Look: Lena Dunham isn’t my personal favorite.
I say that statement not as some perverse badge of honor, but rather to let you know that my take on Dunham and her actions might occasionally veer into biased territory. While I do think Girls is an incredible achievement for a woman of Dunham’s age, I have never particularly identified with her voice or perspective. That said, I have always more or less agreed with the general sentiment of Dunham’s approach — regardless of the outcome, the intention of her work is almost always to promote women.
Well … to promote one woman, anyway.
Recently, Dunham spoke on the subject of abortion on her podcast, Women of the Hour. She recounted a story about a time she visited a Planned Parenthood in Texas. “A young girl walked up to me and asked me if I’d like to be a part of her project in which women share their stories of abortions,” she said. “I sort of jumped. ‘I haven’t had an abortion,’ I told her. I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women’s options, I myself had never had an abortion. And I realized then that even I was carrying within myself stigma around this issue. Even I, the woman who cares as much as anybody about a woman’s right to choose, felt it was important that people know I was unblemished in this department.”
This part made sense, honestly — we all have these ingrained biases that we aren’t even aware of, regardless of how liberal our politics may be, and are still conditioned to feel shame around certain issues.
However, it was her closing line which was problematic, and actually made me slap my forehead with my hand: “Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”
Lena. Girl. Noooo.
Even women who are pro-choice do not believe that abortions are a trendy initiation into some elusive, yuppie “Feminist Club.” Having an invasive medical procedure does not add points to that “Woman Card” that Donald Trump was always harping on about. For many women, the decision to have an abortion is difficult, frightening and heartbreaking. There is a vast difference between believing that women deserve the right to have control over their own bodies, and believing that everyone should have an abortion to better sympathize with their fellow women.
This kind of soundbite is also dangerous because it echoes exactly what old white dudes believe women are trying to accomplish when they fight for their reproductive rights. This flippant remark is the sort of rhetoric that people point to when they make the false claim that pro-choice women want to get abortions at the same rate that they get their hair cut.
Not surprisingly, women on Twitter are already airing their grievances with Dunham and her tone-deaf remark:
Dunham made a similar comment about the LGBTQ community in 2014, saying “I have always felt a strong and emotional connection to members of the LGBTQ community. It was actually a huge disappointment for me when I came of age and realized that I was sexually attracted to men. So when my sister came out I thought, ‘Thank God, someone in this family can truly represent my passions and beliefs.'”
Hear me now, Lena: you are a privileged white girl. (I say this to you as another privileged white girl.) You don’t get to commodify other lifestyles and life events just because you think it will add to your street cred. You also don’t get to identify with a social movement and then say something that completely undermines the mission statement of that movement.
You already have plenty of attention. This is, for once, an issue that isn’t about you.