Is it me or is there nothing 'empowering' about Lena Dunham's fake lesbian photoshoot for Lonely Girls lingerie?

Stylist describes the shots as being 'like two women getting ready before a night out.' Yes, in men’s soft porn lesbian fantasies. In fact, it calls to mind Cindy Crawford wet shaving KD Lang for Vanity Fair, if it were re-shot with the cast of Tattoo Disasters UK

Samantha Rea
Tuesday 30 August 2016 12:04 BST
(Zara Mirkin and Harry Were, Lonely Girls
(Zara Mirkin and Harry Were, Lonely Girls

This morning I felt inspired by Lena Dunham. She is one of the officially “inspiring women” chosen by the Lonely Girls lingerie brand to feature in their latest photoshoots, or “candid portraits”, as they’d prefer to have them called. But Dunham did not inspire me to sit about in my pants, buy Lonely lingerie, or write a sitcom – she inspired me to go to the gym. It was an epiphany of: “Christ, two more loaves of bread and I’ll be looking that lumpy.”

Lonely Girls claims it’s “fostering a sense of positive body image,” but I don’t see why being unfit is something to cheer about or aspire to. Why must one be overweight in order to be “body positive”? Protein World was vilified last year for featuring a fitness model on its tube posters, but the shape that model was in was surely the result of hard work. That’s a positive body image.

Bizarrely, though, that point of view has become distinctly unfashionable. It’s like a school sports day where everyone’s praised for taking part, rather than rewarding the winners who’ve worked to achieve their goals.

No one’s allowed to acknowledge the health risks associated with obesity, for fear of being accused of fat-shaming. And no one’s supposed to suggest that overweight bodies are unattractive. We’re all meant to slam the media’s narrow definition of beauty in an effort to appear enlightened and progressive – and before you know it we’re lining up to praise the naked emperor’s new clothes.

The Lonely brand claims it “eschews conventional marketing”, and yet it uses the most overused buzzword for selling things to women: “empowering.” Hadley Freeman has noted before that going by how the word is currently used, a woman may have limited access to abortion but she can apparently “empower herself” by wearing certain shoes. Freeman describes it as a “catch-all and therefore empty word denoting a watered-down feminism.” I agree.

Hiring Dunham and her Girls co-star Jemima Kirke is not an enlightened choice; it’s simply a cynical marketing move concerned with tapping into the zeitgeist. And the claim that the underwear empowers women is not the only aspect of the campaign that’s standard. Stylist quotes the Lonely press release as saying that instead of being objectified, Dunham and the other women in the campaign will be featured “in a way that we usually don’t see in mainstream advertising and the media.” I beg to differ.

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The pictures I’ve seen of Dunham and Kirke together are nothing more than pseudo-Sapphic titillation. In one shot, Dunham nestles her foot in Kirke’s crotch. In another, Dunham leans towards Kirke, with her mouth open and her legs apart. They are sitting with their legs subtly scissored and we have a clear view of Dunham’s lace-covered crotch. Kirke comes at Dunham with that phallic staple, the red lipstick, its tip popping out of its sheath. Stylist describes this shot as being “like two women getting ready before a night out.” Yes, in men’s soft porn lesbian fantasies. In fact, it calls to mind Cindy Crawford wet-shaving KD Lang for Vanity Fair, or the DVD cover of Wild Things - if they were re-shot with the cast of Tattoo Disasters UK.

Lonely says it’s “committed to outstanding comfort,” but the elastic of Kirke’s knickers is so tight, it’s dug a trench across her tummy. And Dunham doesn’t look relaxed perching on the edge of a bath, with crissy-crossy elastic cutting across her abdomen. The “Lonely Girls” are apparently pictured “in their own spaces, wearing Lonely their way” – so why for heaven’s sake is Dunham bruising her sit-bones in the bathroom?

But of course, this is not how Dunham hangs out at home, and this campaign is neither about promoting body-positivity or empowering women – it is simply about selling pants. We need to come back down to earth.

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