Lena Dunham Interviews Lorde About Feminism, Taylor Swift & Female Friendship

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One of our major squad goals in life is to become part of the circle of friends that contains Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift, Karlie Kloss, and singer Lorde. These girls are part of a female collective around the world representing what feminism looks like today.

When we see how far feminism has come and how much it is still needed, it is important to have a continuum of celebrities speaking up in favor of the movement because they have the power to influence audiences in ways some of us ordinary folk cannot.

So when Lena Dunham interviewed Lorde for Dazed Magazine’s 2015 ‘Girls Who Rule The World’ summer issue, we knew there was going to be some empowering words and experiences shared between the two.

They spoke about the importance of female friendship, Taylor Swift, and the politics of music being a male-dominated industry. Let’s not forget, Lorde was a mere teenager when she burst onto the music scene with her breakout hit ‘Royals’ which cemented her as one of the world’s most formidable singer-songwriters. Since then, she has not disappointed, with hit after hit, incredibly magic performance after performance.

One of the first things Lena asks her is about her entrance into the music industry which, contrary to other teens who have started off as Disney stars for example, is remarkably different and came with a decidedly different set of problems than what people like Demi Lovato or Selena Gomez have faced.

“I sometimes get asked, ‘Did people try to sexualize you early on in your career?’ But I came into this with such a strong viewpoint – even when I was 13 or 14, my sense of self felt too permanent for anyone to fuck with. You know, whenever there was a makeover suggestion or like, ‘Do you wanna try this push- up bra?’ I think I freaked enough people out – or intimidated enough people – that it didn’t happen. But also, does that still happen these days? Is that a thing? I feel like people think more of teenage girls than that,” she said.

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Lorde, real name Ella Yelich O’Connor, talks about being “one of the boys” and having a lot of guy friends, something which changed when she got introduced to Taylor Swift. Lena concurs when she mentions Taylor, as the two are also great friends.

“I feel that Taylor (Swift) has really taken control and said, ‘I’m going to get us all together in the same place, I’m gonna make it very clear that friendship is powerful and women are magic and if anybody thinks this is a witches’ coven they might be right.’ She’s just made it her job in a very cool way,” Lena said.

Taylor has previously been seen as a love-sick teen girl who only writes songs about the many boyfriends she has. But as she has grown out of the curly-haired country music star into a young woman taking control of her career and image, it is clear that she is drawn to feminism off the back of being described by the patriarchal media mindset in relation to every guy she has been associated with, rather than her songwriting and performing skills which have gotten her award after award, and set records with her album sales.

For Lorde this was the attraction to Taylor, that she valued her for who she was, rather than who she was associated or not associated with.

“She definitely brought me into this amazing world of supportive female friendship. For me, someone starts talking about boys and I’m like, ‘I just don’t know what to say.’ I’m useless in that capacity and that was why I thought, ‘Well, I can’t have girl friends (because) I don’t know how to talk about boys.’ But Taylor just glosses over the fact that I’m terrible at that and she’s just like, ‘It’s OK, I’ll love you for your other qualities’,” she said.

Lena adds to this comment saying how important it is for her to be able to have conversations with other women about things other than men.

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“My favorite thing in the world is talking to other women. I like it when my friendships pass the Bechdel test. Like, it’s not just two women talking about boys, it’s two women talking about work, female friendship or current events. I love how rich and important that can be,” said the ‘Girls’ creator, writer and executive producer.

Fun fact about Lorde: she curated the soundtrack for ‘The Hunger Games Mockingjay, Part 1’ which included artists like Kanye West, Charli XCX and was featured on 4 tracks herself. Naturally the convo turned to how badass the movie franchise is largely because it features a strong female lead kicking ass in world where an evil old white man rules by exerting an evil classist regime on the country of Pan-Em.

“When the first Hunger Games came out I remember thinking how cool and natural it was to have someone like Katniss at the number one box office slot in America. A woman who is strong without even really thinking about it, it’s just who we are in this day and age. When I made ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’ for the soundtrack, it ended up being quite feminist. I didn’t really approach it from there, but I welcomed it once I’d finished the song. There’s this bit about locking up everybody who’d ever laid a finger on me. A lot of people have told me that line tapped into something specific in them, because I think every woman knows that feeling,” said Lorde about her track.

Lena credits Lorde’s presence in mainstream as a positive poster child for modern day feminism.

“I think your music has coincided with a moment where the concept of being a feminist is no longer controversial and has taken on some kind of pop-culture cachet.”

Lorde credits her poet mother as the source of her feminine strength. She was the child of immigrants to escaped World War I who always made sure her kids knew they were capable of achieving anything.

“One thing my mum did, even when we had no money and her card was getting declined at the supermarket or whatever, she would make us feel – I don’t know quite how to put this into words – she would really drum into us that we were excellent before we knew what excellence meant. She’s a fearsome woman. She needs to be given a Nobel prize or something,” she recalls.

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When the two visionaries talk about feminism, Lena brings up the issue about the media constantly asking women about whether they are feminists or not and in some cases it turns into sensationalist news of a woman either saying yes or no.

“I feel like there have been a lot of journalists asking young women about feminism and trying to trick them into denouncing it or making uninformed statements recently. My opinion is that people want to do a ‘gotcha!’ on girls that maybe haven’t been educated about feminism, but I wondered what you thought about that? It’s the girl power issue! We have to bust some of these myths,” she asks the New Zealand singer.

“I remember not being 100 per cent sure what feminism or intersectional feminism is – I’m still not 100 per cent sure! One thing I hadn’t come face-to-face with until I was about 16 was thinking really hard about whiteness and what it means to be white, and all these questions around race and sexuality, which are incredibly important. For a long time, I wasn’t aware of how important it was to be a feminist for all women,” answered Lorde who also said she isn’t going to NOT be friends with a girl if she doesn’t identify as a feminist.

Lena relates the idea of continually learning about feminism to her own experience as a Gender Studies student but not really learning about the varied social impact and importance of feminism until she started filming ‘Girls’ and journalists started criticizing its “whiteness”.

“Really smart writers talked about the show in a critical way, and helped me examine what was exclusionary about my own feminism. That was a huge wake-up call – and, in a lot of ways, it was terrifying to realize that the simple girl-power message you’ve been moving through life with isn’t necessarily enough. And when you talk about intersectional feminism, that’s an incredible thing for you to be putting out into the world as a person who can also perform at the AMAs,” she said while adding that that feminism, femaleness and identity are all part of an endless learning process.

Lorde says she has found herself being ensnared in some “gotcha”-type questions especially when it comes to other women in music. It’s that horrible trend which the media has to take huge responsibility for, forcing women to hate each other and portray this as the norm.

“When…journalists…were asking me what I thought of a certain pop star, I was amazed they knew who that pop star was and wanted to have an intelligent discussion about it. I didn’t realize that some journalists were ensnaring me for the sake of a headline. Some things I don’t regret saying because I feel like they’re important to say and I was talking about an actual issue, but I don’t know, just some offhand comment about what I thought was funny about some teen pop sensation or whatever…”

Lorde and Lena both agree, having learned from their individual experiences, that their platforms are a big deal. Comments they make are heard around the world by millions, not just a group of select friends, so they feel the responsibility of balancing their authenticity while still being careful of what they say.

There are so many other interesting topics covered in this interview which you can read more of by clicking here.


 

 

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