“Problematic”: The Curious Case of Lena Dunham
By: Dion McNeil
Few people have gotten a firestorm of criticism and a high amount of excusing of her words than Lena Dunham. This woman was the genius behind the hit show “Girls” that got awards, a wave of approval and a viewer total to boot. However despite all of her success 2014 was not a particularly kind year to Lena Dunham. In her rather bizarre book entitled, “Not That Kind of Girl” she details elements of her life that are questionable, quite disturbing to many and appears to paint her as more of a sexual predator of a child, namely her sister, than a woman who simply started from the bottom and rose to the top. We should reserve judgment because we aren’t fully aware of these details are true or not. But there is power in an admission of guilt. After all that is the one piece of solid evidence that made the likes of Bill Cosby appear ultimately guilty of his crimes. Should we not then hold Lena Dunham to the same standard?
In the book Lena Dunham gave an account of situations that were eye brow archers to some readers. In a piece written by Melanie Blow for the Stop Abuse Campaign sums up one situation pretty well:
“In Lena’s case, the alarming element is that a 17-year-old would normally be uncomfortable masturbating in bed with her eleven-year-old sister.”
Ms. Blow made a great point. Now of course a 17 year old masturbating next to an eleven year old isn’t inherently a sign that one is a sexual predator. However one of the things that convinced some people that Michael Jackson was a sexual predator of children was the fact that he would routinely sleep in bed with other children. There was no solid evidence that he masturbated next to those children. No, he just slept next to them. It just seems that reason and logic would call for us to hold Lena Dunham to same exact standard despite her being 17. The question we need to ask ourselves is that if Lena were a male and masturbated next to his eleven year sister in bed, coupled with all the other questionable things that happened between those two, would we quickly deem that man a pedophile?
An even more distressing idea is that there are people actually defending such actions and such depictions. After all in the book Lena even pointed to finding peddles and rocks in her sister’s vagina when her sister was only a year old. Someone would have to demonstrate that the average, or even a smaller portion, of one year old girls are running around placing objects into their vagina given the size of the vagina and given the general ignorance of the area at that age. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to believe that it was Lena who did such things to her own sister. Where is the proof for the reasonable assumption that it was Lena who did this to her sister? Lena never says this directly but read this piece that is also from the Stop Abuse Campaign:
“The most disturbing of the three allegations is the one most innocuous on the surface. There is nothing disturbing, at all, about a little girl kissing her little sister. That’s the stuff of beloved family pictures. But what is disturbing is that Lena wanted to kiss her sister more than her sister wanted to be kissed, and she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. What’s even more disturbing is that she bribed her sister with candy- that’s manipulative.”
Let us be honest here for a second. Are we really to believe that, if her sister had pebbles and rocks in her vagina, and given the amount of questionable and bizarre behavior described in Lena Dunham’s own book written by herself that it is out of the realm of possibility that it was Lena that put those objects into her sister’s body like that? Of course it isn’t. The argument here is that the only reason why more people don’t hold Lena to the label of child predator is specifically because she is a woman. After all there are men who are held as child predators for lesser offenses and Michael Jackson is a prime example. Even Michael didn’t have the nerve to write a book detailing events that are anywhere near the level of egregious behavior located in Lena Dunham’s book. This isn’t written to try to absolve some of the questionable behavior of Mr. Jackson. The purpose is to ask for a little bit of consistency.
Strangely enough when there are men who are accused of sex crimes, and even if the supposed victims are grown women, there appears to be lynch mobs in some of those situations. Yet we don’t see the same thing with Lena Dunham. The question is why? Well some clues appear when we consider which ideology Lena Dunham subscribes to which is feminism. If you are apart of an ideology with so many in the rank and file who have no problem excusing the #killallmen and #dieciswhitescum then it isn’t all that shocking that one can excuse Lena’s rather disturbing book. Of course someone can just say that no proof has been presented of rash amounts of feminists excused this behavior. That is a lie. We know there was a lot of feminist condemnation but also a lot of feminist support.
Where is this support? Thanks to this piece written by Jessica Bennett over at Time Magazine we have some clues. Look no further than Tumblr with a group named, “Those Kinds of Girls.” In that group we see all sorts of stories about sexual exploration as youth. That group has all sorts of feminist presences and that much is irrefutable. Okay, so a Tumblr group isn’t that serious because Tumblr is known for having a large feminist presence regardless of how legitimate or how ridiculous the issue is. But when we get Roxanne Gray, Jimmy Kimmel, writers for the Washington Post, Katha Pollitt, a huge Tumblr and Twitter base of defenders and certainly feminists who stepped in to defend this woman it does demonstrate some degree of reasonable assumption of defenders. This situation can cause a person to wonder about the morals of these defenders and apologists of Lena Dunham. When there were men being accused of similar labels such as child molester and child predator without a book detailing such events were these same people present to defend that man?
One of the most telling angles that some people used to defend this woman does cause the other eyebrow to raise. Now we have a complete face of shock with both eyebrows erected. When a woman does something wrong and if there is any room to defend her sometimes we see people use the, “you wouldn’t be saying this if she were a woman” dodge. We also tend to see the whole, “well when men were doing it they didn’t get as much criticism.” Jessica Bennett wrote that piece for Time and she is a contributor to the Lean In campaign spearheaded by feminists and in that piece she added that some mentioned that even Bill Cosby didn’t get as much criticism. Let’s be honest. That is an utter and ridiculous lie. The man lost business opportunities, shows aren’t even shown for the most part, series cancelled, tours cancelled and he did have his defenders but we know how the general public viewed him. Meanwhile Lena Dunham hasn’t seen any significant loss of money, her show still airs and people till this day defend her. If Mr. Cosby got this same treatment I’m sure he’d prefer what Lena Dunham got over his current situation.
We can be sure if Bill Cosby wrote a book detailing sexual abuse or at least what some perceived as a admission of such that he wouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt that Lena Dunham has been getting. Think about how Cosby would have been perceived from the start if he wrote a passage like this in a book about his younger sister:
“Basically anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.”
So what gives? This woman clearly has some issues and many people reading her book figured that much out. However that isn’t enough for some people. Instead of the question being would she get as much criticism if she were a man the question should be did she get less criticism and defenders because she is a woman?
Dion McNeil is a writer for the Soap Box Corner. If anyone wants to be featured in the SBC Perspective series or have stories that should be covered by the Soap Box Corner email us at SBCPerspectives@yahoo.com. Thank you for reading!