Lena Dunham came to Chicago to speak at the Chicago Cultural Festival in 2014. This is a critique of her talk. At this time in 2014, there was a celebrity fad of talking about Feminism. It all started with Emma Watson’s talk on Feminism. Many celebrities during this time were asked if they were Feminist or not, and many offered the information to the public.
Lena’s reading from her book was poised, vibrant, and showcased her quick wit and warmth. After her reading she mentioned the importance of voting, endorsing Pat Quinn, her main reason being that he was “cute”. The crowd did not receive this well, as politics were divided for the governor race in Chicago(Pat Quinn lost). This is an example of what could deter Millennials and younger Gen Xers from voting.
A candidate is endorsed in the media for empty promises and their inevitable gross past. A spokesperson such as Lena could only muster comments on his looks. This confirms for her audience that the value of voting seems about as useless as reading a People magazine (she could have read anything about him, but she chose this). The way Lena tried to appeal to her audience is a classic move of hers, and perhaps of the millennial generation. A way of trying to win people over by succumbing to the charming ditzy female prototype.
The second part of the talk included inviting her co-writer and best friend Jenny on stage to ask questions from the crowd. Inevitably the question of Feminism arose, as this was a pop culture topic at the moment.
The question was, “What would you say to a woman who claims to not be a Feminist?”
Jenny and Lena began to spit back and forth about how crazy it was that a woman who “actually” knew what Feminism was would not be one. I found their discourse to be disappointing. To simply belittle someone is only looking at one small piece of the picture. A common issue I find in the pop culture obsession with Feminism is that although many celebrities claim to be or not to be feminists, none of them take the time to explain what Feminism truly means. Do they understand what the philosophy means?
Let me take a moment here to do just that. Feminism means equality for EVERYBODY, not just women and men. I do not think this is clear to everybody. The word Feminism can ruin its own motive.
A spokesperson for Feminism, rather than ripping on someone for not choosing to believe in the philosophy, could look to the many sides of what makes the idea work and how it could be applied. An analysis of what makes it attract or repel people.
Feminism can be the victim of misconstruing. One purpose of a spokesperson could be to make sure that everyone knows what Feminism is. Then to counter the idea with another and urge people to explore the choices they have in deciding what they believe. To empower people to make choices to explore ideas and the constraints that go along with these ideas.
The idea of Feminism to me has always been beautiful, but I have not ever thought of myself solely as a Feminist. I strive for equality and I have made my life’s purpose to help people, but I do not like labeling myself. I also do not like labeling people diagnosed with schizophrenia “schizophrenics”.
Labels can harm people and misconstrue ideas.
If Lena is the mirror to our generation she hits the nail right on the head with her vocabulary. Every other word that Lena and Jenny used to describe something was “like”. We are the clueless generation, we no longer think things, we feel them. For example, something commonly heard, “I feel like” rather than “I think”. What happened to our language? We have strayed from logical thinking to erratic feeling. Feeling and logic can go hand in hand, but the balance has been lost in our language. Emotion is winning. It sells.
As we come into an age where we communicate mainly with technology it is more important than ever to be aware of how we portray ourselves. I hope that Lena can find a more balanced approach to her message, she has the power.
At the same time, her talk motivated me to write this, a litany of words motivated to make people think, which is a positive thing overall.
Thank you, Lena for your talk, even if I thought it was kind of shitty.