We Spleen: Joan Rivers for Body-Shaming Lena Dunham

4430265661_2c8f1643f9_zLena Dunham, writer, producer and star of HBO’s hit show, Girls, pushes back against conventional beauty standards by frequently appearing nude on her show and embracing her physique. We applaud her for her boldness.

But Joan Rivers has a different take on Dunham’s boundary-crossing ways. The Fashion Police host recently made some way-out-of-line remarks about Dunham on Howard Stern’s radio show, saying, “[Dunham is] sending a message out to people saying, ‘It’s OK, stay fat, get diabetes, everybody die. Lose your fingers.'” She added, “I’m saying if you look the way you look, Lena—and that’s fine and you’re funny—but don’t say it’s OK that other girls can look like this. Try to look better. Try to look better!”

Come on, seriously?

Personally, I applaud Dunham for her unapologetic attitude about her body; we need more of that in Hollywood. Dunham is sending a message to girls and women that you can be beautiful—and more importantly successful—even if your body doesn’t fit conventional beauty norms. Plus, as Stern pointed out to Rivers, Dunham “doesn’t give a s**t” what people think.

In fact, Dunham shared her body-positive philosophy last year, musing, “We’re one weight one day, we’re one weight another day, and some day our body just doesn’t even exist at all!” she told Gothamist. “[My body] is just a vessel I’ve been given to move through this life. I think about my body as a tool to do the stuff I need to do, but not the be all and end all of my existence. Which sounds like I spent a week at a meditation retreat, but it’s genuinely how I feel.”

Take that, Rivers.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user David Shankbone licensed under Creative Commons 2.0



Andrea Ananighian is a graduate in English from California State University, Channel Islands. She is currently an intern at Ms.




  1. Seriously? ?

    I don’t give a damn about Lena Dunham except to note claiming she can’t write women of color doesn’t excuse their absence on the show.

    I do care about real topics not about little girls who have to rush to defend Lena Dunham. She’s overweight. It’s not the end of the world. Joan Rivers does her style of comedy and has for years. If you don’t like it, don’t listen. But stop your constant whining about non-issues and start writing about things that matter like the attempts in Iraq to lower the age for fathers to marry off daughters down to 9 (really 8 years old). Lena Dunham is a celebrity.
    This shouldn’t be Star magazine. This should be Ms. magazine and one celebrity insulted another is not the end of the world.
    Lena’s not feminism to me or to many women. She’s not even liked by most. She has the lowest rated HBO show, she tanked SNL’s ratings when she hosted.
    In your ignorance, you rush to defend Lena but a lot of us just see her as, yes, overweight, but more importantly another White girl who wants to pretend she’s left while still clinging to White privilege.
    And fat shaming?
    Lena body shamed on SNL. Did you miss that?


    Turned it into a ‘funny.’ She also, same link as well as another, mocked Scandal for having an ethnically diverse cast, treated it as a joke — rather racist of her and isn’t it telling that she was onboard for mocking the first hour long hit show with an African-American lead as opposed to, for example, spoofing the geriatric, right-wing and sexist NCIS?


    Stop wasting this space to defend your favorite celebrity. Take it to your fan page and write your slash fiction but at Ms. let’s hope you can write something about an issue that actually matters and not “I love Lena! Mean Joan!” In other words, grow up. The world cannot afford your immaturity.

    And I’m getting real tired of the split posts where one says people of color and inclusion matter and then we have Lena Dunham freak who ignores the fact that Lena refuses to include people of color as major characters on her show. And as pointed out in one of the two links, there will be 32 episodes aired at the end of this season of Girls and 14 of those episodes were written or co-written by men. She clearly could hire writers of color if the only issue was I’m-so-racist-I-never-knew-people-of-color-so-I-can’t-write-them-on-my-show.

    Wake up, fan girl, we wouldn’t accept this excuse from a man.

    Lena Dunham’s racist and she needs to be called out on it, not coddled by fan girlz at Ms.

  2. As an African-American woman, I’m confused why Andrea Ananighian feels I need to be concerned about a woman (Lena Dunham) who has made it very clear that me and my kind (people of color) are like aliens from space to her. After she was rightly called out in season one of Girls for the lack of cast diversity, she said she’d fix it. Then, promoting season two, she told Terry Gross (Fresh Air) that it was just too hard for her to write people of color. Apparently, she didn’t know any.
    So let me make it really clear to Andrea and Ms. — you keep promoting this racist if you want to keep making it clear that Ms. is a White woman’s site only.
    Don’t pretend in every third or fourth post that you suddenly care about racism and that you’re all about inclusion when you waste everyone’s time defending Lena Dunham — a woman who could put people of color on her TV show but chooses not to.
    There’s no defense for that.

  3. It’s hard to formulate a response about this without taking slashes at Joan River’s physical attributes. I actually feel really sorry for Joan. She was driven to change her face/body – for whatever reason – to fit in with Hollywood standards. For her, seeing someone like Lena who’s accepted herself and her body for what it naturally is must be difficult. I only wish she would have been able to realize this without taking it out on Lena.

  4. Or I could just be like Joan and hate myself so much I get plastic surgery to the point my own mother wouldn’t recognise me.

  5. I find the comment about diabetes absolutely RIDICULOUS. Lena is not obese! Yes she has a fuller figure (barely) but she is far from being dangerously overweight. She is beautiful and even if Joan doesn’t think so thats no reason to imply that she is unhealthy or that she is sending an unhealthy or dangerous message to young girls. Joan is the one sending a dangerous message. She should be ashamed of herself!

  6. The issues raised as a result of this article, are like all things- balance matters. Joan has her point. It sounds like, for some, Lena makes points- still for others, there are other intrinsically important issues such as racism and oppression of girls and women. Real work to be done. As women everywhere, who really is the enemy? It sure sounds like the old self-hatred patterns are in tact… Truth is, NO ONE has a solution about fashion. Personally, anti-fashion can’t seem to get past reacting in general.
    People have weight issues on all points on the spectrum, from over to under… lots and lots of sounds get made about over weight. Not as much about excessive under weight issues. Why is that?
    There ain’t nothing wrong with a little sanity in fashion and good taste because boredom just doesn’t go far.
    But how is any of this honestly important, as we make increased contact via digital communication, with the communities of girls and women who are in real need of women in the West to value ourselves well enough to exercise our freedoms to make real inroads that translate beneficially for females around the globe?
    When maturity can strike a balance again between age differences, women may once again move forward a little more- together.
    Age- there’s another issue. EVERY woman will eventually arrive there, too- Botox, or no… Really, HOW are we each one valuing and appreciating our female identities- not reacting, judging, or condemning?

  7. I guess Ms. Rivers doesn’t get the body-accepting message. I’m wondering if she feels that getting a number of plastic surgeries is either emotionally or physically healthy?

  8. Ladies! Ladies, lets stick together her. No I don’t think Lena is beautiful. That’s the point she doesn’t fucking have to be. Her boyfriend is dorky looking and nobody mentions that. I applaud her for having the courage to show her fear, and her imperfections and say that’s okay. You are right about it being too,white, I didn’t really think of that but frankly she is the most feminist figure I have seen Ina long time on TV. I love the fact that she is NOT a victim.

  9. Also, Joan, well she is a comic.. That’s their job to,take,pot,shots at people. I’m sure a lot of you don’t remember don tickles. He was one mean dude. But…I came to see that they are doing their job, to rile us up, to make us think. And in that venue I’m ok with that. do

  10. Robin Bass says:

    I don’t watch Girls, and don’t really know Lena Duham. I also find Joan very funny as a comedienne. However, as a woman who has refused to allow herself to age and has used surgery to create a face that is far too young for her, I find it hard to take seriously anything she might say abut anyone else’s body. As Gloria Steinham is turing 80, I would have to say she is the role model we can look to for how a feminist ages, and her words on women and girls are the words I choose to pay attention to.

  11. Appearing nude on a tv show is now a healthy way to embrace ones body? Sadly only women think this way. So many important topics about women to discuss- this isnt one of them.

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