Lena Dunham attended a formal event for the Los Angeles Review of Books recently, and the Girls star felt very Shakespearean. “Channeling Juliet as I head out for the evening to support @lareviewofbooks, an essential publication,” Dunham wrote in a caption on Instagram beside a photo of herself glowing ethereally in an earth-toned silk gown.
The 30-year-old is posing in profile, looking very natural and showing off her figure. She didn’t bother to wear Spanx. But she couldn’t have anticipated the way one user would react to the image. “Are you expecting? You look beautiful,” wrote @stephaniejgarcia. It wasn’t clear whether the tone-deaf comment was passive-aggressive or earnest. Some users read the comment as a dig and stepped in to defend Dunham.
“That’s really rude to ask someone,” one user told her. “When you feel the need to write this stuff, do you ever stop to think, Why am I doing this, would I like to read this about myself? Just wondering,” another chimed in. “Come on would you like to be asked that if you weren’t? First of all that’s personal and second women to women be real that would suck if someone asked you that just because your stomach isn’t as flat as society tells you it should be. Be kind and tell her you look beautiful that’s it, just as you would want someone to tell you,” a third wrote.
A debate ensued, with @stephaniejgarcia responding to users, insisting she was innocently asking a question that she didn’t think was personal. “I didn’t know. I don’t think it is bad to ask. Just like asking someone when they’re due…,” the user replied to one person. “It is a reasonable question. I don’t know her personally … do you?,” she defended herself to someone else.
Finally, Dunham herself stepped in with the perfect body-positive comment to shut down the entire debate. The actress responded directly to her critic, giving her the benefit of the doubt. She wrote, “Thank you! I’m not expecting but I did enjoy a large box of gluten free crackers prior to taking this image. It’s funny — folks have told me I looked pregnant/asked since I was 15 — I choose to embrace it as another curve like ass or boobs or hip.”
Her fans were supportive and congratulated her on the way she dealt with the comment. One user empathized, commenting, “In response to your response above, I’ve looked pregnant (mostly according to myself, in comparison to anything/anyone I’ve subjected myself to in pop culture) pretty much my entire life. But of course, as women, only we can be asked/told if/that we ‘look pregnant.’ And of course, seeming pregnant when not is ‘bad/gross/repulsive.’ Thank you for not sucking it in.”
Others wrote: “Amen. Embracing the round belly” and “You inspire me in so many ways one of which is how you own, celebrate and unapologetically embrace your body. After two babies, I have a stubborn muffin top that just ain’t going to leave and I am learning to embrace it. It’s a challenge for me. Thank you for the reminder and shining your true beauty that reflects all of ours.”
Dunham has made a name for herself as a champion of body confidence, appearing in the buff in many episodes of her hit TV show and posing for a body-positive lingerie campaign minus Photoshop. In March, she wrote in her Lenny newsletter that she was “done with allowing images that retouch and reconfigure my face and body to be released into the world.”
Loving the body she was born into has been a long time coming for Dunham. She has spoken out many times about facing and internalizing criticism of her figure in her youth. She once explained in an interview with Salon that it was puberty that forced her to embrace her physique and not feel self-conscious about taking up space. She said that when she started high school, she “went from being a really tiny kid to a chubby teenager and had to figure out how to handle that shift in my body.”