I Hate Lena Dunham|
Lena Dunham is smart, successful, and seriously funny. She’s the embodiment of a particularly effortless brand of quirky cool more often found in the musty aisles of your friendly neighborhood thrift store than on the glamorous red carpets of Hollywood. Yet, she’s managed to make a name for herself while simultaneously living every liberal art major’s dream. And I hate her for it.
Now let me preface my explanation by saying that I enjoy “Girls.” I really do. In the same way that I loved watching Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda gossip over brunch, I enjoy watching Lena & Co.’s misadventures at the abortion clinic. Like “SATC,” “Girls” finds the sweet spot between hilariously honest realism and entertainingly aspirational escapism. I’m the first to admit, Lena Dunham deserves her success. That doesn’t make me hate her any less.
Of course, the mighty Lena isn’t the only person against whom my particular brand of vitriol is directed. I’m an equal opportunity hater. I hate girls with perfect nails. I hate girls with hair that never frizzes, no matter how humid it gets. I hate girls with bigger wardrobes, smaller waists, and fatter wallets. And I hate myself for hating on them.
Anyone who survived middle school knows just how good girls can be at tearing each other down. Maybe it’s social conditioning. Maybe, like Scientific American posited, female cattiness is directly related to evolutionary biology. Either way, as entertaining as that cattiness impulse might be on The Real Housewives, it’s not exactly a quality I’m particularly proud of in myself.
Lena Dunham didn’t do anything to deserve my hatred. I know that. The only thing she’s done wrong — at least as far as I’m concerned– is to have the audacity to achieve the kind of creatively fulfilling success I aspire to myself, and to be mere months older than me to boot. And those other women I hate — their only transgressions are that they too possess something I want, whether it’s beauty or bank accounts or some other enviable attribute. Hating them doesn’t help me achieve what they have. It doesn’t get me any closer to my own goals. And it certainly doesn’t make me a better, happier person. In fact, in many ways, it does the opposite.
While I’m busy hating Lena Dunham, she’s busy writing funny Tweets, making critically acclaimed indie films and achieving every writer’s dream with a real, live byline in The New Yorker. And those girls whose wardrobes and wallets I envy– every minute I spend silently seething over their perfect hair and expensive handbags is a missed opportunity to be enjoying whatever social situation I happen to be sharing with them. Long story short, while all that girl-on-girl hatred makes for good reality TV, it makes for a pretty crappy reality.
So I’m done. I’m tapping out of the tearing down game. I’m waving a white flag to my fellow women, and promising to be better towards them, happier for them, more supportive of their success. I’m not saying I won’t still get a little bit jealous too. But, I’m going to make a conscious effort to turn that jealousy into something productive rather than destructive. Instead of simply envying Lena Dunham, and allowing that envy to turn into hatred and cattiness, I can use that envious impulse as inspiration to learn from her example, and as fuel to fire up my own efforts towards success.
A wise guru once said “Women need to be more supportive of each other, stop tearing each other apart. There’s plenty of room for all of us. There’s plenty of men for all of us. There’s plenty of jobs. There’s plenty of room! I really believe it.” The better one woman does, the better all women do.” Granted, the guru was Reese Witherspoon, and although her words of wisdom appeared in the glossy pages of a bible, it was a fashion bible. Still, that doesn’t make her sentiment any less true.
Another woman’s success doesn’t take away from my own. If anything, it creates more opportunities for me to achieve my dreams. And it’s time we started looking at it that way. I’ve always been a big fan of mentorship, and I’ve been pretty vocal about how much I admire the fantastic women I consider mentors in my career. Maybe it’s because we share the same calling, or because the sad fact is that there just aren’t that many of us with lady parts and careers in software development, so I’ve always managed to see their achievements as more inspirational than enviable. But either way, I know that great things can happen when women choose to build each other up, rather than tear each other down. And, it’s time for me to turn that attitude towards all women, even Lena Dunham.
So, Lena– if I can call you that– you are smart, successful and seriously funny. You’re the embodiment of effortlessly quirky cool, and you really are living the dream. And I appreciate you for it.