This may be triggering, and I haven’t really done the topic justice. I just wanted to write something about a topic that has touched a nerve.
I don’t really know who Lena Dunham is. I can’t say I’d recognise her face if I saw her around, and I’ve definitely never watched the program that she wrote. Apparently it’s called Girls?
I wouldn’t normally jump on something like this, as I’ve only just started reading the articles and reactions to her collection of essays called Not That Kind of Girl. I haven’t read it personally, and I won’t read it now. The reason I feel like I want to say something about this is that it just seems so incredibly unreal and I’m feeling rather unsettled by it; a lot has been written about it already and there are posts about it here, here, here, here and here.
I also feel like I want to say “I’m a white feminist! I don’t agree with this!”. One of the common complaints that I have seen throughout these (albeit few) posts is that usually vocal white feminist writers aren’t standing up and denouncing Dunham for what she’s written. Yes, it’s okay not to write about something because it’s too triggering, but I do agree it seems like that’s taking an easy way out of dealing with what she’s written about.
I’m not an overly vocal feminist any more. I used to keep up with all the latest news, articles and regular updates. I was regularly outraged and upset by all the horrifying things I would come across and learn about. I’ve been lazy because I didn’t want to commit the energy to being angry about all the injustices any more.
To be honest, that’s pretty bad of me. I do still count myself as a feminist, but I’m not up to date any more. I don’t read the news, and I really should be more aware of current affairs than I am. Henceforth I am going to try to be a bit better with all that. Can you believe that when I was at school I refused to believe that studying politics was worthwhile since I didn’t believe it affected my day-to-day life in any way? Crazy.
Anyway, back to Lena Dunham. Apparently she is called a feminist icon, and a voice for our generation. Clearly she’s not doing a brilliant job of that, since I haven’t got a clue who she is. According to the mighty and knowledgeable interwebs she’s also championing a planned parenthood The reason that she’s hit the headlines is due to this book that I mentioned, in which she talks about her childhood. In said book, Dunham talks about exploring her sexuality (Yay! All for sexuality exploration), but some of it is more than a little bit creepy.
The excerpt is here, coming from her book pages 158-9:
“Do we all have uteruses?” I asked my mother when I was seven.
“Yes,” she told me. “We’re born with them, and with all our eggs, but they start out very small. And they aren’t ready to make babies until we’re older.” I look at my sister, now a slim, tough one-year-old, and at her tiny belly. I imagined her eggs inside her, like the sack of spider eggs in Charlotte’s Web, and her uterus, the size of a thimble.
“Does her vagina look like mine?”
“I guess so,” my mother said. “Just smaller.”
One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me. Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn’t resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked.
My mother came running. “Mama, Mama! Grace has something in there!”
My mother didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just got on her knees and looked for herself. It quickly became apparent that Grace had stuffed six or seven pebbles in there. My mother removed them patiently while Grace cackled, thrilled that her prank had been a success.”
See? Creepy. I can honestly say that my sister and I never did that. We shared showers up until I was about six or so (as the younger child), but we definitely never tried to look at each others’ genitals. This passage as quoted in full, is a little less creepy as it gives some sort of context as to why she might be looking but on the other hand, what one year old child has the conscious desire to play a prank like that?
Yes, maybe Dunham is just trying to shed light on her own childhood and it’s just come out wrong. Maybe, but I don’t agree with it. That and several other passages are seriously dubious, including effectively saying that she didn’t view her sister as anything more than an extension of herself and therefore didn’t warrant having her own privacy.
As a sister, a feminist and a human being I don’t agree with any of Dunham’s behaviour. How could anyone think that describing a scenario like that is totally okay?
Here is a better review of it than anything I could write. I accept that I have privilege, but I do my best not to take that for granted. Over sharing private details of your family life, manipulative if not downright abusive relationships and expecting to get away by playing up to your “quirky” image is a step too far. I’d rather be represented by myself, ta very much.