Lena Dunham on Why She’s an Imperfect Feminist

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When Lena Dunham told friend and Girls’ showrunner Jenni Konner that she wanted to eradicate domestic sex trafficking, Konner was not in the least bit surprised. “She’s the leading expert on sex-trafficking stats,” said Konner at Variety’s annual Power of Women luncheon as she introduced Dunham for her work with GEMS — Girls Education & Mentoring Services. “Seriously, ask her anything.”

Dunham described her work with GEMS at this afternoon’s lunch, which also honored Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg, Rachel Weisz, Cobie Smulders, and Kim Kardashian West for their charitable work. Read what she had to say below.

It will surprise no one in this room that I identify as a feminist. If it does surprise you, I suggest you take a look around the room and make sure you’re not lost. The Men’s Rights Association meeting is happening at a PF Chang’s in New Jersey and I hear it started already, so you should probably get moving.

I always tell people — particularly angry internet commentators — that there is no such thing as a perfect feminist, and I am no exception.  Some phrases that have left my lips in the past: ‘What a ho,’ ‘Hey, hooker,’ ‘sup, slut.’ Some songs I kept listening to: "Big Pimpin'," "It’s Hard Out There for a Pimp"; age 13, my best friend and me in her bedroom screaming along to Sublime, "Annie’s 12 years old and two more she’ll be a whore." Here’s the tricky thing about language — it belies how powerful it is. When I used those words, I felt subversive, naughty, strong. I did not realize how these songs and words were not ways for me to reclaim my feminine power — in fact, they’ve silenced and shamed the women they purported to describe and reduce them to objects and punch lines.

When I was raped, I felt powerless. I felt my value had been determined by somebody else, someone who sent me the message that my body was not my own and that my choices were meaningless. It took years to recognize that personal worth was not tied to my assault, that the voices telling me that I deserved this were liars. So as a feminist and a sexual-assault survivor, my ultimate goal is to use my experience, my platform, and, yes, my privilege, to reverse stigma and give voice to other survivors.