• Thu, Mar 14 2013

How Would Lena Dunham Feel If She Woke Up With A ‘Victoria’s Secret Body’?

Lena-Dunham-interview

Most of the time, Playboy strikes me as the kind of magazine that doesn’t really care to include much about women’s issues. Sure, they’ll discuss the woman on the cover’s legs or her last relationship, but whenever I’ve picked up a copy to read on the plane, I’ve rarely been excited by the questions they ask a female. Fortunately, the Lena Dunham interview for their April issue is mostly fantastic.

First of all, Playboy asked a lot of solid questions. There were ones about her writing, about her critics, about certain hilarious lines she has written in and their backstories. And there were also plenty of inquiries regarding gender, like “Male writers are often criticized for how they write female roles. How careful do you have to be about writing your men, Adam, Ray, Charlie and the rest?” and “Can men just not stop themselves from behaving badly?” To the latter question, Dunham replied:

I never chalk up anything to the gender divide and say, ‘Well, that’s just a male thing.’ I hate the conventional wisdom that men are supposedly complete pieces of shit and it’s our job as women to put up with them. Men are just as sensitive and easily victimized as women are, but there’s not as much of an infrastructure for expressing it. That drives me nuts. We’re all humans and doing human stuff. We’d have a better world if everyone had someone they could pay for talk therapy.

This answer was my favorite of the entire interview, as it is so rare to see a celebrity openly discredit the gender stereotypes that flow through Hollywood so easily, even in 2013. Not only did she state men’s inability to claim “I’m just a dude!” as reasoning to do bad things, she also defended males at the same time — something that showed real balance in how she views gender.

The myriad of other questions included her dating life and sex scenes (it is Playboy, after all), but they did ask one specific question that truly irked me.

Playboy: If you woke up tomorrow in the body of a Victoria’s Secret model, what would you do for the rest of the day?

Dunham: I’d be really disoriented and wonder what had happened in the night. Which enemy had dragged me to the doctor? I don’t think I’d like it very much. There would be all kinds of weird challenges to deal with that I don’t have to deal with now. I don’t want to go through life wondering if people are talking to me because I have a big rack. Not being the babest person in the world creates a nice barrier. The people who talk to you are the people who are interested in you. It must be a big burden in some ways to look that way and be in public. That said, I probably would want to see if I could get free food at restaurants. Then I’d call a doctor and see if she could return me to my former situation.

Okay, when was the last time you heard John Goodman or Seth Rogen or any other less-than-Olympian-sculpted actor being questioned on how they would react if their bodies were suddenly woke up and looked like Ryan Gosling? I get that Dunham’s appearance is a huge factor on why the show is appealing to some audiences and repugnant to others, but could she give one interview or have one piece written about her — ever, ever, ever — that does not mention her body? JUST ONE.

But then, Dunham’s answer also kind of irked me because it almost felt as though she was putting down the women who do look like that. I realize that most people wouldn’t exactly feel sorry for most Victoria’s Secret models, but that doesn’t mean it’s all right to imply that people who speak to them aren’t necessarily interested in who they are. And the whole free food thing? Yeah, I mean, I feel like Lena Dunham has no shortage on free food (this is absolutely not a fat joke — merely me stating the fact that every celebrity gets a hell of a lot of shit for free everywhere they go), so it’s kind of an eyeroll to read her say it like it’s something novel.

Other than that last question, however, I am genuinely stoked on the rest of it. It’s nice to see a men’s publication recognize an accomplished young female writer and ask her (primarily) dignified, excellent questions about her work.

Photo: Alberto Reyes/WENN.com

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  • Breezy

    I think that was an excellent answer to a ridiculous question. I didn’t see it as her putting down models/people who look like models. It seems like she was just trying to acknowledge that things aren’t as simple as “I look like Heidi Klum now so everything is wonderful all the time.” People make assumptions about your abilities and intelligence, people may reduce you to your looks rather than thinking of you as a whole person, and people might only be talking to you because you’re gorgeous. Lena didn’t say that the only people who talk to models are using them or whatever, just that that’s not something she has to worry about based on her looks.

    It’s a nuanced issue and she was being interviewed for Playboy. So I’m gonna cut her some slack.

    • Cate

      I actually agree, and don’t even think this is a very sexist question (though it does betray sexist attitudes in our society) because it’s true that people judge women on their appearances far more than they judge men.
      I am by no means Victoria’s Secret model hot, but I am sufficiently good-looking that I often wonder whether people (especially men) are just talking to me because I look like an Elvgren girl. I also am constantly wondering if my appearance makes people take me less seriously and I think it shows a lot of empathy on Lena’s part to recognize that a pretty face and socially admired body does not equal a perfect life.

    • Breezy

      For the record, I am glad we can disagree/talk about these things respectfully! That is why I love the Gloss (and both of you.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

      This is a great point. I suppose I read it as her disparaging them because so often, people do insult or criticize models and other conventionally attractive women as being less intelligent or valuable, but Dunham likely isn’t doing that, considering she is much more aware of those standards given how people treat her.

  • Emily

    Honestly, I don’t think she should have answered that question at all. That’s extremely sexist because, like you said, they wouldn’t ask the Seth Rogen-type actors that kind of question. It was insulting enough that it didn’t deserve acknowledgment.

  • Me

    Okay, she didn’t say that people who talk to VS models aren’t interested in who they are, she said that SHE would constantly wonder if people were talking to her for the wrong reasons (which is pointing to her own security and not that of anyone else) and then she goes on to say that she feels that personally, because SHE is not the ‘babest’ person in the world, SHE feels secure that people are talking to her because they are interested in her.

    I actually liked that she kept all of those statements pointing directly at her feelings and her situations and not once did she give any implications about how a VS model must feel because of her looks.

  • Jon

    wow and here i was thinking VS models were public enemy no.1 with you guys. then again, if there’s one woman that other women hate more than a VS model, i would have to guess lena dunham

    • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

      What? We love Lena Dunham, have you never read any of our articles?

  • LauraR

    It’s not her body that I find repugnant on “Girls”, it’s her character. She is vapid, self-centered, yet lacking self confidence, dull, not funny and not insightful. She frequently has a rabbitty blank look that really annoys me.I’m also disgusted by the sex scenes. I’m so sad young women in their 20′s are still being treated like sex objects, especially for really vile fantasies, as Hannah is by Adam in “Girls”.