Lena Dunham Says The Media’s Fixation On Women’s Bodies Is Controlling & Sexist

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We have some major love for Lena Dunham. Not only is she the “voice of a generation”, but we love her because she is just unapologetically herself, proving success and happiness does not come from conformity. Say what you will about her upper class background in New York, her determination to become the writer, creator, executive producer and star of her own show ‘Girls’ as well as one of the leaders of modern day feminism in the media says more about her passion than it does her socio-economic background.

She has been hailed for being a body image hero for refusing to fit into the mold that the media perpetrates. With this stance, Lena has also been on the receiving end of much hate multiplied simply because she is a public figure who doesn’t believe in conforming. Are we so brainwashed by body image standards that we have now become a culture of hate toward anyone who doesn’t conform?

In a new interview with ESPNW Lena opens up about her body image as part of their ‘My Body Can’ series, and why she believes battling body image ideals is a feminist fight more than ever.

She starts by talking about how she has recently taken up running and working with a personal trainer, and how it has helped her mentally as well as physically. She posted a paparazzi pic on her Instagram account, taken of her while she was out running one day and says she was pleasantly surprised with the positive responses she got, unlike when she previously posted an image of herself wearing her boyfriend’s underwear and received a lot of hateful comments.

“It became a chance for them to critique my body, and that, in turn, sent the horrific message that my body was ‘unacceptable’ to everyone who visited the page. when I see those comments now, my first thought is that I have girls who read my Instagram and care about it and connect to it, and I don’t want them seeing those remarks and thinking that’s the way that they’re going to be received. when trolls come to my page and they say all that s— and other girls see it, those girls are getting an unrealistic picture of what femaleness looks like, and I just can’t let that happen on my watch,” she says.

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She wants to be a role model to her young female fans especially, because when you look around the media landscape, it can be hard to find a diverse range of body shapes and sizes held up as “beautiful”. Although it is slowly starting to change with more and more plus size women being placed front and center in the fashion world.

“I was so excited when Women’s Running magazine put a curvy woman on the cover this August. It’s important to see examples like that because it’s not like exercise leads to an all-purpose result where all of us look like models,” she said.

Conversation then turns to the media’s obsession with women’s bodies, where Lena agrees with interviewer Allison Glock who asks her why our culture fixates on something about women that is probably least important. She says there is a much more sexist reason for society behaving this way.

“Fixating on bodies is a way to police women. We can no longer keep women from owning property. We can no longer keep women from voting. But we will find a way to police and repress powerful women and let them know that they do not matter to us and that they are not in control of their own destiny. I really think it comes down to misogyny,” she said.

But it has been around for so long and become such an ingrained part of our culture that even women don’t know how we have been brainwashed to do some of the “policing”.

“Women join in because that’s what they’re being taught from the time they’re born. They don’t even recognize that they’re agents of their own oppression,” she added.

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They talk about two high-profile athletes: Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey who are not only at the top of their respective sports, but also have to put up with body bullies who would rather focus on their muscly exteriors than their world-class achievements.

“With Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey, men are thinking, “You could beat me up, that f—ing scares me, you have achieved more than I ever will in my lifetime, so I’m going to get online and tell you that you don’t look like someone I want to f—.” That is where I believe it comes from. And it’s so unenlightened. And man, it’s a bummer,” said Lena.

“Ronda Rousey…is having an incredible career that most of us could only dream of and she doesn’t give a s—- what you think. And that point of view is really, really threatening to certain people, especially when it comes in the form of a woman, because to a man, a woman not caring what you think means that all your power is gone. You can’t control her anymore,” she added.

Wow! There couldn’t have been a more true statement ever uttered about the oppression of women’s bodies. How do we as a society break this cycle of misogyny fueled by insecurities about powerful women? Why is it so hard for women to celebrate each other’s achievements, and for men to not feel threatened about the opposite gender?

“Women want to control other women because they’ve been controlled themselves. It’s a cycle of control. I’m not blaming women for that, but I am saying we’re part of a toxic culture that’s feeding all of us the same messaging,” said Lena.

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One common example of body shaming that we see in the media is how female celebrities become the target of paparazzi lenses 5 minutes after they give birth to a child (or so it seems!) and that becomes front page news on whether they made it by losing the weight and getting back to industry standards immediately, or if they have completely lost the plot by taking time to focus on their child rather than worry about trying to become a size 0.

It has a damaging trickle down effect on women in society as we get the subtle message that this is what beauty, fame, and fortune looks like, anything outside of this is a failure.

Thankfully many actresses are speaking out about this horrible epidemic, including Zoe Saldana who recently told Baby Center that Hollywood moms hide out in a cave after giving birth.

“Throughout the years that I’ve been in this business, women that hide in a cave and they don’t come out until they’re a size zero. And that is a very misleading message to send out to women, especially when women here in LA are the skinniest women out there, and that should concern us. We’re too busy thinking about our appearances and not really thinking about our mental health first as well,” she said.

Improving her mental health was one of the reasons Lena started exercising and it is a great statement to make to her fans about why she is dedicated to fitness in a new way. It could be easy to think she is giving in and conforming, but the more we have celebrities speaking out about the damaging effects of body image pressure, the more we hope it will filter down to consumers like us who are bombarded with so many media messages.

If body image oppression is a sexist agenda, then let’s fight back as feminists and powerful women to stop the cycle continuing.

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