Lena Dunham, the reliably vocal star (and creator) of HBO's hit series Girls, has been ruminating on exercise, body shaming, and why a large portion of the internet seems to enjoy hating on the queen of MMA, Ronda Rousey.
In a recent interview with ESPNW, Dunham criticized (and not for the first time) our fixation on bodies, declaring that women are equally guilty for propagating an image-obsessed society as men are.
Fixating on bodies is a way to police women. We can no longer keep women from owning property. We can no longer keep women from voting. But we will find a way to police and repress powerful women and let them know that they do not matter to us and that they are not in control of their own destiny.
But the real problem begins, as all problems do, at birth.
And then women join in because that’s what they’re being taught from the time they’re born. They don’t even recognize that they’re agents of their own oppression.
Okay. Anyone who's skimmed half a chapter of Judith Butler will be familiar with these ideas, but...
What does this have to do with Ronda Rousey?
Well, because Rousey has become rich, famous and extremely sore by kicking ass and subverting gender norms. Dunham believes that the fact Rousey can physically crush most men makes her uncontrollable, intimidating and is the reason for all the Rousey haters out there.
With Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey, men are thinking, “You could beat me up, that f—ing scares me, you have achieved more than I ever will in my lifetime, so I’m going to get online and tell you that you don’t look like someone I want to f—.” That is where I believe it comes from. And it’s so unenlightened. And man, it’s a bummer.
The fact is, Ronda Rousey could punch you in the face any time she wanted, and she has completely created her own life and she’s having an incredible career that most of us could only dream of and she doesn’t give a s—- what you think. And that point of view is really, really threatening to certain people, especially when it comes in the form of a woman, because to a man, a woman not caring what you think means that all your power is gone. You can’t control her anymore.
Personally, I've never felt a burning desire to exert my control over anyone, male or female. Everyone has different goals, priorities, values and body shapes. This particular woman just happens to be a totally badass martial artist, and hasn't allowed herself to be constrained by gender stereotypes. I myself think that's awesome, though Dunham suggests men prefer, as Rousey eloquently put it, "a do-nothing bitch."
I’m just like listen, just because my body was developed for a purpose other than f**king millionaires doesn’t mean it’s masculine. I think it’s femininely badass as f**k. Because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose. Because I’m not a Do-Nothing Bitch.
While Dunham's comments might seem a little reductive, and likely don't apply to a large portion of men, it's important to remember that body shaming, negative cultural stereotypes of women and constrictive notions of gender are all very real problems. Though her words may come off a little brash, the dialogue they intend to provoke is very much one worth having. As Rousey herself put it:
"Go ahead and love or hate me.... Just please debate me."