The Planned Parenthood Action Fund has sent out an email message about the upcoming election from Lena Dunham, creator and star of Girls, author of Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, and representative Twenty-First-Century Young American Female. Indeed, a recent New York Times profile termed her book “a primer for millennial women negotiating the path to adulthood,” so we should examine her words closely when she drifts away from the youth habit of talking about her life and shifts to politics.
Under the heading “WOMEN ARE WATCHING” we have a picture of Dunham wrapped in a towel with a pack of birth control pills in her mouth, the caption reading “This is me after I voted in 2012.”
The rest of the message unfolds in numbered reasons why our celebrity votes, and why the rest of us should, too.
First, “When you vote, you feel so, so good.” That’s the opening appeal, the personal satisfaction you get when you leave the booth.
Second, “I find it incredibly, deeply satisfying that every single vote is exactly equal.” She notes that while “practically everything in the world feels deeply unfair,” the simple democratic vote count is a joy. (That the world feels unfair to someone rich and famous at so tender an age is another topic.)
Third, “The crazy and depressing truth is that there are people running for office right now who could actually affect your life. PARTICULARLY your sex life. PARTICULARLY if you’re a woman. Yup.” Here we get to the political meat. Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner wants to give sexist bosses the power to cut off your birth-control coverage. If he wins, Dunham warns, “suddenly your sex life is ruled by fear.”
Fourth, “I vote because the number of backwards, out-of-touch, downright freaking unbelievably anti-women’s heath [sic] politicians out there right now makes by blood boil.” Yes, she’s furious at these Neanderthals, listing Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Dan Sullivan in Alaska, and Joni Ernst in Iowa. If you don’t vote, they will take over and repeal Obamacare, remove birth control benefits, and kill the minimum wage.
These prospects are beyond imagining, Dunham says: “I DON’T KNOW HOW TO PROCESS THAT.” These politicians aren’t rational, and she admits that they threaten her own rationality. But she has an answer: “rather than go deep into a rage spiral, I vote.”
We end with a call to “get involved.” The whole thing is a remarkable display, and it shows how puerile and desperate the war-on-women motif has become. Forget the politics of the message, and ignore the self-involvement, toojust look at the style, the language, the idiom. The repetitions, the adolescent lexicon, hack metaphors, and CAPS are the mark of stupidity. We know that Dunham isn’t this juvenile, and so we should attribute the style to her estimation of the intelligence of the audience.
Let’s make that subtext explicit: “All of you dumb girls out there, you’ve got to vote! You don’t care about taxes, budgets, legislation, regulations, and foreign affairs, and you probably couldn’t understand them if you did, but you do care about sex, and there are evil ones who want to stop you. VOTE!”
Image from Wikimedia Commons