Image: Lena Dunham at the opening of trainer Tracy Anderson’s new studio. Image Source.
Apparently Lena Dunham may or may not have lost some weight. Women losing, or not losing weight, has been the ongoing, best-selling headline of the 21st Century. A woman’s weight is, according to the world at large, one of the most interesting things about her. Her size is the only way we can know, or access, the internal mechanisms that move her through the world. In the midst of the furore, Dunham took to Instagram to offer the explanation she shouldn’t have to give:
Thank you for this @Refinery29. I feel I’ve made it pretty clear over the years that I don’t give even the tiniest of shits what anyone else feels about my body. I’ve gone on red carpets in couture as a size 14. I’ve done sex scenes days after surgery, mottled with scars. I’ve accepted that my body is an ever changing organism, not a fixed entity- what goes up must come down and vice versa. I smile just as wide no matter my current size because I’m proud of what this body has seen and done and represented. Chronic illness sufferer. Body-shaming vigilante. Sexual assault survivor. Raging hottie. Just like all of YOU. Right now I’m struggling to control my endometriosis through a healthy diet and exercise. So my weight loss isn’t a triumph and it also isn’t some sign I’ve finally given in to the voices of trolls. Because my body belongs to ME–at every phase, in every iteration, and whatever I’m doing with it, I’m not handing in my feminist card to anyone. So thank you to my girl @ashleygraham for writing so gorgeously about this on @lennyletter (link in bio). Thank you to @tracyandersonmethod for teaching me that exercise has the power to counteract my pain and anxiety, and to @jennikonner for being my partner in FUCK IT. I refuse to celebrate these bullshit before-and-after pictures. Don’t we have infinitely more pressing news to attend to? So much love to all my web friends who demand that life be more than a daily weigh in, who know their merit has nothing to do with their size, who fight to be seen and heard and accepted. I love you- Lena
Look, Dunham’s done some stupid shit that was probably worth commenting on, in the way that when influential people are racist, or cruel, we need to make sure that behaviour is critically called-out so that it stops being persuasive. But her body? No. I know we’ve curated a society – which we’re all complicit in – that doesn’t understand what women would talk about if we didn’t talk about our bodies, but maybe we – shock – don’t have to? Like, instead of speculating why, or how, a woman who put her body on the line for us, offering it up as a crucial lightening rod for how we consume televised imagery of the female form, wants to slim up, or down, or sideways, maybe we could talk about new methodologies for interpreting women; from media coverage guidelines, to the price of women getting what they’re told they’re worth, and the new ways we consume the information that makes us who we say we are.
We have these small, body-shaming conversations everywhere, all the time. From the holiday martyrdom of ‘deserving’ trashy mags where the content pivots around women existing at the beach, to the small thoughts I sometimes have about people I know. They’re horrific once you begin to check yourself. The way you can be waiting to see somebody you’ve not hung out with in a while and, when she walks through the door, have your first opinion form in a glance-examination of her shape, the way her body fits into space as you look, subconsciously, for signs of how her life is going via her flesh.
Or maybe it’s just me who has let this knee-jerk judgement go this far? Only, I know it isn’t. If it was just me, why would I be so terribly and constantly aware of what my own build might be communicating to the outside world. This isn’t an innate human quality, it’s learned. Slowly, painfully and specifically, the intricate, myriad ways a woman’s sense of self becomes woven into her anatomy forms a vicious dialogue of self-loathing that she has with herself, often at the cost of everyone else.
I hate the things women need to be responsible for that aren’t their fault. Read: everything. Cast your eyes over any decent feminist theory and you’ll know that this vicious dialogue serves an omniscient patriarchy very well. It opens up a chasm into which female bodily autonomy falls, leaving ample opportunity to sell us back to ourselves: diets, memberships, beauty products, clothes, even water, I’ve now seen, to keep us ‘awake’, or ‘asleep’, or ‘thin’ – which I guess is both. If women weren’t insecure, capitalism would cease to work. At the foundation of consumerism is the requirement that women cannibalise their own image; it is that serious.
So it makes sense, in a twist that isn’t that strange if you’re a woman in the world, that Lena Dunham’s body made her famous. It made her famous for not being the kind of body that might usually make someone famous, and now, the label of ‘feminist’ has become even stickier. At what point are we betraying our ideals if we transform, whether we’ve consciously decided to or not? I can’t directly answer that. I’ve thought so much about answering that. But, before we even get to an answer, we must consider that it’s an impossible question to ask as long as the whims of a male-governed world are all we know, our internal feminist belief systems are inevitably conflated with the external influence of a sexist society. There’s no point wondering If You Can Be a Feminist And Belong to a Gym because 1) of course you fucking can and 2) just wondering is a waste of time.
In this era of hot-takes and identity politics, it’s never been more important to remain self-aware. And in that self-awareness, to make small choices about what you consume. Don’t consume Lena Dunham’s weight. Feminism is contingent upon somebody’s looks, and that works both ways. Do, however, probe why the discussion about Lena Dunham’s weight is something you still would have clicked on.
Get up and at em’: