Jump directly to the content
Lena Dunham: Bare, Brave, But Still Objectified

Lena Dunham: Bare, Brave, But Still Objectified


Mar 18 2013
The difference between reclaiming our bodies and redeeming our selves.

This time last year I had not heard of Lena Dunham, 26-year-old actress, filmmaker, writer, and director behind HBO show Girls. Now, Dunham seems to be everywhere.

The second season of Girls ended Sunday, and since the show's debut, TV critics have debated its portrayal of 20-somethings millennials in New York City, raising questions about privilege, race, and whether Dunham really is the "voice of a generation." Still, the most talked-about aspect of the show is not Dunham's voice, but her body.

Dunham has appeared topless in a number of episodes, and while nudity is rather common on HBO, Dunham's body isn't the type we're used to seeing naked on TV. She is not thin or busty. She is a regular woman with an ordinary body.

Dunham's nudity has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Radio personality Howard Stern derided Dunham as "a little fat chick." Fashion critics have wondered about Dunham's off-screen fashion choices. After Dunham was photographed displaying her thighs in revealing outfits, observers failed to understand why she would accentuate her large thighs, rather than try to disguise them.

In response to this backlash Dunham has been defiant. For her, nudity and thigh-revealing outfits are calculated efforts at subverting cultural standards of beauty. As she rightly points out, many viewers are offended, not by the display of skin itself, but by the "unattractiveness" of her body. Many Americans don't mind scantily clad super models, but are only offended by the sight of bodies like Dunham's.

Dunham's detractors aside, her courage and confidence have been an inspiration to others. The Daily Beast featured a post titled "Stay Naked Lena Dunham!" in which the author shared, "Lena Dunham is really the first woman I've ever seen on screen who looks like me. But not only that—she's comfortable in her skin, in her nakedness, in her sexuality, and as herself."

Dunham's project is provocative, to say the least, and she is undoubtedly brave. She is also doing something subversive. By exposing her breasts and thighs, she challenges unrealistic standards of beauty. Because of Dunham, viewers are reminded of what most female bodies actually look like, and she does this from a platform traditionally limited to an aesthetic minority.

Yes, Lena Dunham is courageous and well-meaning, but will her approach undermine the objectification of women? I don't think that it will because it doesn't address the underlying problem. It does little to resist a culture that reduces women to their bodies or their body parts.

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Q+A: Why Letting the Dishes Go Can Save Your Soul

Q+A: Why Letting the Dishes Go Can Save Your Soul

In her latest book, Shauna Niequist trades “competition, comparison, and exhaustion for meaning, connection, and unconditional love."
After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

I equip my daughters to protect themselves and their bodies in ways I didn’t learn to.
Too Many Transitions Can Traumatize Our Kids

Too Many Transitions Can Traumatize Our Kids

I know from experience what happens when children face moving, divorce, or other stressful life change—and how we can help them.
The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On

The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On

After interviewing 120 women, I saw glimmers of a truce in the Mommy Wars.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

The Truth About Living with an Invisible Illness

God sees me and my pain even when others cannot.

Follow Us

Twitter



What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
Lena Dunham: Bare, Brave, But Still Objectified