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Why Lena Dunham is wrong
“The problem isn’t adultery, or perversity. It’s wielding your position of authority to subjugate the women who dream of a piece of the pie.” – Girls’ creator Lena Dunham, in response to the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal, Vol. 2.
If anything, the only sexist in this entire spiel is Dunham. Firstly, Dunham is ironically reducing womanhood to the kind of patriarchal notion of a damsel in distress she would otherwise claim to be abhor. The pie is just so damn dazzling that the women cannot resist. Secondly, it perpetuates the stereotype that if something has gone wrong, it must be the man’s fault. Women are the ultimate victims in this narrative. The big bad man known for his shocking judgment must have manipulated the college-educated political blogger, who one former friend described as desperate for fame (no wonder one of her featured MySpace songs is Kayne West’s Gold Digger). I mean, maybe Sydney Leathers did not know Weiner was married and had a child, despite knowing seemingly every other biographical detail on offer. And maybe, God forbid, Leathers had a brain and could clearly envision what she was possibly getting herself into. But no, she was clearly subjugated and had no free choice in the matter. It’s that damn Patriarchy fucking with her mind.
Funnily enough, this was the same Lena Dunham who became the butt of many an internet meme for her gushing, near hysterical response to Bill Clinton appearing at the Golden Globes. Though the Monica Lewinsky scandal happened in the 1990s, Dunham still has a remarkably short memory when it comes to far more problematic sexual dalliances in politics. Leathers was not employed by Weiner; Lewinsky, as an intern, fell directly beneath Clinton’s authority. I will not even start with the rather non-feminist reaction of worshipping, on camera, at the altar of a man’s celebrity power, as Dunham did at the Globes ceremony.
Dunham’s analysis casts many women in the role of automatons. In Leathers’ case we are dealing with a basically savvy, self-aggrandising and well-educated woman, not a member of a Cockney underclass starving in a coal mining town during the Industrial Revolution. With all their power, Dunhamn believes the high-ranking male must save the lower-ranked, younger adult female, who is clearly intoxicated by the sight of his massive pie, from herself. In fact, an invisible Beam of Patriarchy actually coerced Leathers into seeking out Weiner in the first place. This concentration of energy drew upon the strongest Misogyny, Condescension and Chauvinism crystals mined from deep beneath the Patriarchy Headquarters at the Playboy Mansion. I saw it myself using my Google Glass (Politically Incorrect Pig Edition).
And subjugation? Please. The next girl who sleeps with an already taken One Direction member or makes a fraudulent paternity suit against Justin Bieber must therefore be subjugated, too. In Dunham’s lopsided world, asymmetry in power, when the man’s is weighted more heavily, creates prima facie sexism. That in itself is a sexist assumption towards both genders. But no, a self-described feminist could not be sexist. As Ralph Wiggum would say, that’s unpossible. Also absent from her remarks is an understanding that Leathers sought out Weiner, not the other way around. I guess Dunham will soon inform the world of Patriarchal Brain Control also being responsible for Leathers sending sexualised pictures to Weiner. And what, pray tell, about all the young males subjugated into buying product after product by Kate Upton’s massive breasts and pert posterior? By Dunham’s logic, I do not retain the self-control to resist her (Upton’s, not Dunham’s!) pie, either.
Here is Dunham’s concept conveniently broken down:
A. Female wants a piece of powerful male’s ‘pie’ (pun intended).
B. Female loses self-control.
C. Female actively seeks powerful male’s pie (but remember, she’s mind-controlled).
D. Powerful male realises female wants a piece of his pie.
E. Powerful male initiates SUBJUGATION MODE and militant sexism is prima facie activated.
Dunham fails to realise that this so-called ‘power’ is a dynamic reinforced by both parties. Many feminists are in a constant state of denial that a huge cross-section of the female population finds males in positions of authority sexually attractive. The phenomenon of female sports groupies is one I have seen many a time at Mooseheads and other clubs in Canberra. Most of the Canberra Raiders players are decent, non-Duganesque individuals but if you want to claim that many of the women approaching them are moving in purely for the men’s physiques and personalities, you need a reality check. And these guys, to be honest, are in the majority far from the most powerful young men in Australia or globally.
On the flip side, how many male garbage collectors do you see dating or being courted by more high-powered women? And no, potential male insecurity is only one half of the equation, not all of it. Women can crave success and power just as much as males for themselves, but they also crave it in their male mates much more than the other way around. To clarify, this is not all women but enough for a trend to emerge, just one for which social crucifixion is the penalty for highlighting. Just admit it, Weiner is a double-faced, cheating sleaze and Leathers is an equally manipulative and pathetic gold digger.
Whether it is right or not, or if it is some sort of social conditioning, many women are attracted to and enough times driven to lust in the presence of powerful males. A biological component does certainly exist, but just try stating that at the next Women’s Collective Open Day (if they even let guys in). No one disputes the allure of large breasts and toned female buttocks for men. We should not avoid the fact that Weiner’s power were the boobs and ass in Leathers’ eyes. Yet I know I am hoping for too much realism. Victim narratives sound better, especially by a celebrity trying to plug the next season of Girls.