Recently, at a press junket for the TV show Girls, there was a bit of a kerfuffle when a TV critic asked why Lena Dunham was naked so much, a question which was interpreted as misogynistic, sexist, and above all offensive. Even as the TV critic was trying to explain his question and admitting that he didn’t get it, neither Apatow nor Dunham took the time to simply answer his question or say why it was sexist. It made me think how, in our modern society’s constant state of flux, we don’t really have a grasp of what is proper etiquette. Someone really needs to write a book about how to avoid unintentionally sounding racist, sexist, trans or homophobic because the critic would sound like a chauvinist from their perspective, and based off the critic’s explanation, I don’t think he was trying to.
In order to understand why this appeared to be a sexist question, one needs to look at the fact that Lena Dunham is not considered attractive by many viewers. I think Dunham is aware of this. We can get into how beauty is subjective, and how other people’s opinions don’t matter, and other shit like that, but most people know whether they are attractive or not (though we tend to think ourselves a little more pretty than we are). This is important because, while I am not trying to use this as a value judgment on Dunham, others in society do. There is more pressure on women in the media to be a lot more attractive than the average person. And especially in nude scenes. When Seth Rogen goes bare-assed or bare chested, the humor is implicit because he’s not attractive, so he should be covering up but he isn’t. With women, nudity is highly sexualized in society, as are the women themselves, no matter what they are doing. Let me put this to you: where is the female equivalent of Paul Giamatti? Or Steve Buscemi? Where are there critically acclaimed actresses who are not attractive? [I asked this question once (to a girl) who was a little offended, and it became uncomfortable. I’m not sure why though, because I’ve talked with other people about how Hispanics are heavily underrepresented in Hollywood, and I was not offended (another reason why we need the aforementioned book! For my own sake.) But back to the question,] I think the best answer I received was Frances McDormand, but she is still attractive; she just plays roles that don’t require her to be beautiful. So, being that many might find Lena Dunham unattractive, questioning why she is naked so much on TV sounds a lot like telling her to put her clothes back on because no one wants to see her, which she probably felt based off her answer, “If you are not into me, that’s your problem.”
Though I am no fan of the show Girls, I agree with her that nudity is a part of life (she says this just before) and an authentic expression. And I say that nudity should in no way be the exclusive domain of the beautiful. When nudity and sex serve the plot, I am all for it. If it doesn’t, than it is a huge interruption to the story, and should get cut. From what I’ve heard, Blue Is the Warmest Color is a movie that gets it right, because it’s necessary for the story being told.
That said, Dunham and Apatow should have (please forgive me for using this) made this a teachable moment. Instead of addressing the issue, Apatow started throwing around –isms, which accomplishes nothing. We who want to address racism and sexism and homophobia need to see ourselves like missionaries or evangelicals spreading the good word instead of condemning people for the ignorance. Calling people racist, to me, is like calling someone an infidel. It’s an exclusionary term based on ignorance. Yes, there are some incredibly hateful people are there who deserve the term (Westboro), but to jump on someone for a question and say that it is misogynistic is a terrible way to address a problem. It’s a rather vague term to use, since it means “women hating,” and further, it is never explained to the critic what part was misogynistic (though to be honest we cannot blame them entirely for not explaining all what I have just said in the heat of the moment at a TV interview. Plus it would require Apatow saying Dunham is unattractive.)
Che Guevara, in his “A Child of My Environment” speech, says something that I really liked, which is that we must be revolutionary people. It is not enough to struggle alone. We need to bring as many people together and enlighten one another so that the movement against the evil –isms our age our eliminated by our inclusivity. I do not mean tolerating sexism, I mean, to borrow from Christianity, preaching the gospel. Stop telling people they are wrong, and start showing them how to be right. It is too easy to be filled with righteous fury. we need to educate daily about what is right and what is wrong.
Just as soon as I find a way to do that, though.