In the run-up to Sunday night’s “Girls” season premiere, the old repetitive war over the show’s content took on a new dimension: Radio shock jock Howard Stern attacked neither the youth nor the perceived entitlement of showrunner/star Lena Dunham, but her display of her body. Stern called Dunham “a little fat girl who kinda looks like Jonah Hill and she keeps taking her clothes off and it kind of feels like rape … I don’t want to see that.” New York Post TV critic Linda Stasi took a similar tack, calling Dunham “a woman with giant thighs, a sloppy backside and small breasts … compelled to show it all.”
In trying to figure out why so many are offended by Lena Dunham’s nudity, D’Addaro interviewed people from editor Jane Pratt of xoJane (“It may not be that she’s driven to show us her body however that body looks. It may be that it’s just part of the story line”); to SF nude activist Gypsy Taub (“Nudity in our society is associated with sex, and a nude woman is automatically considered a ‘slut’ and someone who is asking to be disrespected or raped.”)
In an interview with Metro on January 8, director Sarah Polley expressed what appears to be a similar view on female nudity to Dunham’s. Here’s the question and response:
There’s a scene featuring a forest of female pubic hair: a bunch of women showering at the gym. We don’t see that much in Hollywood films. I know. Women’s bodies in films are either highly objectified and sexualised or, past a certain age, made fun of. In North American films, there’s no sort of routine nudity so I wanted something that wasn’t particularly eventful for them in that moment.
Famous art critic John Berger said: “Men watch. Women watch themselves being watched.” In Hollywood, over 90% of directors are male. We’ve all grown up saturated with those images. Could it be that all of us, women and men, have almost no idea what women look like through women’s eyes or from the perspectives of women’s experiences? What does that vantage point show us? Anyone know? Hopefully, more female directors will get the courage and opportunity to give us their best guess.