I don’t think I will ever get bored of talking about womanhood. It is my safe space, on and offline. Listening to other women’s experiences helps me to make sense of my own, of struggles I am included in, as well as those I am not.
I rarely feel this more keenly than when I am listening to Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour podcast. Every week Dunham presents a different theme – friendship, work, sex and being trapped are some examples – and invites a variety of smart women to talk with her about it.
This show is honest, funny, painful and absolutely not, as I have seen it described ‘Girls in podcast form.’ Girls is a show built on satire, while Women on the Hour is all about sincerity.
To state a controversial opinion, I don’t believe Dunham deserves 90% of the shit she gets (the other 10%, I have to allow, but I don’t really think she messes up more than the average narcissist with a Twitter account (so, most users)). My arguments in favour of Lena Dunham are as follows:
- She is wildly, frequently and – I think – deliberately misquoted. As someone who has read her memoir multiple times (review here), I have had many frustrating arguments with people who haven’t about its contents. All this without even mentioning the ‘voice of a generation’ thing – a joke from the first season of Girls widely attributed as Dunham’s opinion of her work that she herself has accepted will likely be etched on her tombstone. Before judging Dunham – actually before judging anyone – please read the essay, listen to the interview or watch the show in question. The source material they provide will often give you a better idea of a person than clickbait designed for outraged sharing.
- I find it strange that in the television business, which is, let’s face it, mostly white men giving jobs to other white men, it is Lena Dunham who is held responsible for the diversity problem. Let’s be clear, we need all TV to look like Shondaland (if only), we need different voices and groups to be represented. The fault of the total whitewashing of TV however, lies with the majority of producers, directors and screenwriters (i.e. the white men) rather than Lena Dunham.
- Lena Dunham would get away with so much more if she was a man. The main reason she gets shit for her radical honesty, her open emotions and her mistakes is that she’s a woman. In a landscape overwhelmed with stories written by narcissistic men, one told by a narcissistic woman is jarring. Because she is – or she was, at the time Girls first came out, which was, let’s remember four years ago – one of few such amplified young female voices, she was given the task of representing everyone, an impossibility for anyone, let alone a bohemian rich white girl from New York. Male screenwriters like Josh Radnor and Dan Harmon – who are, for some reason, only ever expected to represent themselves – can spill their emotions all over screen, tie them up neatly with a joke and be considered great writers. If Lena Dunham does the same thing she is a selfish naval gazer with nothing better to do than obsess about herself. When men write introspective satire its art, when women do it, it’s considered self-indulgence. The response to Dunham’s entire career thus far demonstrates this.
Rant over. Or paused, anyway.
After every episode of Women of the Hour, I have to dedicate a morning to googling the work of every woman interviewed. Shows so far have introduced me to so many women whose work I am now such a fan of. Janet Mock, the writer and trans activist, Ashley C. Ford, a journalist who writes so beautifully it makes me want to cry, hug her and bash my own head against a wall (because I will never, in all my days, be as talented) all at once, Mindie Lind, a singer-song writer with no legs who rides around on a skateboard and Anastasia and Alba Somoza, disability activists who have campaigned for their whole lives for people with disabilities to get equal access to mainstream education.
Also, Gina Rodriguez was on it one time, and she was every bit as delightful as you would imagine.
Just listen to the show. The only way to judge Dunham’s work is to experience it yourself. Most of what is written about her is wrong.