The privilege is real.
Lena Dunham, the creator of the HBO series Girls, is often in the headlines. Sadly she's not usually there because of her insights on what it's like to be a powerful young woman in the entertainment industry. More often than not, Dunham garners press because of her out of touch comments.
Most recently, Lena shared the fact that "I've never had an abortion, but I wish I had." She was speaking in defense of Planned Parenthood, a noble gesture to be sure, but like, also? She sounded like the idiotic rich white feminist who makes all those young women out there saying "I'm not a feminist" sound totally sane.
Now Dunham's in the headlines because at the season premiere of Girls, she was photographed on the red carpet looking like she lost weight and had become more toned.
This makes sense perfect since for the past two years Dunham has been a devotee of Gwyneth Paltrow's trainer, Tracey Anderson.
Which is why when she interviewed with Howard Stern recently I was confused:
“Donald Trump became president and I stopped being able to eat food,” she said. “Everyone’s been asking like, ‘What have you been doing?’ And I’m like, ‘Try soul-crushing pain and devastation and hopelessness, and you, too, will lose weight.’ ”
Yes, it's true that the election did cause a serious upswing in depression, and Dunham herself may be suffering because of it. I don't, however, think she really thought about her comments would be received.
When Dunham first became successful I swore off being critical of her. That's because of what she is: A young woman in a position of power and influence in Hollywood is so exceptionally rare. I figured that until it's commonplace for women of her age (or women at all) to be writing and producing their own TV shows, I needed to zip my lips in tacit support.
Yeah, I know. I so did not think this through.
Because while Dunham is a successful young woman, she's also rich, white, straight, and cisgender.
Lena Dunham is the perfect example of privilege in action, and her throwaway comments (failed attempts at humor?) land like bombs because she almost never takes that privilege into consideration before she speaks.
The election and the subsequent presidency of Donald Trump have caused real depression in people who live in this country. While people like Lena don't have as much on the line to lose under Trump's administration, the feelings of despair and hopelessness Trump's ascendancy has left in his wake are enough to bring anyone down.
Weight loss is a potential side effect of depression, and depression is a very real illness. Brushing off the diet you have been on for two years and the expensive celebrity trainer you employ and attributing your weight loss instead to mental illness isn't just oblivious and privilege at its peak, it's also dangerous.
Why? Because as a figure who is in the public eye, one who is often praised for her body confidence and total transparency regarding her own experiences with mental illness, to distort the truth about your body and your depression sends a message to young girls that the only "genuine" way to change the way you look is through illness.
There is nothing wrong with going on a diet if you want to go on a diet.
There is nothing wrong with hiring a celebrity trainer if you can afford a celebrity trainer.
There's also nothing wrong with being depressed. Or being overweight.
What is wrong is making a career out of your openness and "realness" because it's convenient but not thinking how flip, shallow comments could hurt people who admire you and aspire to be just like you.