From first viewing, you knew Lena Dunham’s Obama ad was going to simultaneously enrage, freak out, disgust, horrify and frighten the party of legitimate rape, and watching it as a liberal, it was almost like an imaginary split screen where you could vividly imagine conservatives cycling through all these emotions.
Lena Dunham’s Obama ad was certainly risky — using a virginity metaphor, the Girls creator endorses the President in a clip aimed at younger, female voters. Tattooed, short-haired and visibly divergent from the long-haired head-nodders in the opposition, Dunham addresses with candor and a casual tone the very aspects of female agency the GOP wishes to suppress, hates with the smallest fibers of their being, and ultimately fears will contaminate their females.
Oh, Lena Dunham. Obama’s endorsement by the young HBO star is certainly a mixed bag. I myself have written about my mixed feelings for Dunham, as a New Yorker a decade ahead of her in age — I think for women my age who came of age in “the city,” she kind of uncomfortably reminds us of a time in our lives before we mellowed out and at least attempted to become more universally palatable.
But overall, Dunham was right to confront Obama’s greatest foes head on, attacking them where they live and holding up the specter of what they threaten for all to see. Salon posted an excellent takedown of right-wing outrage over Lena Dunham’s Obama ad, including a link to a Red State diary in which the (female) author bleats in horror:
“First he asked for your wedding gifts, then your yard sales and now he has asked for your daughters.”
The commentary, of course, highlights the other side of the ad’s doublespeak, the concept GOP voters may not consider — that “daughters” possess the agency and even desire to make these decisions on their own, with clarity, and may decide (gasp!) to go on over to the black man willingly! Someone call Penny’s mom from Hairspray!
Salon said it best when writer Mary Elizabeth Williams jokes:
“The best part, however, is how she declared that Barack Obama, like droit du seigneur-rocking feudal lord or Kurdish chieftain, ‘has asked for your daughters.’ Your innocent, probably white, virgin daughters, ravished by that hymen-lusting brute in the White House. “
Salon also links to Ben Shapiro over at (of course) Breitbart, who has pulled the alarm for Female Agency Threat Code Black, noting that President Obama’s own daughters should have been a disincentive for his campaign to run the spot. Shapiro shrilly assesses:
“In fact, he understands [women] so well that he exploits them for insane commercials comparing losing your virginity with voting. Obama has young daughters. But that didn’t stop him from releasing this commercial. Because this is what Obama thinks of your daughters. This is Obama’s official campaign ad. Paid for with his campaign money. Distributed by his campaign. If this ad were any more demeaning to women – who apparently care only about having sex, if you listen to Lena ‘You Want To Do It’ Dunham — it would be produced by Bill Maher and star Bill Clinton.”
Bless their hearts, Shapiro and the other writer only see women as entities that are incapable of contextualizing Lena Dunham’s tongue-in-cheek Obama ad, persons incapable of protecting themselves from a sexual metaphor, much less the consequences of actual sex. Which, contrasted with the regressive planks of this year’s GOP platform aren’t the least bit shocking.
When a party wants to force a woman who is undergoing an abortion to be penetrated against her will for an ultrasound, when the birth control prescriptions mandated their by their doctors are considered a majority-vote decision to include her employer, you expected what, exactly? Or when a woman who has the temerity to protest is loudly called a “slut” and a “prostitute” on the national stage for speaking out?
When one of the Vice-Presidential candidate’s political besties accidentally reveals that the party thinks only a fraction of rapes are “legitimate rapes,” when party leaders even feel comfortable using the terms “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape,” again, what’s the natural extension? What about when party members float the ideas that “some girls rape easy?”
Or when while Todd Akin says it doesn’t happen out of one side of his mouth, while Richard Mourdock says that when a rape victim becomes pregnant, it’s God’s will, can anyone really deny that this particular political coalition so fears women making decisions that they can’t even get their stories straight as they attempt to pull the wool over our eyes about how little they think of our abilities to make our own decisions, from birth control to post-rape care to voting for a president?
While it may be tempting to say Lena Dunham’s Obama ad was too transgressive, too blunt or too ahead of its time for swing voters to swallow, it should be a reminder of everything at stake in the next election, and why even fence female voters need to take an honest assessment of the impact these policies will have on their lives; to get a grip and let go of these ideas that women’s issues are somehow made less important by a sucky economy or national security. They count, feasibly even more than the deficit when it comes to total life impact for many of us.
Below is Lena Dunham’s Obama ad, in case you missed it the first time around.