Girls: Hannah Horvath Is a Jezebel Commenter


That Hannah Horvath is a Gawker reader and Jezebel commenter is undoubtedly quite upsetting to the many Gawker and Jezebel commenters who’ve disparaged Girls, its characters, and Lena Dunham herself. But it’s perhaps the most clever dig Dunham has issued to her haters yet.

On last night’s episode, Hannah learns that the editor of her forthcoming e-book has unexpectedly died. She turned to Gawker—instead of anyone at her publishing house, or someone who knew her editor personally—for more info on his death, which didn’t sit well with her boyfriend Adam. He referred to Gawker as:

“A bunch of judgmental creeps, celibate against their will…a bunch of jealous people who make a living appealing to our basest desire to see each other kicked while we’re down.”

Hannah’s defense of Gawker also included one of Jezebel, which Dunham has said was not at all a defense, but “DEFINITELY sarcasm.”

“Jezebel is a place feminists can go to support one another, which we need in this modern world full of slut-shaming.”

I think Hannah’s description of Jezebel, sarcastic or not, falls in line with how a lot of people view this site—which is probably why they get so pissed off when they eventually realize that Jezebel is not a place of unconditional support of women just because they’re feminists. Feminism itself isn’t even like that. The movement has been rife with infighting and debate about its direction since its inception. Dissent is important because it’s what helps keep a movement from becoming static.

Even Dunham herself, when sub-tweeting about Jezebel recently, erroneously conflated feminism with altruism.

The notion that dissent or critique of other women is anathema to feminism is silly. But it’s something that’s gained traction in recent years as people have collectively decided that all criticism is mean, and that being mean is morally inferior to being nice. To be nice, then, would involve withholding all criticism.

It’s an ethos that creates a pretty fucking sexist paradigm: as a woman, if you’re not nice and supportive at all times, then you’re a “mean girl.” That way of thinking not only infantilizes grown women, but in turn is reductive of their very real issues. Worse still, it genders the situation. The result is that women’s critique of other women is then viewed as petty, bitchy behavior, and ultimately, not as important as what men have to say.

For example, I don’t recall anyone going after the male writers of Gawker, who’ve written plenty of not nice things about Dunham, as “mean boys.” Because people don’t say that. Because that’s stupid. But if you don’t say that about men, then don’t say it about women.

It’s easy to see why Dunham would’ve been mad when she wrote last night’s episode (written and filmed months ago), which included an outburst by Marnie (in regards to negativity about her YouTube video) that could easily be interpreted as Dunham’s true feelings about how her work has been received on the Internet.

Oh let’s make fun of the girl who took a risk and put herself out there creatively, which by the way is not something either of you have to worry about because no one wants to see you and you can’t do anything.

However, not all criticism of Dunham or her show is predicated on random bloggers’ status anxiety or a condemnation of her privileged childhood. Some of it—particularly that of how Girls (in its first season at least) handled race—was not only valid, but sparked an important conversation that was addressed by Dunham and directly resulted in a positive change.

(And not for nothing, but the Dunham coverage on Jezebel hasn’t all been criticism. I personally have referred to both her and Girls as “brilliant” on several occasions. I genuinely like her work and think that what she’s doing is important.)

That Dunham took the race debate surrounding her show so seriously contradicts Adam’s suggestion that Internet criticism is irrelevant bullshit written by jealous jerks.

And speaking of relevance: last night’s episode and its mention of Jezebel was written and shot months ago, yes, but it coincidentally aired at an interesting time—roughly a week after this site offered money for unretouched photos from Dunham’s Vogue shoot, a call which was almost immediately answered. While she wasn’t referencing that situation, this entire conversation could certainly be applied to the Vogue images, even though she deemed it “too ridiculous to engage” (and then engaged anyway).

So while it’s certainly Dunham’s right to use her platform on Girls to pooh-pooh “judgmental creeps” as being beneath her, morally or creatively or whatever, not that many people are paying attention. About 50% more people read coverage of Dunham alone on this site in one week than watched her show. It may not be “nice” to point that out, but fuck it, it’s the truth.

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