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What do you think of Lena Dunham?

by Amy Simon

She's History

Photo courtesy of Amy Simon

. . . said the young, excited and curious woman after seeing me perform excerpts of She’s History! (my play about women who make and made history) for a special New York City show about 19th century abolition women for the Coalition Against Trafficking In Women. “I studied all the source material of the women you portray and I was blown away.” She was a recent graduate of Oberlin College, Lena Dunham’s alma mater and the first college in America to admit women and blacks. Progressive to say the least.

“I’m with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s office and she couldn’t be here but I know she would love what you do.”

Now I was the excited one . . . I love Carolyn Maloney!

“So what do you think of Lena Dunham, the writer producer and star of Girls, the critically acclaimed and controversial HBO show?”

I haven’t really seen Girls, so I can’t speak to it but what I do know is this: I am always really happy for a woman to have a voice and have power in television – where girls and women are tragically under-represented and sexually portrayed. I asked her if she knew about the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which studies and reports on gender inequality and stereotypical role portrayal in entertainment. She did not.

We discussed Dunham’s political activism and role as a feminist voice for her generation. “Honestly,” I said, “I am so sick of seeing women take their clothes off and having sex on television, so I was turned off when I watched the one episode.”

“Gosh, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot,” she said apologetically. I responded, “I don’t feel on the spot and it’s a good question. We are sexual beings, and she has a right to express herself. I don’t know what her message is. I don’t know that she has a message and I don’t know that she needs a message. I am just tired of seeing women having sex on TV.” I told her about the time in 1985 when I worked for Sire Records in NYC and Madonna was new and controversial. Someone from Ms. Magazine came to the office to see her video of “Like A Prayer,” as she had been asked to comment on her. After, the Ms. Mag gal said ”I like her and I like what she is doing because she is not a victim, she is in charge of her own sexuality.”

“So is Lena Dunham, I guess,” I said.

I called her the next day from the cab on my way to JFK, heading back to Los Angeles. “I was telling my mom how much I loved what you did – how you brought those women alive, how you made me cry”. I laughed. “Wow, I was telling my twenty-year-old daughter about you and how encouraging it is to see a young woman like you with the kind of priorities that give me hope about your generation. I guess we inspired each other!”

When I got home I mentioned the conversation to my boyfriend who watches the show and immediately defended it. “It’s not about sex” he said. “It’s a beautifully written poetic expression of her generation and the way these girls navigate life, all super close and supportive. She writes moving and honest stories about their struggle and humanity.”

Struggle and humanity. Ahhh. No wonder it is so popular.

Amy Simon

About Amy Simon

Amy Simon is a writer/performer, mother, humanist, questioner, and new empty nester who loves to read, dance, cook, talk on the phone, play on the beach and see theater, in that order. Find her at sheshistory.com and on Twitter @ShesHistoryAmy

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