Everyone knows that it’s tough being a girl today, and if you weren’t sure of that fact, just ask any girl. Society, and the media particularly, places unbelievable pressure on females to look, act, and essentially be overall perfect at all times. Beginning in childhood, little girls are taught that beauty is equated with femininity. Then on top of that, in order to be beautiful you must be tall (minimum 5’11”), skinny (115 lbs. max), have big boobs (size D, obviously), and blonde is preferred, too.
News flash: Not realistic.
Basically, it’s drilled into the skulls of young women that if they don’t meet these standards, they are worthless in society. According to the media, anything less than those standards, and you’re considered fat and ugly and you can pretty much just give up on finding a boy to like you now. The thing is, 99.9% of the people reading this are none of those things listed above, so why can’t television and movies recognize that as normal?
Thankfully, someone finally has, and her name is Lena Dunham. Dunham is the creator, writer, producer, and star of the hit HBO comedic drama Girls. If you haven’t heard of or seen the show, it follows the lives of four twenty-something year old women going about their daily lives in NYC. The reason that the show is unlike any other, though, is that it is known for showing life in an actual realistic way, which boils down to bad and awkward sex, and a lot of Lena Dunham naked.
There is a definitive mold that Hollywood actresses and models fit into, and Lena Dunham definitely does not fit into it. However, despite her “un-ideal” body type and appearance, Dunham fearlessly strips down and doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to her character. For the first time, television is featuring a strong female character who actually looks like a real woman. For the record, according to a research study conducted in Wisconsin, the average American female is 5’4” and 140 lbs. Lena Dunham is 5’3” and 139 lbs. I can’t tell you why it’s so unthinkable to put a woman who is exactly average sized on television and sex scenes, but I do know that it’s a step in the right direction for women and the body image epidemic.
“I don’t think a girl with tiny thighs would have received such no-pants attention. I think what it really was . . . ‘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, in a conversation with TV critic Emily Nussbaum at the New Yorker festival.
As viewers watch each episode of Girls, many claim that they feel like they’re watching their life or diary unfold before their eyes on the screen. Seeing the main character Hannah (played by Dunham), simply go about her life, which include nudity and sex, while confidently flaunting her body makes women realize that they can have the same type of confidence in themselves, and that they, too, are beautiful regardless of their size or shape. It’s inspiring and relieving to see a woman such as Hannah carrying on relationships and being successful, instead of someone’s hefty and comedic sidekick. It sends the message no woman should ever feel as if she should be pushed to the side or is any less deserving of love (or anything else for that matter) because of just her looks, which is what a lot of women need to hear.
Dunham discusses the much asked about nudity and sexuality on Girls.
As the popularity of the show increases, so does it’s impact on women and body image. True to it’s realistic fashion, Girls does not completely ignore the fact that Hannah’s weight is sometimes a struggle and is part of her life, it just simply does not define her or her life. In one episode when Hannah is questioned about her weight by a male character, she responds that she simply has, “decided to have other concerns in her life.” So many girls think of their bodies as a constant work in progress and get so wrapped up in what they “should” look like, instead of embracing themselves and their bodies for what they are. This is exactly what Hannah does, and by doing so promotes real women to do the same. People don’t always consciously realize the extent of the affect that television has on them, but seeing normal women such as Dunham naked or rocking a bikini and not caring what anyone thinks makes girls realize that it’s okay for them to do the same.
Many girls take to social media to tell Dunham that she and Girls are life-changing. Reactions such as these prove that Girls is the encouragement that American women needed in order to learn to love
and accept themselves, and demolish the unrealistic standards society set for them. Dunham is slowly but surely taking over the world of the media and becoming a new type of role model for women, re-defining “beautiful” and making it so that women expressing the kind of confidence that she embodies can become the norm in society.
Podcast: Why You Should Be Watching Girls