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Ugliness and cynicism – all in the name of feminism

21 January 2014

Another day, another ‘victory’ in the name of feminism. Jezebel, the feminist blog aimed at women’s interests, last week offered $10,000 to anyone who could provide them with ‘unaltered’ images of Lena Dunham’s American Vogue cover story. Within two hours, they received six images from the Annie Leibovitz shoot, which they then published, complete with notations about what had been changed. Vogue, it would seem, had done the dirty: not only had they made Dunham’s chin a bit pointier, and her neck a bit thinner, they’d also removed the bags from under her eyes and nipped her waist a little. She looked a little bit better than she normally would.

Jezebel has never before offered $10,000 for ‘unaltered’ images of Vogue cover stars. But they have taken particular umbrage in this case, because Lena Dunham is one of their pinups – in a way that Kate Upton and Gwyneth Paltrow are not. For those not acquainted with Dunham, she’s the 27-year-old who wrote and stars in Girls – the wildly successful HBO series. It’s gritty, funny, and generally pretty great. Dunham has rightly been lauded for it, receiving a $3.5m book deal off the back of it. Part of her appeal is that she comes across as relatively normal. She doesn’t look like your regular Hollywood star, partly due to her figure, which is – how best to put this – a little bit podgy. For a feminist site like Jezebel, she’s the messiah. ‘Her body is real. She is real,’ says Jessica Coen, Jezebel’s Editor-in-Chief.

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Dunham chose to be in Vogue (and in all honesty, who – apart from Kate Middleton – would ever turn down the opportunity to be on the cover of American Vogue) and she, like every other Vogue cover star, was slightly retouched. Take a look at the photos, and you’ll notice that it’s hardly that dramatic – it’s not like they’ve sucked out all the fat, or stretched her body. Instead, they’ve given her a little bit of a lift.

Campaigns in the name of feminism can quickly take a nasty turn, and this is one such case. Jezebel have stated on their site that their target is Vogue, not Dunham – but it’s Dunham who is now stuck in the crossfire between these two women’s publications. And really, what good does it do revealing the photos of Dunham before she was touched up? All Jezebel have done is created another ‘before’ and ‘after’ body-ogling article, so beloved of the type of magazines that Jezebel campaigns against. So Jezebel’s crusading rhetoric smells of hypocrisy – and I imagine their traffic has benefited too – as people come to the site either to complain about how awful the fashion industry is, or to examine Dunham’s flaws. And all in the name of feminism.

The problem is that Dunham’s ‘real’ figure has been fetishized. People are obsessed with it. But obsessing over anyone’s figure – fat or thin alike – is unhelpful. There’s no such thing as a normal figure, and to suggest so is counterproductive. And so what if Dunham wanted to look a little bit better in her photos? It would be a mighty odd woman who turned down the opportunity to have their photos enhanced.

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Show comments
  • La Fold

    To paraphrase Bill Hicks “”When did we start listening to priviliged, over educated middle class white girls?”

  • Tracheal

    Feminism IS ugliness, cynicism, and tyranny. Fortunately, more and more women are getting a taste of the totalitarian vileness normally doled out to men. And happily at least one fascist feminist website is getting lots of egg on it’s filthy face.

  • Magnolia

    Sorry, you are completely wrong.
    Touching up photos is sick and wrong because it is committing a fraud.
    Let’s call it what it is, a sign of a sick society, made up of sick image obsessed individuals who are increasingly unable to relate to anyone who is a bit ‘different’.
    It’s not hero worship, it’s nasty.
    No amount of legislation is going to cure this illness which is what happened when the ad men and the metropolitan liberals took over control.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      But they’ve been doing it since the dawn of photography. I can’t bring myself to get worked up about it. Storm in a teacup.

  • Colonel Mustard

    But my question is, do the female staff of Jezebel still want new kitchens?

  • andagain

    Jezebel, the feminist blog aimed at women’s interests, last week offered $10,000 to anyone who could provide them with ‘unaltered’ images of Lena Dunham’s American Vogue cover story.

    I wonder what they would have said if the Daily Mail had made the same offer.

  • CharlietheChump


  • David

    “The greatest vanity!” the congregator has said, “the greatest vanity! Everything is vanity!”

    • James Strong

      Serious and genuine question:
      I know what you’re referring to, Ecclesiastes, but is this re-phrasing your own?
      Does it come from a stage routine or similar? Am I missing a cinematic or theatrical reference?
      Or is it from some version clearly inferior to the KJV?

      • David

        It’s a different translation.

  • Fulke Jasperville

    One can’t help but wonder if all this feminazi phony-outrage is designed to make a virtue out of the vice of jealousy, just as Hitler made a virtue out of anger. People hate the idea of facing up to their own depravity, so proceed to construct their own topsy-turvy morality. It is a sort of barbarism. It can only be subdued by discipline, moderation and reflection.

    • HookesLaw

      An argument about airbrushing and in comes Hitler. And depravity. I’d like to see you do an ink blot test.

      I see barbarism is confined to an afterthought.

      • Tracheal

        An argument involving fascist feminist gender bigots and in comes Hitler. And depravity. How appropriate.

        • Marie Louise Noonan

          I don’t think Hitler was a feminist.

    • mrsjosephinehydehartley

      Being jealous about the truth in reality is no vice. God himself tells us first he is jealous and that we should have no false idols or images.

      Let’s not confuse jealousy with envy and/or covetousness.

    • Marie Louise Noonan


  • dmitri the impostor

    Whinging feminist: the ultimate pleonasm.

    Come on, Eddie. Give the crones both barrels.

  • Hello

    It has nothing to do with feminism, they do the same to images of men. It’s about equality. Labelling it feminism is just a way of denying half the population the right to an opinion, so that they hold whatever is considered the most fashionable opinion.

    • HookesLaw

      However the particular issue being talked about is based around the actions of the ‘feminist’ mag Jezabel. And this particular story is being widely reported.
      But even as you say this applies to all the models these magazines use, the principle effect is on women and the image they are being told to aspire to. I have to say, and I expect I am in good company, I have never sought to to aspire to a male model image.

      • Hello

        Men are told to aspire to similar images, the difference is that men don’t read these kinds of magazines anywhere near as much. They read football magazines, or lads mags etc. So they’re told to aspire to owning a seriously bad car, bruv. Or being a pro-footballer.

        I suppose that when women want to aspire to something else then Vogue will stop photoshopping images, or go bust.

        I’m afraid that the “principle effect” is just a reflection of the average aspiration. And Jezebel are not exactly giving anything else to aspire to, so I don’t expect the situation to change anytime soon.

        • HookesLaw

          I don’t read lads mags but from my understanding they encourage men to aspire to a pair of 38DD’s.
          And I don’t know anything about Jezabel or if there is a male equivalent (Viz?) but if I had to give some advice about its message it would be to encourage people to aspire to have a mind of their own and beware of superficiality.

          • Hello

            “I don’t read lads mags but from my understanding they encourage men to aspire to a pair of 38DD’s”

            Nothing wrong with that.

      • Tracheal

        Women never need to be told to sell s*x for male status. It’s biologically hard-wired. Nor do men need to aspire to be models because men sell status for female s*x.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Peculiar that word is moderated at the website of a magazine at the forefront for freedom of the press.

          • Tracheal

            and particularly below articles on female erotic power or lack thereof.

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