Lena Dunham & Amy Schumer Deserve More Love From Women -- Warts Included

I've seen it a lot lately on my social media feeds: Women are admitting in growing numbers that they're annoyed by Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer. And a recent interview the two did together for Lenny Letter has started a whole new round of drama. If you're not exactly sure what it is that bothers you about either of these women, I have a theory, so hear me out. 

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Both Dunham and Schumer are fearless and outspoken and use much of their celebrity and spotlight to push back against the toxic crap women are constantly barraged with by the media: that our body isn't the right shape; that our success is dependent on how "f*ckable" we are (to use a phrase Schumer made famous); that labels and our actual faces and our ugly opinions are all things women should hide to get ahead and become popular, rather than own and celebrate as they are.

Dunham and Schumer aren't having any of it.

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In the most recent edition of Dunham's newsletter, Lenny Letter, she interviews her friend Amy Schumer, whom she obviously adores. The two were both at the Met Ball this year, and eventually, the conversation landed there.

Dunham said:

You and I were literally sitting across from each other at the Met Ball, and it was so surreal to get to do that.

I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, 'That's a marshmallow. That's a child. That's a dog.' It wasn't mean -- he just seemed confused.

The vibe was very much like, 'Do I want to fuck it? Is it wearing a ... yep, it's wearing a tuxedo. I'm going to go back to my cell phone.' It was like we were forced to be together, and he literally was scrolling Instagram rather than have to look at a woman in a bow tie. I was like, 'This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Getting Rejected by Athletes.'

Personally, I took this very much as a confession about her own insecurities more than anything else. She also said that's how she intended it. She found herself next to a handsome, famous man and this seemed more like an honest description of her feelings in that moment than an indictment of Beckham's behavior.

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But Dunham took a lot of heat for the statement for perpetuating racial stereotypes. We don't think she knew she was doing this, and when she realized her statements were problematic, she apologized in a lengthy caption on Instagram that read:  

Despite my moments of bravado, I struggle at industry events (and in life) with the sense that I don't rep a certain standard of beauty and so when I show up to the Met Ball surrounded by models and swan-like actresses it's hard not to feel like a sack of flaming garbage ....  The fact is I don't know about his state of mind (I don't know a lot of things) and I shouldn't have acted like I did. Much love and thanks, Lena

Here's the full post:

I owe Odell Beckham Jr an apology. Despite my moments of bravado, I struggle at industry events (and in life) with the sense that I don't rep a certain standard of beauty and so when I show up to the Met Ball surrounded by models and swan-like actresses it's hard not to feel like a sack of flaming garbage. This felt especially intense with a handsome athlete as my dinner companion and a bunch of women I was sure he'd rather be seated with. But I went ahead and projected these insecurities and made totally narcissistic assumptions about what he was thinking, then presented those assumptions as facts. I feel terrible about it. Because after listening to lots of valid criticism, I see how unfair it is to ascribe misogynistic thoughts to someone I don't know AT ALL. Like, we have never met, I have no idea the kind of day he's having or what his truth is. But most importantly, I would never intentionally contribute to a long and often violent history of the over-sexualization of black male bodies- as well as false accusations by white women towards black men. I'm so sorry, particularly to OBJ, who has every right to be on his cell phone. The fact is I don't know about his state of mind (I don't know a lot of things) and I shouldn't have acted like I did. Much love and thanks, Lena

A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

It was sweet and heartfelt and she totally owned the mistake. Other than expecting her to be literally without flaw, this is the most we could ask for. She still took a lot of criticism in the comments of the post, though. Like, a lot. 

But criticism isn't anything new to Dunham, something she and Schumer also discussed in the Lenny interview.

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Amy was addressing the recent controversy surrounding one of the writers on her show making terrible jokes about rape victims. Schumer was criticized for not responding more forcefully, and her response is a glimpse of how personally Schumer takes her street cred on advocating for women's issues:

"I was resentful of the lack of trust. Like, 'Have I earned any goodwill with you guys?'" Schumer said. "'Do you believe that I feel that rape victims should be shamed on the Internet? Have I built up any sort of goodwill?'"

It's a fair question. Do either of these women get any respect for the stands they've made to shut down women-shaming for all of us?

Women who make a bunch of waves and complain about the status quo have always been viewed as "too extreme," "shrill," and never feminine enough. These are the exact stereotypes Schumer and Dunham have tried to both embrace and break down. Sure, it might not always be comfortable and I might not always think it's funny or entertaining, but that doesn't mean having women like them in the mainstream media pushing boundaries isn't important.

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Plenty of people thought that Trainwreck was a big mess and that Girls is just a big pile of self-indulgent navel-gazing. But outside of this, the criticisms of both -- and of the women behind them -- often seem a little more general, like, "am I the only one who finds Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham annoying?"

The easy answer is "no, you're not."

It makes you wonder if the reason why isn't because of the boundaries they're trying to break down rather than the quality of their art. So like it or not, as women, don't we have at least some obligation to recognize they're fighting in some small part for us, too?

Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer have flaws. They sometimes do or say things that aren't okay, but their apologies usually feel genuine. And at the very least, we could recognize how tough it is to be an outspoken woman in this world and show them a little more love.

 

Image via Jackson Lee/Splash News

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