We've Heard These Sexist Comments Before
Regardless of how you feel about Lena Dunham's acting ability, and how well or badly she portrays the character of Hannah Horvath on Girls, there's one thing that seems to haunt the minds of misogynists everywhere whenever she has a nude scene: Dunham's too unattractive to have a sex life, fictional or otherwise. And when she's not getting disparaging comments about her looks on Twitter, then she's being criticized for portraying women as enjoying meaningless sex. It's gotten to the point where Dunham said she is not a representative for female sexuality and that she resents being forced to encompass her entire gender so completely. It feels like she can't win.
Ours is a society driven by looks and image and that shallowness is no different when it comes to our TV heroines. An infamous New York Times article called Viola Davis "older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than [Kerry] Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry". Sarah Jessica Parker was voted Unsexiest Woman in the World by Maxim. Women, especially, have always been the target of disparaging or complimentary remarks about their looks, which are frequently unwarranted and often unwanted. And when women who aren't considered conventionally attractive are shown falling in love or hooking up with people in a fictional work, then the whole world has to stop and point out how unrealistic it is.
Let's go back to Sarah Jessica Parker. From 1998 to 2004, Parker was the star of Sex and the City — a true accomplishment considering the fact that people frequently described her off-screen as having a "horseface". When Prospect magazine posted an article in 2010 called "Why Men Hate Sex and the City", one person in the comments felt the need to add, "The main women hardly ever get rejected on [their] cougar missions and there is always some man chasing them (which is obviously unbelievable if you have ever seen Sarah Jessica Parker's face)." There is an actual website out there called Sarah Jessica Parker Looks Like a Horse. And see the aforementioned note about Parker being voted the Unsexiest Woman in the World.
What do Parker and Dunham have in common? Both of them are and were the recipients of incredibly sexist comments about their physical attractiveness while playing characters who somehow miraculously managed to get laid anyway. It's almost like they're real people or something. As Carrie Bradshaw, Parker might have shown the least amount of nudity of any woman in the main cast, but she still romanced and wound up marrying Mr. Big. As Hannah Horvath, Dunham landing a hot guy is considered "unrealistic", but she is nonetheless is frequently shown having sex and enjoying it, thank you very much.
It's been claimed that the reason Parker was more beloved by women than she was by men is because women took the time to appreciate her personality, her flawless style, and her endless drive. That doesn't hold true of all men or all women, of course, but some people do tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to Parker's unconventional looks and forget to see past that. The thing that they don't seem to realize when websites like Sarah Jessica Parker Looks Like a Horse pop up, or when Hannah lands a man in "Guys on Girls" that critics seemed to agree was too hot for her, they are falling into the misogynistic trap of judging a woman based solely on her looks.
That they are ensuring that we still live in a world where Paula Weinstein, a former studio executive and current producer, had to point out that Dunham was doing something truly groundbreaking with something so simple:
I think what Lena has done is groundbreaking in a way that makes me so happy, where you see a woman comfortable in her body who doesn’t have that body, that Vogue model body. Just that alone is a life-changing moment for young girls to see the confidence that she has.
The fact that we still live in a world where people can honestly have debates about whether or not someone who looks like Hannah can land a guy who looks like Joshua, the fact that we still live in a world where men find Sex and the City unrealistic because of Carrie’s face, the fact that we still live in a world where women are judged by their looks first in every situation and on every show is really disturbing and really sexist.
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