The fourth book I read this year was Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. This book was a controversial one and I had heard lots about it before I picked it up. I tried to forget about everything I had heard and come to my own conclusions by myself, but boy, it was hard.
The book is an autobiography, but not in the traditional way. It’s pretty much marketed as a young woman telling you what she’s “learned”. I’m not sure if it was supposed to leave me with some kind of profound message (It didn’t), but it was an easy, light little read.
Lena Dunham is a very particular type of person. She’s self-indulgent, self-involved, self-interested. More interestingly, she seems to realise that she is all of these things yet she doesn’t express any remorse for this. On paper, she sounds like a fairly deplorable character but I enjoyed reading her memoirs all the same.I wouldn’t want to be friends with this woman; I certainly wouldn’t like to think that we have too much in common ourselves.
I didn’t find it liberating like some other readers did either. There are few things that irk me more than when people read books written by assholes and talk about how it made them feel like they can be an asshole too now and somehow it’s okay. It’s not.
Not That Kind of Girl is separated into five sections made up of essays: Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture. All sections were not created equally. I could somewhat relate to Body, Friendship and Work and thus really enjoyed them. Love & Sex and Big Picture were so utterly egotistical that I often found myself skipping a few pages at a time just to get through them.
I suppose I ought to address the controversy surrounding the essay in which a seven-year-old Lena looks at her baby sister’s vagina. I am reluctant to talk about this because I’m afraid that I’ll phrase it incorrectly and come across the wrong way. Honestly, I don’t think that the story is a huge deal. I have read articles in which people have described this as molestation or said that Lena normalises this kind of behaviour. Obviously, any kind of non-consensual interference should always be avoided. But a seven-year-old child who is curious about her body and briefly inspects a sibling in a totally non-sexual way is entirely different to molestation.
A kid of that age really doesn’t understand that it’s wrong to engage in that kind of behaviour until they have been told. I’m sure that her mother explained to her the gravity of the situation afterwards. Yes, perhaps Dunham could have included a little sentence in that essay to clarify that this wasn’t a good thing to have done, but I kind of think that that goes without saying. Moreover, this is the same girl who talks about the death of a family friend from AIDS and manages to make it about herself. Do you honestly expect her to take the moral high ground?
I think if you’re reading this book looking for a role model or a life coach, you have really come to the wrong place. For some reason, Lena Dunham is sold as some kind of feminist icon, despite the fact that she talk about rape in a casual way and fails to include any people of colour in her TV show, Girls, which has often come under fire for making transphobic, classist comments. The people who read this selection of (probably fictitious) stories and get offended should really read the reviews on Amazon next time they’re buying books.
Overall, I’m glad read Not That Kind of Girl. I did find it an enjoyable read. I think that Lena is a very gifted writer. I just wish that she wasn’t quite so self-absorbed and that her literature wasn’t so whitewashed.
Read this book if you want. Don’t read it if you don’t want. You’re not missing out on much by giving it a miss!
Have you read Not That Kind of Girl? What did you think? I’d be really interested to hear what other people have to say!
I’m not sure what I’m going to read next. I’ll comment on this post when I have decided. Stay tuned all the same.