Lena Dunham could be considered the new voice of feminism or Betty Friedan of the millennial generation. Many supporters and detractors alike are anxiously awaiting the release of Dunham’s upcoming memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, which is slated for its debut on September 30. In summary, the brave and ballsy millennial figurehead reflects on her childhood experiences, years of therapy, and the motivation that propelled her creative endeavors. An excerpt of her debut novel was posted on The New Yorker website on August 25.
The excerpt of the upcoming memoir, entitled Difficult Girl for the September 1 issue of The New Yorker, was posted on the publication’s website on August 25. In it, Dunham describes her early introduction to therapy, relationships with past therapists, and what experiences landed her in those therapists’ chairs. It is written and recounted in the multi-talented performer’s signature style of drama combined with humor, much like her work and writing on the HBO series, Girls. Many of her personal and professional experiences and observations have been incorporated into the writing of Girls, as well as her other creative endeavors.
Singer Taylor Swift, who serves as an inspiration and pop culture icon to many legions of fans, counts herself among Dunham’s circle of friends and has credited the Girls star with embracing her own feminism. Is that in itself grounds for Lena Dunham to be considered the new voice of feminism or Gloria Steinem of the millennial generation?
Dunham is a native New Yorker and the daughter of fellow artists. She was educated at Oberlin College in Ohio, where she graduated with a creative writing degree. It was during her time at Oberlin that the actress began writing shorts and feature films. Dunham created the web series Delusional Downtown Divas in 2009, which gained a cult following. The same year, she also released Creative Nonfiction (2009), which was her feature film debut. Following these accomplishments, Dunham went on to write, direct, and star in Tiny Furniture (2010), which scored many accolades and two Independent Spirit Award nominations. It was in 2012 that Dunham came to the attention of a wide-scale audience and her career exploded with the HBO hit series Girls (2012), which was created by and starring Dunham and executive produced by Judd Apatow and Dunham.
When Dunham first announced plans for her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, many balked at the prospect of a young millennial writing a book that would provide any sage bits of wisdom, especially one in which netted the young author and actress an advance of $4 million dollars. Many jumped to conclusions and assumed it would represent the same sophomoric entitlement that is projected and perceived by the four Girls characters, and has been criticized by the New York Times as well as other publications.
Contrary to many preconceived notions, it turns out the excerpt from Dunham’s book addresses serious issues and offers frank details about Dunham’s personal struggles with various anxieties, disturbing thoughts and impulses, and how intensive therapy has helped to shape her outlook on life. Not That Kind of Girl is a relatable synopsis of her life’s journey and lessons learned thus far, thanks to her varied experiences ranging from a female artist employed in a male-dominated career field to dealing with a variety of social issues.
Whether or not Lena Dunham could be considered the new voice of feminism or Gloria Steinem of the millennial generation is open to interpretation. Like many other multi-talented women who served as icons and inspired others of their generation, Dunham certainly has her share of supporters as well as detractors. Powerful, courageous, and innovative women such as Gloria Steinem, Amelia Earhart, and Betty Friedan all faced their own struggles and obstacles to overcome. When Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963, the response it garnered set the world on its axis and spun it in an entirely different direction. The novel is often recognized as the totem that sparked the second wave of American feminism in the 20th century. Friedan later founded the National Organization for Women (NOW), which aimed to bring women into fully equal partnership with men. Like many of her feminist predecessors, Dunham has received her share of accolades as well as insults. Yet, the detractors only seem to inspire the young ingenue, who seems determined to speak her mind and help led the way for her generation of feminists in all their future endeavors.
By Leigh Haugh