Alexa Petersen | Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist
Let’s talk about ‘Girls’
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 01:02
The show “Girls” on HBO was already awkward. Chock-full of privileged narratives, hopelessly self-involved characters and occasionally oppressive and/or troubling sex scenes, “Girls” is a show feminists don’t know what to do with. Do we like it or do we hate it? It’s almost as awkward as we felt when Ann Romney, Mitt Romney’s wife, screamed “I love you, women!” at the Republican National Convention.
Anyway, this past episode was the awkwardest of the awkward. Here’s the short version: Hannah was the only character of the four main female characters featured, and the entire episode consists of her meeting a very handsome 40-something doctor named Joshua — then they have lots of sex and hang out at his house for two days straight.
I sat in my living room with my six other housemates to watch this episode, and we hated it. We hated it from start to finish. We couldn’t put our finger on why, but it was no good. Turns out we weren’t the only critics.
With the close of the episode on HBO, the Internet exploded with criticism of the weirdest and least-enjoyable “Girls” episode yet. I felt like the departure from realism was intentional. “Joshua was a total fantasy man, which is why we’ll never see him again,” The Huffington Post’s Margaret Wheeler Johnson said in a blog post. Daniel Engber of Slate so very gracefully said, “Why should this coupling be so difficult to fathom? I think it’s because Hannah is especially and assertively ugly in this episode.” They can’t figure out why Hannah gets the hunky guy. They just can’t figure it out. References to Hannah’s “looks” and weight, blatant or subtle, are splattered over every review.
If you haven’t already, check out Jezebel’s article on the episode, entitled “What Kind of Guy Does Lena Dunham Deserve?” Reading this article was a very awkward epiphany for me, my housemates and I hope many others. The article points out what we were literally just too stupid to see. We think this episode is weird, awful, terrible, tragic, etc. because it seems to us completely unrealistic. It seems to us completely unrealistic because we don’t believe that women who look like Hannah get to be with men who look like Joshua. We don’t think he would tolerate her emotional “outbursts,” her requests to be pleasured (the thought!) and her inquisitiveness about his past relationships. A particular line is very telling, as the article points out to us. Joshua asks whether Hannah thinks she is beautiful. She remarks, “I do, it’s just not always the feedback that I’ve been given.” Lena Dunham is literally standing on the rooftops and screaming to us the hypocrisies of the privilege of beauty, and what you do or do not “deserve” because of it. And we dropped the ball.
I missed the mark. I’m a self-identified feminist, and I write a column about feminism, for god’s sake. And I still missed it. I missed every inch of it. Did I explicitly criticize her body or her “rudeness” or the unlikelihood of her getting Joshua? No. But did I still think it was unrealistic. Yes. And that’s still a problem. I’m putting it in writing and confessing my sins. I have written this piece, first, for those who made the mistake I did and, second, to say that I’m not perfect. We’re not perfect. People who believe in social justice make mistakes sometimes. We overlook oppressive paradigms that have been mainstays of our upbringing, even when we try really hard not to. For better or for worse, I did it. And I won’t do it again. That is what I learned from the fifth episode of the second season of “Girls.”
Alexa Petersen is a senior majoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She can be reached at Alexa.Petersen@tufts.edu.