Lena Dunham has been a controversial public figure and actress for some time now, fighting on the front lines of the so-called culture wars for the causes of feminism and body positivity in general. In 2017, a US Weekly cover sensationally splashed the actress across the front page, looking slim and trim at 138 pounds, and wearing fashionable high heels and a short sundress. Emblazoned in large print, the caption read, “20 Slimdown Diet Tips Stars Are Using: Lena, How She Gets Motivated.”
The message, according to The Daily Edge, was one that Lena Dunham herself did not appreciate. Taking to social media platform Instagram to immediately address the widely circulated cover, Dunham explained that her weight loss was due to a lifelong struggle with anxiety, bladder spasms, abdominal adhesions, constant and persistent nausea, oversleeping and anger issues – closing with the actual advice that she didn’t have any tips to offer on the issue because the message was diametrically opposed to everything she stood for.
Yesterday Dunham took to Instagram again to post a compare and contrast image, offering up the infamous US Weekly cover from last year on the left, and a more recent picture of herself – and her dog – along with an in-depth analysis of the weight she had gained and how she felt about the matter.
Since the first photo was taken last year, Dunham has gained about 25 pounds according to the number she provides, and she is much happier at that size. Stronger, enjoying apps and entrees with aplomb, Dunham notes that she is still complimented by the people that actually matter to her in life rather than being catcalled and propositioned by random men and passersby.
On the left: 138 pounds, complimented all day and propositioned by men and on the cover of a tabloid about diets that work. Also, sick in the tissue and in the head and subsisting only on small amounts of sugar, tons of caffeine and a purse pharmacy. On the right: 162 pounds, happy joyous & free, complimented only by people that matter for reasons that matter, subsisting on a steady flow of fun/healthy snacks and apps and entrees, strong from lifting dogs and spirits. Even this OG body positivity warrior sometimes looks at the left picture longingly, until I remember the impossible pain that brought me there and onto my proverbial knees. As I type I can feel my back fat rolling up under my shoulder blades. I lean in.
Still, she admits a slight lamentation over her lost figure from last year, in and of itself a message of the harsh reality of public judgment, an honest vulnerability.
Much of the controversy over the course of Dunham’s career has come from fellow feminists, animal advocates, and men’s rights activists. The issues posed by these critics are myriad – some claim that her feminism is a false front according to Vox, and animal rights activists have alleged that she was a poor ward for her former dog Lamby in a saga recounted by Wired.
Regardless of her past struggles with body image and the representations of women – particularly plus-sized women – in popular culture, Dunham remains an icon and a touchstone to many of her fans and will likely continue to remain culturally relevant for some time despite mixed opinions on her image and methods of activism.