Lena Dunham doesn't need Jezebel. Lena Dunham doesn't need any of us. She's an incredibly successful writer, director, actor and businesswoman. Yet we can't resist the urge to play the hero, riding in on our white keyboards to defend her against big bad Vogue.
When the magazine released Dunham's February issue, columnists raged against the cover photo that only features her from the chest up. Jezebel even went so far as to offer a $10,000 bounty for unretouched images from the shoot. Sure enough, they got them and listed Vogue's Photoshop fixes as though they were assessing a crime scene.
Shoulder/back of neck shaved down, lengthening the neck
Line near mouth on face removed
The Toronto Star declared that Dunham "inadvertently became one of [Vogue's] fashion victims" and posited that "If fashion editors are the adult version of mean girls, actresses like Dunham are the adult version of the outsider admitted into their clique for comic relief."
Let me say that Vogue isn't exactly known for its sense of humour.
What disturbs me more is that, in the media's apparent quest to empower "average-looking" women, they constantly cast them as victims. The tone of the conversation that surrounds Dunham's shoot infantilizes and disempowers her more than the erasure of her laugh lines.
Our society is obsessed with narratives that portray women as passive victims. Newspapers publish stats on how many women are raped each year, rather than how many men become rapists. When celebrities break up, it's always the woman who is jilted, left behind to wallow in her future as a lonely cat lady. Things happen to women, not the other way around.
In fact, many Vogue cover models don't get the full-body treatment. Just this September, Jennifer Lawrence was cropped much the same way Dunham was. Other stars like Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway and Emma Watson have received similar cover treatments, minus the ensuing public outrage.
In our misguided attempts to defend fuller-figured female actors, we perpetuate the narrative that they are weak, somehow lesser. We are complicit in their marginalization.
Dunham seems happy with her decision to appear in Vogue, which people have a hard time reconciling with her very public feminism. This isn't surprising; in society that likes to simplify, we've always found it difficult to view women in multiple lights.
While men can embody almost endless personas, women are relegated to a one-dimensional existence. Innocents or sluts; feminists or fashion mean girls; body-positive stalwarts or flaky sellouts. Why can't Dunham be a feminist, confident in her skin and also indulge in a round of fantasy dress up with Vogue?
If we want a meaningful conversation about how women are portrayed in media, there are better things to talk about than what amount to minor instances of photoshopping.