Even though Lena Dunham's new podcast, Women of the Hour, doesn't debut until November 5, it's already making headlines. Dunham released a preview for her podcast, and let's just say this: Fans will be relieved (but probably not surprised) to hear that Dunham isn't holding anything back. In the first episode, Dunham sits down with Emma Stone to discuss "name calling" at the workplace... but not in the way you might think. The duo aren't broaching the subject of being called a "b*tch" at work or anything of that nature. Instead, they're talking about something just as infuriating: Pacification. Dunham and Stone confess to being dubbed anything from "sweetheart" to "honey" in professional settings, and argue that this type of rhetoric is just as damaging as any other name-calling, and just as, well, "not fun."
Dunham conceded, "I get called names as a woman, on set and off, that aren't that fun." Being called something like "babe" might seem innocuous, but the Girls creator and A-list actress bring up a problem that's indicative of something larger: A workplace environment where people are still treated differently based on their gender. A workplace environment, that unfortunately, still exists (both in Hollywood, and beyond). Coming right off of Jennifer Lawrence's stance on the wage gap in Dunham's other project, Lenny Letter, this topic feels especially pertinent, doesn't it?
To remedy the infuriating culture of female pacification in the workplace, the two suggest a bevy of alternate names that we can all call each other. According to the pair, "dude," "pal," "kid," "bud," and "bucko" would all be welcome terms. Though their tone reads lighthearted (especially when Stone says, "Oh, I love "bucko," I want people to call me "bucko" so much"), Stone and Dunham do seemed bothered by the name-calling. The prevalence of sexism within Hollywood is something Stone and Dunham have never shied away from — and though this particular topic seems to be discussed in somewhat of a carefree tone, that doesn't mean it's not an important topic to broach. Under the guise of Stone requesting that she be called "dragon," there's an overarching theme of discrimination that's a bit more serious.
It shows itself mostly when Stone explains, "I mean, I guess the best-case scenario is that people call you by a nickname of your name that you're comfortable with. Like, anyone can call me 'Em.' That feels great. It feels personal and lovely, and you don't have to say sweetheart. You can just say 'Em.'" Stone explaining how simplistic it is to actually not be sexist, is (thankfully) as uplifting as it is disconcerting.
Dunham brings up the important point that some men "don't mean anything" when they call a woman "sweetheart." But, at it's core, the idea of calling someone a nickname based solely off their gender is demeaning. Even if the intent is to be playful or cute, and even if the name itself doesn't necessarily hold negative connotations. It wouldn't be appropriate to call a 20-something male actor "baby," so why do it to an actress on set? Or to woman at the office in general? Eradicating sexism at the workplace (and beyond) hasn't been a short or easy battle, but with woman like Dunham and Stone stepping up and not being afraid to say what's on their mind — even if it seems like a small thing — we're getting closer.
As for Dunham's concluding advice? "When in doubt, don't say 'sweetheart.'"
Sounds fair enough to me. Check out the full episode of the podcast, come November 5.