Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On Lena Dunham Walking around Naked

I have a lot of writers on my mind today. 

For Christmas, Robert snuck into my office, took note of every Philip Roth novel I own, and then bought me all the ones I didn’t.  That pretty much takes care of my reading for the year.

Before the holidays, I read Alice McDermott’s Someone.  It’s one of those books you read slowly, so you don’t finish it too fast.  Beautiful.

Another holiday present: my friend Jim sent me Tom Barbash’s Stay Up with Me, a terrific collection of short stories.

But the writer I’m thinking about the most these days is Lena Dunham.  For those of you who don’t know, she is the twenty-seven-year-old creator of the HBO show “Girls.”  She writes and directs and stars in the show.  She has also made two movies (Creative Nonfiction and Tiny Furniture).  In her spare time, she writes for The New Yorker.


When I was twenty-seven, I was married, pregnant, and working (unhappily) for Bank of America.  The closest I got to writing was drafting incentive compensation plans. 

Lena Dunham gets a lot of flak for her appearance.  She is a perfectly lovely looking young woman who has a lot of tattoos and does not appear to be a super- model.  But people are outraged—outraged—that she dares to appear naked in “Girls.” 

(By the way, the people who are outraged by this are the same people who watch “Game of Thrones” and tell their friends it’s quality television.  Which it may be.  But there are a lot of naked women in it.  Who look like super-models.)

Lena Dunham is quick to talk about the people who vilify her.  I follow her on Twitter.  She seems mildly amused and incredulous about the vitriol she inspires.  She does not appear detached; neither does she seem overly concerned or wounded.

Twenty-seven.  Twenty-seven.

When Lena Dunham is naked on “Girls,” it is often without reason.  Like, she’s just walking around without a shirt on.  This leads people to complain that there is unnecessary nudity on her show.

I disagree.  I believe that nowhere is nudity more necessary than it is on “Girls.”  Here’s why: because Lena Dunham knows—at age twenty-seven—that her nudity inspires outrage and vitriol and maliciousness and panic and senseless hatred. (Really.  Check out the tweets at @LenaDunhamTroll if you want to be disgusted.)  And she does it anyway.

Why panic?  Because she is a real woman who is comfortable with her nakedness.  (Or maybe she’s not, but she’s doing a fantastic job of acting as though she is.)  And this is just terrifying to men AND women.  I don’t have proof, but I’m willing to assume that a lot of these outraged people aren’t really outraged by Lena Dunham walking around naked.  They’re outraged by Lena Dunham walking around comfortably naked.

(By the way, outraged people.  If you think you look better naked than Lena Dunham, think again.  I bet you don’t.  Nobody does.  Unless you are Bar Refaeli, and even then.)

I wish Lena Dunham had been around when I was twenty-seven.  As it is, I’m glad she’s around for my twenty-four-year-old daughter and her friends.  I’m glad she’s out there writing and speaking and cavorting naked and leaning in.  And tweeting things like “Feminism is never a matter of convenience, not for me and I hope not for anyone I admire.”

And whoever is behind @LenaDunhamTroll?  Go fuck yourself.

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