“I Still Haven’t Had An Abortion, But I Wish I Had.” Lena Dunham And Her Desire To Relate To Every Woman’s Struggle

December 21, 2016  |  

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My boyfriend teaches music to young children so he always has some pretty hilarious stories about the things they’ve said or done. In one of these stories, he talks about how difficult it is to get truthful information out of kindergarteners. Realizing how often they’re peer pressured into lying he asked them a series of questions.

“How many of you have been to Ecuador?”

The kids ponder for a single second before one or two students reluctantly raise their hands.

“How many of you have been to Tanzania?”

Five hands shoot up.

“Who’s been to Mozambique?”

Ten hands.

“Who’s been to Ireland?”

Fifteen.

Eventually, every child in the classroom has been to every single country he named. These children aren’t well-traveled. They’re liars. But their behavior also points to something deeper about human nature. When you’re in kindergarten, first learning about school socialization, the mere act of raising your hand and being acknowledged is new, different and often rewarding. It’s cool. And though many of these children haven’t even left their boroughs, the thought of raising their hand and being recognized for something that was deemed cool was the real highlight of the exercise.

 

When I heard of Lena Dunham’s latest faux pas, I pictured those kindergarteners. In case you haven’t heard, it happened during a recent podcast where Dunham discussed abortion. She spoke about visiting a Planned Parenthood in Texas in support of abortion rights. During her time there, a woman asked Dunham to share details about her own abortion.

Dunham said, “I sort of jumped. ‘I haven’t had an abortion’ I told her. I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women’s options, I myself had never had an abortion. Even I was carrying within myself stigma around this issue. Even I, the woman who cares as much as anybody about a woman’s right to choose, felt it was important that people know I was unblemished in this department.”

And this is where it gets interesting.

“Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”

Girl, no.

She spoke of abortion like it was a tonsillectomy and she would be rewarded for her troubles with ice cream afterward. There have been plenty of women who never wanted children, knew they never wanted children and even knew they would have an abortion if faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and they still struggled with the decision to have one. More often than not, the decision to abort a baby is not a decision people enter into lightly. It’s not a procedure to covet. And it’s not the type of struggle you need to attach yourself to in order to stand in solidarity with other women who have exercised the right to choose. Solidarity doesn’t have to work like that. Just letting someone know that you believe in and respect their choice is enough. In fact, her story about the need to check the stigma she associated with abortion, even as an advocate, would have been a great way to get people to think about the ways in which even a woman’s mindset can be oppressive to other women. Instead, she took it just one step too far and now what was a discussion and even an anecdote about a serious topic has been reduced to another occasion in which Lena Dunham made something about herself.

Y’all I can’t lie. Even though she’s a privileged White girl, I be feeling bad for Lena Dunham. I just can’t help it. I think it has something to do with her desire to be accepted, acknowledged and fully representative of the groups with which she identifies. And that desire to associate herself with struggles, real or imagined, that are not her own, is what keeps getting her “in trouble.” The very sad part about it is that no one asked her to do this…except for the woman at the abortion clinic. And instead of using the truth of that story to send a message, she warped it into something outlandish.

I really enjoyed the first two seasons of “Girls” and I’ll always remember the episode where Lena’s character Hannah got high on something just so she could write about the experience later, so that her perspective could be relevant. We knew that art was often imitating life on that show. But Lena Dunham is not Hannah Horvath. She has a huge, multi-channeled platform. She’s influential. People listen to her. I get the sense that Lena wants to be “every woman” to relate to it all. But that fact that she’s Lena Dunham is more than enough. We’re obviously already listening.

Image via WENN

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.” You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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