A Feminist Focus For Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl Book Tour

BUNS/ Sarah O'Connor
BUNS/ Sarah O’Connor

By Sarah O’Connor
BU News Service

Boston’s Wilbur Theatre hosted a decidedly feminist crowd for the kickoff of Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” book tour, a mixture of feminist politics, comedy, interview. Dunham read from “Platonic Bed Sharing: A Great Idea (for People Who Hate Themselves),” and “18 Unlikely Things I’ve Said Flirtatiously,” two humorous chapters in the first part of her book.

The opening act of the evening featured Boston University’s own Chordially Yours, an all-women a cappella group that sang covers of Britney Spears’ “(You Drive Me) Crazy” and a mash-up of Fountain of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” and One Direction’s “Beautiful” to enthusiastic applause. Brookline Booksmith’s Zoe Hyde, the second opening act, articulated a pointedly feminist theme with a joke about the setting not being “safe” for a “white male” to appear on stage. Hyde also asked, to enormous laughter, whether everyone in the audience brought their “menstrual jars.”

Lena Dunham took the stage next, engaging with the crowd directly while graciously poking fun at herself: “this dress has a problematically short underskirt so just bear with me,” Dunham said, gesturing toward her dress. “It’s amazing!” a fan yelled. “Oh, thank you!” Dunham called back, “This is basically a party that I would want to attend.”

While interviewing Dunham, Mary Karr—dressed in cowboy boots reminiscent of the Texas childhood she describes in her award-winning memoir “The Liars’ Club”—teasingly asked, “Why on earth would you write a memoir?”

Dunham said, “I didn’t want to write the book twenty years from now looking back at my career. I wanted to be in my experiences, owning them as they happened, I wanted to make writing a part of my life and a part of my job.”

A brief faux pas—Dunham’s use of the phrase “that is fucking retarded” while bantering with the audience about gender assumptions—did not seem to overshadow the evening. Despite the slip-up, Dunham kept the audience laughing, quickly apologizing and then adding, “I cannot believe I just said ‘retarded,’ I am going to kill myself—if any of you tweet that, I’ll kill you too.”

Yet, as one fan did note on Twitter, “Like, I get it. I just wish @lenadunham’s intuitive response would have been to apologize to the community and not the social standard.”

The major takeaway of the evening was political: Dunham promoted both Lady Parts Justice and Emily’s List, describing the current state of the health care system as both “unaffordable” and “sexist” to a receptive, cheering audience.

Citing low voter turnout statistics, Dunham encouraged the largely female audience to “bring a friend” and vote on November 4th, endorsing two Massachusetts women candidates in particular: “This year we have a chance to vote some amazing women into the most important state-wide offices. Martha Coakley for governor, and Maura Healey for attorney general.”

“Right now we only have one democratic female governor in America. That fucking sucks. We need these women to ensure that women’s health organizations get funding, and to prevent anti-choice politicians from fighting against equality,” said Dunham. Planned Parenthood was also stationed inside the entrance to the theater, with representatives giving away small bags that included a message from Dunham encouraging birth control protection.

Dunham’s unapologetic approach to feminism has been celebrated and critiqued by viewers of “Girls,” the HBO show she created, stars in, and directs.

“Being criticized is hard. It’s hard if you’re tired and it’s hard if you’re hungry,” Dunham told Karr, capturing the humorous and political tones of the evening, “I grew up understanding that making things involves people liking them and people hating them. Ultimately, what matters in your own relationship to what you do: that you feel like you’ve expressed yourself honestly, that you feel like you’re portraying your own values, and that you feel like you put something into the world that you can be proud of.”

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