Lena Dunham: There will never be a ‘perfect advocate of reproductive freedom’


Back in December, Lena Dunham stepped into controversy, which is like declaring “Lena Dunham breathed air” at this point. For what it’s worth, I actually sort of half-defended Lena in this particular instance, because I understood the point she was trying to make, even if she said it in a weird and inelegant way, let’s say. The controversy was about abortion, specifically the fact that Lena has never had an abortion and yet she is a full-throated defender of a woman’s right to choose. She told a story on her podcast about how she was asked to share her abortion experience during an event at a Planned Parenthood in Texas. She claims that she got a little bit judgy and wanted everyone to know that she was “unblemished” in that regard, but when she thought about it later, she realized that she was stigmatizing abortion just as much as the anti-choice people. So she declared: “I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”

Now Lena has a new interview with Time Mag about Planned Parenthood and… I sort of don’t hate it? It feels like she’s had such a steep learning curve, but she comes across as almost mature and measured in this interview. Some highlights:

Whether a woman can be a feminist & anti-choice: “I never have an interest in defining any other woman’s feminism for them, but I do think it’s very important to remember feminism is a set of political beliefs born out of the idea that women should have certain essential rights, whether it’s the right to vote, the right to own property or the right to make decisions about their own bodies. I also think a big part of feminism is making room for other women to make choices you don’t necessarily agree with. I have no problem sitting down with someone who feels that abortion is not something that they would personally be able to go through with. I do think that when you step into the territory of trying to limit and control other women’s bodies, to me that’s not a feminist act.”

Her “I wish I had an abortion” comment: “I think that the idea that people are going to state their opinions perfectly the first time is just an unrealistic expectation that’s placed not just on public figures but on everyone. It’s important to be able to educate yourself and take in new information. And the fact is, Planned Parenthood is a polarizing issue. It shouldn’t be, but it is. So there isn’t going to be a perfect face of Planned Parenthood because of the amount of people in America who simply don’t believe that women should have ownership and control over their own bodies. I recognize that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, but I could be as poised and well spoken as Princess Diana, and if this were my belief system, I would still be receiving threatening messages on the Internet. Do I want to learn to speak better and more concisely and more appropriately about every single aspect of reproductive freedom? Of course. Do I think that there will ever be a perfect advocate of reproductive freedom? There can’t be.

[From Time Magazine]

She comes across well in this piece. I like her stance on feminism and choice, and how she acknowledges that a woman could feel that she could not personally have an abortion, but when someone’s belief system is made into law, that’s when things get tricky. Many Catholic women would never get an abortion, but still believe that everyone else should get to make their own reproductive choices. That’s what Lena is saying. As for this: “I could be as poised and well spoken as Princess Diana, and if this were my belief system, I would still be receiving threatening messages on the Internet.” Yeah. She’s right. But she should acknowledge her own role in that too – she’s stoked the look-at-me-I’m-so-controversial fires so many times over the years, and she’s being too cute by half if she thinks that her own thirst and controversy-baiting haven’t added to narrative that people always need to have an opinion on what she’s doing and saying.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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15 Responses to “Lena Dunham: There will never be a ‘perfect advocate of reproductive freedom’”

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  1. Tough Cookie says:

    “Many Catholic women would never get an abortion, but still believe that everyone else should get to make their own reproductive choices.”


    • LadyT says:

      I’m just not sure how this is news. Do we really need an explanation of Pro-Choice? It’s right there in the words. It’s not called Pro-Abortion for a reason. I can make my decision and you can make yours. Im 100% for choice even if abortion would be an extremely remote option for me personally.

      • Cee says:

        I have a close friend who is Catholic (the getting married a virgin type) and she is against abortion and even birth control. I honestly don’t understand her but I draw the line whenever she sprouts the “because I think it’s wrong then everyone else should not have the choice”

        I was raised Catholic, am atheist and firmly believe in choice

    • CleaK says:

      I am practicing Mormon and would never personally get an abortion (which was tested when my first pregnancy came at the absolute worst time.) However, I cannot allow a woman to become victim to back alley butchers. It may not be my choice but my circumstances are mine alone. I will not judge and cannot support legislation made on making women pay for the choice they made in their own circumstances.

      Consequently, this view has made me a huge supporter of birth control access and education. Best way to lower abortion rates is to prevent the conception and it won’t be through shaming women into celibacy.

      • Persephone says:

        This right here. If you teach accurate reproductive biology and contraception and make contraception accessible you reduce abortion numbers. But I guess in this new world only the alternative facts matter :(

    • Kelly says:

      I was raised Catholic but no longer attend mass and usually use the phrase recovering Catholic to describe myself. There’s some aspects of American Catholic culture that I don’t mind – the traditional holiday music, Friday fish fries so I can justify having fried food a couple times a month, but don’t agree with the right ward turn of the church during my lifetime. A former colleague who’s in her 60s and was also raised Catholic also cites the Friday fish fries as her cheat day to eat less healthy food.

      I’m pro-choice and very much for any use of contraceptives. I don’t think that it would ever come to the point that I would need a surgical abortion, but I believe that we need to keep that option open for the women who do need it. It’s safer, cleaner, and better for the woman and her family when it’s done in a doctor’s office rather than who knows where.

  2. Nicole says:

    She comes across well but she constantly does this so I’m done giving her a pass

  3. Sixer says:

    She’s still a pain but she is right. You can be anti-abortion and be a feminist. You can’t be anti-choice and be a feminist. The former is for yourself and the latter is for everyone, and that’s why.

  4. Anna says:

    Honk for Lena! You go Girl! Just wanted to leave that here, because the anger towards her, even from posters here, pains me. Lena Dunham is not your enemy. Lena Dunham will fight for your rights and escort you to the next clinic. Taylor swift is not the enemy either, neither is Madonna. Steve Gannon is the enemy. Newt Gingrich is the enemy. The other side will always be stronger, united by hate, while decent people argue semantics and “oh but I don’t like her”.

  5. Cee says:

    I’m atheist and believe in our right to choose what to do with our bodies and reproductive organs. I am not sure I’d get an abortion though. I take every precaution not to be in that position and I don’t know what I’d do if I ever do get pregnant.

    Even if I would never terminate a pregnancy I still believe we have the RIGHT to choose. I want that choice. And I’d never judge anyone for having one.

  6. Greenieweenie says:

    One thing I’ve learned from this election cycle is how brainwashed and mentally deranged single issue voters are. Never seen so many ppl scream on the internet about abortion (pro life! Even if I’m voting anti-life in EVERY OTHER WAY–in this way, the most simplistic and ineffective of ways, I’m pro-life!) and then turn around one day after the election to drop back into their self-absorbed lives, giving two sh*ts about anything that happens now because their “conscience is clean.” They literally care about NOTHING but the legality of abortion. Period.

  7. Courtney says:

    how does she know what catholic women would do most celebrities don’t practice the religion they were brought up in which many notable ones were brought up catholic including Madonna John Travolta and Gloria Estefan and Travolta and Madonna are both one of six children Madonna is 4th of six and Travolta is youngest in his family and the three have 9 children between them Nayib born September 3rd 1980 Jett born April 13th 1992 Emily born December 5th 1994 Lourdess born October 14th 1996 Ella born April 2nd 2000 Rocco born August 11th 2000 Madonna’s two adopted kids and Benjamin born November 20th 2010

  8. Katherine says:

    She’s right about the perfect advocate, nobody’s perfect, doesn’t mean they can’t try to reason in favor of what they believe is a good course to proceed with for the society. As for the subject matter, I grew up without any sort of religious education and with a good regular one so it’s completely beyond me why people bash pro-choice stance – it’s the most inclusive and tolerant one imho and while I’m open to discussion their arguments make literally zero sense