Lena Dunham is the gift that keeps on giving. If you hate her.
Hate is a word, amongst other choice and degenerate kinds, that is frequently used in comments about the actress, writer, and content creator. I’ve personally added her to my list of your White girl’s favorite White girls that got roasted in 2016 (e.g. Taylor Swift). What began as the cult of Dunham in 2012, when her show GIRLS premiered on HBO, has dissolved as a sad, trope of privileged, White feminism for its remaining members, and a treat to annihilate for the haters.
The scrutiny towards Dunham was sparked when the born and raised New Yorker released her book Not That Kind Of Girl. A memoir with the slight countenance of preternatural depth by a 28-year-old. It was largely a cringe-inducing read of her past mistakes, awful college moments, and quirky Manhattan upbringing. I did enjoy this one chapter about her stint working at a children’s clothing shop. But all 262 pages got ripped to shreds because Dunham disclosed opening her sister’s legs to peek at her vagina when she was a baby, and she herself a toddler. Followed by its media darling treatment based on season one, GIRLS was an environment where Dunham’s highly voluble and caustic sense of storytelling was niche. After Girl, her style that became nationalized. Critics questioned and psychologists argued just how sanctioned she was with the “she was just a kid” pass. Online commentators subjected her to being gross and a pedophile. So it began, as The Atlantic have called it: “The Lena Dunham Cycle of Internet Outrage.”
In the last couple of days, the cycle has taken another spin. During Dunham’s season 2, episode 5 clip of her podcast Women of the Hour, the focus was on “Choice” as in pro-choice within the subject of reproductive rights. Her biggest input, as the podcast included the voices and stories of others, was when she recalled visiting a Planned Parenthood in Texas. Her account was tipped off with the extremely controversial ending of: “Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”
That one little big sentence has been consequential to her crumbling status as a leading public figure feminist for 21st century millennial women. Mind you, just earlier this fall, she had already gone through the fire in releasing an explanation and apology to athlete Odell Beckham Jr. for dramatizing the fact that he did not pay her much attention or seem sexually interested when they sat at the same table at the MET Ball Gala this spring. Black blogs aplenty like The Root were waiting at the door for Dunham with a freshly glued letter A sticker for her forehead. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d pissed them off. Her bad attempt at an Eddie Murphy Delirious kind of stand-up re-ignited the tough history of Black men hypersexualized or seen as monstrous by White women that viewed themselves as delicate and worthy of adulation. It’s a conversation that needed to be had, and the now 30-year-old celeb visited New York City’s crude The Breakfast Club to speak about the impact of her insensitivity.
(As an observer, I found the entire brouhaha of it all embarrassing. I, however, appreciated her chat on the radio).
Since the release of Women of the Hour’s episode 5, the general public’s abhorrence towards her has outdone itself online. The comments section on her Instagram and Twitter mentions are in shambles over claims she wished she had an abortion.
I already know better than to simply leverage only soundbites on a controversial issue from an originally bigger piece of work. Occasionally, that is all I need and I become keyboard happy like some online writers that revel in think pieces. I knew there was more to Dunham’s stupid little big line. I wanted to hear the podcast in full it was featured on. I can’t say if other media outlets bothered to listen to the episode, or have even given Women of the Hour much thought beforehand. This is the most publicity it’s received since its debut.
Here is the full quote, featuring Dunham’s abortion finale, painfully transcribed for you:
“There is stigma around abortion. We all know that. There is cultural stigma, It’s hard to put an abortion on network TV. Even though Norman Lear pulled it off and did it really well, but since then we’ve backslid. I always thought that I myself didn’t stigmatize abortion. I am an abortion rights activist. It’s a huge part of who I am. But one day, when I was visiting a Planned Parenthood in Texas a few years ago. A young girl walked up to me and asked me if I would like to be a part of her project in which women shared their stories of abortion. I sort of jumped. ‘I haven’t had an abortion’ I told her. I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women’s options, I myself had never had an abortion. And I realized then that I even I was carrying within myself a stigma around this issue. Even I, the woman that cares as much as anybody on a woman’s right to choose felt it was important that people knew that I was unblemished in this department. So many people I love, my mother, my best friends, have had to have abortions for all kinds of reasons. I feel so proud of them for their bravery, for their self-knowledge and it was a really important moment for me then to realize that I had internalized some of what society was throwing at us. And I had to put in the garbage. Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”
Oh, mamma mia. Dunham was doing so well until the very end. In the deeper context of the original full quote, when she said “I wish I had [an abortion], I believe she has transported back to the moment that young girl asked is she wanted to participate, and she couldn’t and felt a sense of pride in being abortion-free. But that smugness metamorphosed into guilt. Guilty of judging or feeling “poor baby” towards women that weren’t. The ending was carelessly said, but it wasn’t entirely devoid of genuine revelation.
What Dunham did was conclude that a special stripe of bravery and courage can only emerge from an experience as traumatic as getting an abortion. She felt contra to any tribulations she had overcome, she lacked a particular level of resilience to that of an abortion patient. There is a demarcation of women who have had abortions (and similar procedures), to those that whether they’ve been pregnant or not, impassionately wonder what it must feel like, inside and out.
To the overeducated Dunham, she definitely should’ve known better than, to sum up her sympathy as she did. You do not or should have to have been beaten by a so-called loved one, raped, sexually assaulted, or humiliated, in order to stand with survivors of these traumas.
Included as a part of her apology posted on Instagram, the host of Women of the Hour expressed concern that her little big line was overshadowing the purpose of the podcast. Based on the other articles online, it did and that’s unfortunate because it was well-produced with touching testimonies. Most publications chose to eviscerate Dunham as a clueless leftist or liberal who is damaging the current fight for reproductive rights in the impending era of Donald Trump. Unlike Tomi Lahren, who consistently materializes as delusional and racist, the public is perpetually disappointed by Lena Dunham.
My latest podcast episode was meant to tell a multifaceted story about reproductive choice in America, to explain the many reasons women do or don't choose to have children and what bodily autonomy really means. I'm so proud of the medley of voices in the episode. I truly hope a distasteful joke on my part won't diminish the amazing work of all the women who participated. My words were spoken from a sort of "delusional girl" persona I often inhabit, a girl who careens between wisdom and ignorance (that's what my TV show is too) and it didn't translate. That's my fault. I would never, ever intentionally trivialize the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy. My only goal is to increase awareness and decrease stigma. I take reproductive choice in America more seriously than I take literally anything else, and therefore own full responsibility for any words I speak that don't convey this truth clearly. I know plenty of people will never like a thing that leaves my lips, mea culpas or no, but this apology is for the women who have placed their trust in me. You mean everything to me. My life is and always will be devoted to reproductive justice and freedom. You know how in some households you curse and have to put money in a jar? Well in mine, if you mess up your pro-choice messaging you have to give a sizable donation to abortion funds (https://abortionfunds.org/need-abortion) in New York, Texas and Ohio 💰I look forward to fighting with you all for the next four years and beyond.
Witnessing the fall of Dunham in the media hasn’t been enjoyable, but interesting. She continues to begrudgingly, without saying so, accept the major fact that her flavor of humor or expression is not lingua franca amongst feminists, Democrats, or pro-choice supporters. Even New Yorkers. As an artist and writer, she shouldn’t conform in her art. But when speaking about real life issues that affect real life human beings, how her GIRLS character Hannah counted the ways she tolerated her boyfriend Adam is not the way to go about discussing the unfair circumstances of a government always playing ping pong with the rights of women’s bodies and hard truths about discrimination.
Lena Dunham must be really tired of feeling misunderstood and issuing apologies like TV scripts. It’s time for her to think twice about what she says out loud. Not out of censorship but in order to no longer be misinterpreted. (It’ll also be the media’s best interest to not be so obvious in using selective quotes). She’s become the face of The World As Viewed By White Women & Our Rose-Colored Glasses and that is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad way to commence feminist-angled persuasions that deserve to be heard.