Lena Dunham: The New Face of Feminism?

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Lena Dunham could be considered the new face of feminism or Gloria Steinem of her generation. Many supporters and haters alike are anxiously awaiting the release of Dunham’s new memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, which is slated for its debut on September 30. In it, the multi-talented, millennial figurehead reflects on her childhood experiences, formative years, and the impetus that propelled her creative endeavors. An excerpt of the upcoming book was posted on The New Yorker website on August 25.

Entitled Difficult Girl for the September 1 issue, an excerpt of the upcoming memoir was posted on The New Yorker website on August 25, in which Dunham describes her early introduction to therapy, relationships with past therapists, and what kinds of thoughts and habits landed her in those therapists’ chairs. It is written and recounted in the actress-writer-director-producer’s signature style of drama tinged with humor, as can be observed from her work on the HBO series, Girls. Many of her personal experiences and observations have been incorporated into the writing of Girls, as well as her other creative endeavors.

With pop culture icons like singer-actress Taylor Swift singing her praises and crediting her with embracing their own feminism, Lena Dunham could be considered the new face of feminism or Gloria Steinem of her generation. In actuality, she is a native New Yorker and the daughter of a painter, Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons, a designer and photographer. Dunham was educated at Oberlin College in Ohio, where she graduated with a creative writing degree. During her time at Oberlin, she began writing shorts and feature films. In 2009, Dunham created the web series Delusional Downtown Divas (2009), which gained a cult following. The same year, Dunham also released Creative Nonfiction (2009), which was her first feature film. Next, she went on to write, direct, and star in Tiny Furniture (2010), which scored two Independent Spirit Award nominations. It was in 2012 that Dunham came to the attention of a wider audience and her career blossomed with the HBO hit series Girls (2012), which was created by and starring Dunham and executive produced by Judd Apatow and Dunham.

When Dunham first announced plans for Not That Kind of Girl, many balked at the prospect of a 20-something writing a book that promised “frank and funny advice,” especially one in which netted the author nearly $4 million dollars. Many jumped to conclusions and interpreted it as a kind of highbrow, millennial entitlement, much like the kind projected by the fearsome foursome Girls characters, Hannah, Shoshanna, Marnie, and Jessa, and picked apart by numerous New York Times trend pieces.

As it turns out, the excerpt from Dunham’s book, which was published in The New Yorker, addresses serious issues and offers candid details about her struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), disturbing thoughts and impulses that plagued her childhood, and how intensive therapy has helped to shape her outlook on life. Not That Kind of Girl, which serves as Dunham’s book debut, is about her life’s journey and lessons learned thus far, thanks to her experiences ranging from a woman employed in a male-dominated career field to dealing with hypochondria.

Whether or not Lena Dunham could be considered the new face of feminism or Gloria Steinem of her generation is open to interpretation. She certainly has her share of supporters as well as detractors, much like other multi-talented women who served as generational figureheads, such as Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucille Ball, Tina Fey, and Betty Friedan. Friedan likely did not anticipate the publication of her seminal novel, The Feminine Mystique (1963), to draw the response it garnered. It is often credited with sparking the second wave of American feminism in the 20th century. Friedan also founded and was elected the first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966, which aimed to bring women “into the mainstream of American society now [in] fully equal partnership with men.” Like many of the powerful, talented women who came before her and led the way for feminism and women’s equality, Dunham has received her share of accolades as well as insults. Yet, the detractors do not seem to bother the enterprising young powerhouse, who seems content in her own skin and determined to help led the way for her generation in all their future endeavors.

Opinion By Leigh Haugh

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