During one of the first episodes of the popular HBO show Girls, Lena Dunham’s character Hannah tells her parents, “I don’t want to freak you out, but I think that I may be the voice of my generation—or at least a voice of a generation.” Dunham, who rose to fame after the success of Girls and her “First Time” campaign ad for Barack Obama in 2012, has truly come to see herself as exactly that, the voice of my generation. But, is she?
In her recently released book, “Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s ‘Learned’”, Dunham echoes the themes of “Girls”, which include — sex, dating, friends, food, mental illness and other issues facing young women today. But, as in the TV show, the underlying theme of every topic is almost always … sex.
To most people, sex is a part of life — a really great part of life, but not the main theme. To Dunham, however, everything in life revolves around sex. If you’re not having it (and constantly at that), there’s something wrong. It was sad to flip through Not That Kind of Girl and see her broken outlook on life painted so vividly.
Although the book is divided into five sections – Love and Sex, Body, Friendships, Work, and Big Picture – every subject revolves around sex. The chapter that promises to break out of this pattern is “Big Picture”, but even in this chapter she finds a way to bring sex into her discussion on life’s questions and our everyday struggles.
I didn’t have high hopes for her book, since I’ve never really been a fan of her show. But, I was struck by a quote that I read online prior to her book’s release, so I was intrigued.
There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman. As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come, there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren’t needed.
I agree with this! And I think we can all agree on this. It is so amazing to hear women’s stories of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — because for so long women were often seen as second-class citizens.
My hope for Dunham’s book was that she would tell HER story. I wanted to read a book that chronicled her story; who she is and how she got to be where she is today. I don’t feel like I have much in common with her, but I bet if I was able to read her life story I would find something that I share with her. I wanted to hear about her dreams, her struggles, the good times and the bad. These are the stories that we want to hear from women. But, instead she played into the negative attitudes towards women that she described above.
In her chapter on “Body”, Dunham offers some advice to women who struggle with self-confidence, but her advice really only revolves around two extremes: self-deprecation or self-exposure to the point of nudity and sex on television. So, you either put yourself down or you exploit yourself on television. This is not the narrative that my friends and I want to hear, and it’s definitely not the one that we need to hear.
Dunham complained in a recent NPR interview, “I think when men share their experiences, it’s bravery and when women share their experiences, it’s some sort of—people are like, ‘TMI.’” This is certainly a fair reaction to Dunham because she is constantly giving us “too much information” (TMI).
Some of it, by the way, is downright propaganda for the abortion lobby. Look at the partners of her book tour — Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List and Lady Parts Justice are all co-sponsors. Or check out the #AskLena Youtube videos she made to promote her book.
My issue with Dunham and her book is nothing personal. I really don’t care what she does in the bedroom or that she’s constantly taking her clothes off on television. What I do care about, and what simultaneously bothers me, is that she has turned the feminist dream into a nightmare.
We need to hear from real women about their dreams, struggles, and how they overcame every obstacle in their way. These are the real women that the true feminists wanted to continue their fight, not celebrities like Lena Dunham who allow every discussion about life to be overtaken by sex and so-called women’s rights, which boil down to birth control and abortion-on-demand.
Feminist writer Rebecca Traister made the point that there are too few “Lena Dunhams”, meaning young women with large public platforms in the world today, and this could be the reason why Dunham is so popular. I agree, and I hope that more young women will speak up and become the true voices for this generation.
Because, especially after reading this book, I can say — Lena doesn’t speak for me, nor does she speak for my generation.
Women deserve better.
Kate Bryan writes from Washington, D.C.