I like Lena Dunham. Get over it.
I think that she has fallen victim to what women in media often do – a lack of women in media. There are so few female voices that when one appears they are expected to represent all women. Obviously this is impossible, and it’s an idea that does a disservice to both Lena Dunham and women in general.
With that out of the way…
The tag line of Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl is ‘a young woman tells you what she’s learned’ – and I totally agree with that. Reading this book is kind of like one of those slightly drunken chats you have in the kitchen with a friend at 2 in the morning.
Lena isn’t afraid of sharing the darkest parts of herself. She throws herself into taboo topics that we often avoid – I guess to protect ourselves from them. Lena herself says that ‘it’s not brave to do something that doesn’t scare you’ – and this attitude is one she seems to have employed throughout the book, because she doesn’t shy away from anything.
Not That Kind of Girl contains some frank and entirely unromantic portrayals of sex that jar with me a little. It doesn’t make for comfortable reading. The hateful behaviour she describes in the men that she has dated is upsetting to read both for her sake and because of the depressing familiarity of it. I think most of us have moments we look back on with regret because of how we allowed ourselves to be treated.
She talks about her difficulties in connecting with other people, whether that’s friends, or boys, or even family. She talks about how her anxieties have often controlled her life. She talks about feelings of disassociation from herself, her sex life, her relationships and her work.
One of the most impressive aspects of the book was her discussion of her anxiety, and how it has affected her life. Talking about anxiety is hard because it’s difficult to see. In many ways, anxiety is one of the least understood mental health problems, because in general people don’t have a lot of patience for the fear or others. It is easy to see anxiety as self-indulgent because fear is so often irrational. As such talking about anxiety is so important. I feel that actually this is a book that I would have benefitted from reading when I was seventeen and in therapy because I got so socially anxious I was making myself sick on a regular basis. It felt like such an impossible thing to explain to anybody, and here Lena has explained it.
The central theme to the book is art as a means of connection, something familiar to any of us who have ever felt compelled to make things. It’s a pretty beautiful message, actually.