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Catfight! Feminists maul Jezebel for seeking unretouched Lena Dunham Vogue photos

January 17, 2014

The cover of the February issue of Vogue features Girls star Lena Dunham looking like this instead of like this, her usual look.

Ha ha! So now Jezebel is offering $10,000 to anyone who can come up with the actual photos of Dunham before the Vogue photoshopping satrapy got hold of hold of them. Naturally, since the ladies of Jezebel are good pious feminists, they’ve come up with a good pious rationale for wanting to show their readers all (as it were) of Dunham before she got retouched:

Lena Dunham is a woman who trumpets body positivity, who’s unabashedly feminist, who has said that her naked body is “a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive” and “if you are not into me, that’s your problem.” Her body is real. She is real. And for as lovely as the Vogue pictures are, they’re probably not terribly real.


[B]ut now, on its cover, Vogue has a woman who rightfully declares that her appearance, with all of its perceived imperfections, shouldn’t be hidden and doesn’t need any fixing. Lena Dunham has spoken out, frequently, about society’s insane and unattainable beauty standards. Dunham embraces her appearance as that of a real woman; she’s as body positive as they come. But that’s not really Vogue‘s thing, is it? Vogue is about perfection as defined by Vogue, and rest assured that they don’t hesitate to alter images to meet those standards. It doesn’t matter if any woman, including Lena, thinks she’s fine the way she is. Vogue will find something to fix.

To be very clear: Our desire to see these images pre-Photoshop is not about seeing what Dunham herself “really” looks like; we can see that every Sunday night or with a cursory Google search. She’s everywhere. We already know what her body looks like. There’s nothing to shame here. Nor is this rooted in criticism of Dunham for working with Vogue. Entertainment is a business, after all, and Vogue brings a level of exposure that exceeds that of HBO.

This is about Vogue, and what Vogue decides to do with a specific woman who has very publicly stated that she’s fine just the way she is, and the world needs to get on board with that. Just how resistant is Vogue to that idea? Unaltered images will tell.


Funny, but a number of other feminists aren’t buying into Jezebel’s chin-pulling. Here’s Jessica Valenti:

Exposing a photoshopped model is about “see–she’s beautiful anyway.” Exposing Dunham is about “see–she’s not really that pretty.”

Slog’s Danielle Harrison said:

Jezebel Will Pay You $10,000 To Prove Lena Dunham’s Body Is Actually Disgusting

And here’s Roxanne Gay:

If we know this is what “Vogue” does, what is the point of belaboring the point by going after @Lena Dunham?

The elephant (sorry, Lena!) in this room of rage is that, let’s face it, Lena Dunham really isn’t that pretty,. Even glammed up for Vogue, those monster thighs lobster-clawing the neck of the guy who’s bearing her on his shoulders really do have some “perceived imperfections.” The best that you say about Dunham is that she has nice hands and wouldn’t be too bad-looking if she lost a few and paid a visit to Dr. Tattoff.

But nobody can say that–because “body positivity”–considering yourself a raving beauty no matter how much you weigh or what you actually look like–is a central tenet of feminism. That’s apparently why Dunham gets naked in nearly every episode of Girls, why Jezebel is going all pious (it’s Vogue’s fault!), and why Slate’s Katy Waldman feels compelled to call Dunham “lovely”:

Jez is not trying to expose Dunham—it’s continuing its crusade against the fashion magazines that make us all feel like crap and have, in many ways, contributed to a pop culture in which Dunham’s perfectly lovely physique is so outside the norm.

Yes, the point of fashion magazines is to “make us all feel like crap.” That’s why Vogue has 1.3 million subscribers. But let’s go on pretending.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

From → Uncategorized

  1. The power of money! I guess security isn’t too tight at Vogue–or at the studio of Annie Leibowitz, who took the photos.

    Posted by Charlotte Allen

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  1. Never Yet Melted » Vogue Body Positivity Catfight

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