being is all about. I hope Lena makes more mistakes, because mistakes are what make you a person and not a robot. And if you try to shame her into silence, she probably won’t care.
Which is probably why she infuriates so many people. She simply doesn’t care what people think. I like that. We need more people like that.