- Vogue cover, February 2014
‘Why did you all make us look at your thighs?’ My response is, get used to it because I am going to live to be 100, and I am going to show my thighs every day till I die.” – Lena Dunham
My instinct is to immediately glance down at my thighs as I write this, always quick to judge and certainly lacking Lena’s bravado.
Let’s talk about Lena Dunham. It seems like people are always talking about Lena Dunham, and more often than not, it’s about what she looks like rather than what she is capable of (Emmy winner, writer, director, actress, etc.). Last year, I posted a link on my Facebook timeline to the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign, lauding their efforts to encourage all women consider to themselves beautiful. One of my Facebook friends commented on the post with: “Why is it important for women to be beautiful?” It made me think – my impulse had always been to want all women to think of themselves as beautiful, even if they don’t conform to traditional or popular standards of beauty. The discussion of Lena Dunham, and her insistence on challenging conventional expectations for female beauty helps answer this question.
Why is it important for all women to be considered beautiful? It’s simple: beauty makes us happy. It’s why we listen to music, admire art, and travel to breathtaking places. The more important question is: why can’t more women see the beauty in themselves? In 2011, @KiyahDuffey blogged about her daughter’s “beautiful body.” In the post, she redefines very notion of bodily beauty as strength, ability, sensation, function — not size, texture, clarity, or symmetry. Her daughter’s body is beautiful because it can, and not simply because it is. Here’s a lesson for all of us: let’s start some loving self-talk, why don’t we?
Quite frankly, it’s a little bit of upstream swimming to challenge what we think we know. Just look at the number of women who criticize and judge Lena’s nudity in the HBO series Girls — this is nothing more than, as Tina Fey once put it in Mean Girls, “girl on girl crime.” The best way to move forward? Think about this: my 3-year old daughter tells me I’m beautiful every single day, even when I’m feeling my worst about the way I look (should lose some weight, don’t like my nose or teeth, etc.). Does she think I’m a supermodel? No. Does she think I’m flawless? No. She doesn’t associate beauty with that yet. To her, beauty comes from love and a completely innocent belief that beauty is there because it just is. And it’s hard work for me to stop self-criticism and doubt in front of her – why should I unteach the secret that she already knows but so many adults struggle to grasp?
Let’s go back to talking about Lena Dunham. Lena is the rest of us….but she knows the secret: beauty isn’t externally defined, it’s internally generated. In our hearts, in our minds, in our friendships, our talents, successes and failures. When I wrote “beauty makes us happy,” I meant feeling beautiful in your own skin and opening yourself up to the (often unsung) beauty of others and the world around us.
Why this post? When you create a game based on fantasy shopping, wearing beautiful things, and looking at a zillion pictures of people who look completely flawless and fabulous at all times in their clothing, it’s easy to focus on external and traditional notions of beauty. Let’s battle that impulse, shall we? Let’s live in the fantasy world of fashion and keep dreaming of shopping glory, but let’s feel good about ourselves, shall we? While women are BattleShopping, we want you all to be brave, to take good care of each other, and know that beauty is everywhere. Including Lena Dunham’s thighs.