living underground in the real world

Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham: in which I use the word “privileged” almost—but not really almost at all—as much as your average sophomore at Vassar in 2013 uses it in every 30-minute span of their lives.

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(completely unrelated photo.)

I’ve really been enjoying the audiobook of Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman.

I’ve read (listened to!) it in a total vacuum, but I feel there is probably an internet fracas about how it’s a book written by a white middle-class woman filled with white middle-class privilege. I don’t find it to be that way, probs because I’m so blinded by my own privilege that it’s amazing I can even see the keyboard.* Whilst acknowledging that her success as a writer owes something to the fact of her class and color, I just think she’s a fucking great writer, has amazing style (do a Google image search!), and her admission that women are probs better off not poking babies out of their cervixes (particularly because she’s a mother twice over) is refreshing, to put it mildly. Probably there’s a big controversy over that, too.

But who cares. The book spoke to me. It was rollicking and filled with expletives, and it was a good switch from The West Wing for a few late nights at work. It was light. That’s nice.

Read it for gems like this:

“If you want to know what’s in motherhood for you, as a woman, then – in truth – it’s nothing you couldn’t get from, say, reading the 100 greatest books in human history; learning a foreign language well enough to argue in it; climbing hills; loving recklessly; sitting quietly, alone, in the dawn; drinking whisky with revolutionaries; learning to do close-hand magic; swimming in a river in winter; growing foxgloves, peas and roses; calling your mum; singing while you walk; being polite; and always, always helping strangers. No one has ever claimed for a moment that childless men have missed out on a vital aspect of their existence, and were the poorer, and crippled by it.”

On the other hand:

OH MY FUCKING GOD I HATE “GIRLS” SO GODDAMN MUCH.

I hate it so much, you guys. I hate it so much I HAVE WATCHED EVERY SINGLE EPISODE OF IT. I hate it so much I CAN’T STOP TALKING ABOUT IT ON FACEBOOK.

grrls copy

I hate it so much I keep checking to see if there are more episodes of it I can hate.

Oh, Lena.

Here are the only two good things about Lena Dunham:

  • She’s fucking brilliant. 
  • Her fucking body. And how the character she plays is aggressively sexual while being aggressively conventionally unattractive. I squeal with delight every time we see her ordinary ass on TV, and I spend the rest of the episode wishing she would just stand up straight FOR ONCE. But Hannah will never stand up straight. That would make her at least somewhat respectable, and she is not likable, or respectable. She’s fairly interesting, though. In that she fills a decent feminist with RAGE SO DEEP SHE CAN ONLY WRITE IN CAPS. Hannah and Lena generate copy, that’s for sure. Thought-provoking, I guess you could say.

Here are the things I hate about Lena Dunham:

  • She’s fucking brilliant, and she’s wasting her life with the solipsistic stultifying silly stupid sophomoric stories she’s telling on Girls. 

That’s it, really. Kiddo’s got a lot more in her, and I want to see what that is.

Girls is…boring?

That’s not quite the right word.

Maddening? More accurate.

I keep scratching at what gets under my skin about the show. I can’t articulate it, exactly. I keep trying. One of the women at work loves it, so we talk about it. She’s 21. What she likes about it is that she identifies with it and knows people who are like the characters.

Will it sound holier-than-thou if I say that if I felt that way I would blow my brains out?

(D., if you’re reading this: YOU’RE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THOSE CHARACTERS!)

Here are some other random statements about Girls:

  • NO ONE HAS A JOB THEY LOVE. I suspect, deriving so much of my identity from work, that this is the heart of what makes me so filled with rage about it. When I was the age of the characters (YES, I AM DOING THIS), all I cared about was my work. I had to, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills—full stop. There was just no other option (insert here boring convo on “That One Time Hannah Fucked That Dude From “Community”—Oh And Hey, He Was A Republican [exciting and entirely unexpected twist!!] and Also, Seriously, How Is She Paying Her Rent?: Examining The Unexamined P-word of ‘Girls'”). I had no choice but to throw myself into my job. It didn’t bother me, because it was also I wanted to do. I got most of my fill of happily whoring around in college, and though I went to NYC and saw shows and hung out in bars now and then with my friends and Had Experiences, most of the experiences I craved the most involved work. I’m still that way. Just not a people person. Basically a fuckin’ transcendentalist, wanting to have experiences in my own mind. So I don’t identify with the characters, and their annoying life decisions, their inability to be alone, their compulsion to piss in front of all of their friends—any of that.  
  • Only the boys are likable. Now THAT is interesting. The most feminist show in a generation (not sure what idiot said that, but I’m sure someone) and the girls are so annoying I literally spend parts of each episode sitting on my hands so I don’t punch the TV. (I know—this is the point). But the boys! Why can’t they just change the name of the show to “Adam” and have the entire show be about Adam? Pretty please with Lena’s girlish cherry-like nipples on top?
  • Zosia Mamet is a good actress (see: Mad Men) who really needs to jump ship to a place where her character could have some more dimension. Ideally three dimensions would be nice, but I’d settle for two—anything, anything, anything but the cartoon airhead that is “Shosh.” I suppose because women like her undoubedly do exist, we’re supposed to swallow this shit and like it? Insanely boring and ludicrous people are everywhere, Lena! Doesn’t mean we wanna watch them on TV.
  • I do think this was pretty accurate…so I guess I should just shut up.
  • Just throwing this out there: the best thing about Girls is the hairstylist. Those! Braids!

Speaking of being au courant, I’m off to go read my new Sylvia Plath bio (written by a man—treason to my high school self) in bed. How newsy.

Actually newsy: did you see Ruth Ozeki has a new novel out? Are you so excited? I am so excited.

photo 4*A recent outing at Vassar has made me angry about the word “privilege.” More about that someday.

13 Responses to “Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham: in which I use the word “privileged” almost—but not really almost at all—as much as your average sophomore at Vassar in 2013 uses it in every 30-minute span of their lives.”

  1. dustinbuster

    I love reading about your hatred of Girls. I loathe myself for loving it for no good reason (not really). I also loathe my love of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which I wish you were watching/blogging about (I really do loathe how much I love that show). Tragic.

    Reply
    • lagusta

      HOLD THE PHONE! I kind of love RuPaul’s Drag Race. I watched all I could on Netflix last year…maybe there’s a new season up! It’s so awful…but it seems, somehow, to have more heart than other reality shows, you know? Tell me all your thoughts on it!

      Reply
      • adriennefriend

        You can always watch at logotv.com! We’re over halfway through Season V at this point, and Nate & I adore Seattle’s Jinkx Monsoon.

  2. megillicuddy

    I’ve been content to watch the Lena Dunham/Girls brou-ha-ha from the sidelines, so I’ve not much to say on that.

    I’m very interested in reading what you have to say on privilege because while I recognize how sneaky and pervasive and often overlooked it is, using the term in conversation makes me feel all kinds of gross and disingenuous or something in that ballpark. Probably because I see so many people use it for evil, as a bludgeoning tool to end debates where they’re I. Too deep. Bah.

    Reply
    • lagusta

      yeah! Exactly that. It’s becoming…an almost meaningless word. Obviously we need to be aware of what we’ve been given, but…I dunno, it’s getting ridiculous.

      I think it’s just what you said–a conversation ender. Once you’ve played the “P’ card everyone’s frozen. It’s just not that helpful in keeping dialogue going, it doesn’t seem to me.

      Reply
  3. t

    I love Caitlin Moran too. Actually, I think I just love uncritically any book where a strong woman talks about womens issues- I also loved Bossypants, and Lean In and I know there are major issues with both. The connect to Girls and Miss Dunham is maybe like Moran says- isn’t it better to have choices? Now on TV you can watch Lena in her one-suits schlumping around or Amy Poehler being a cloying but dedicated civil servant or Kerry Washington having a soapy romance that never leaves in doubt who the smartest person in the room is… its not the whole range of human female experience, but it seems like we are getting a wider range presented. And I think that’s why people like Girls- and that’s certainly why I like the new spate of pop-feminist treatises hitting the bookstore.

    Reply
  4. calvinhisboldness

    On a rather different note, as a guy [I feel a little weird and out of place], I feel pressured to have kids too. I am also sick of my extended family speculating on my sister’s relationship with her boyfriend [when they’ll get married], and I know that boys don’t get nearly as much pressure to have kids as girls do. I just want to mention that it does exist in order to address the quotation from Moran’s book. Whenever any father mentions that having a kid “changed his life,” it seems to me that childless men are missing out. It may not be on a VITAL aspect of our experience, but I’m having difficulty believing that nobody, for even a moment, has claimed that childless men are missing out.

    Reply
    • lagusta

      I agree that this is a pressure men face a ton, I know my boyfriend has encountered it more than once. I don’t think Moran was saying men never get this pressure or anything, it’s just that her book is called “How to Be a Woman.” : )

      Reply

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