In the most recent episode of her ‘Women of the Hour‘ podcast, ‘Girls‘ creator and actor Lena Dunham spoke out about a recent visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas.
Dunham regularly speaks out about government control over women’s bodies, and the necessity of Planned Parenthood and other pregnancy clinics where women can exclusively receive medical assistance, including abortions/terminations.
In the podcast, she tells this story:
“‘I haven’t had an abortion,’ I told her. I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women’s options, I myself had never had an abortion.”
She explains that due to societal stigmatisation of abortion, even someone who is an avid advocate for women’s autonomy over their bodies often accidentally refers back to elements of societal conditioning that they try so hard to reject:
“I realised then that even I was carrying within myself stigma around this issue. Even I, the woman who cares as much as anybody about a woman’s right to choose, felt it was important that people know I was unblemished in this department.”
There’s literally nothing wrong with this – it’s admitting to still be swayed ingrained societal norms, something we have all had to acknowledge at some point.
However, the actor completely fell down at the end of this statement, saying something that now has both anti-abortionists AND pro-choicers in an uproar:
“Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”
Erm… nope. Nooooooooooooooooooooope. Nopenopenope.
Of course, it goes without saying that every woman should have the unquestioned right to terminate a pregnancy if she wants or needs to. But saying “I wish I’d had one” is undeniably, insanely insensitive.
For many (not all, obviously), having an abortion can be unspeakably difficult and taxing on emotional, mental, and physical health; even a woman who is 100% sure of her decision can still feel devastated by the choice, and/or the operation.
Dunham’s comments show a hugely out-of-touch mindset; a huge amount of privilege is clearly present if you “wish” you’d had an abortion purely to be able to connect to other women, when millions have had to go through the often-terrifying procedure out of actual necessity. And for so many in the world, an abortion is an unattainable option.
Plenty of women are furious over the comment:
— Sarah Baram (@sarahbaram) December 20, 2016
As someone who has had an abortion, pls stop Lena Dunham. PLEASE STOP.
— Anna Akana (@AnnaAkana) December 20, 2016
An abortion is not some fun activity. It’s a terrifying procedure that many women have to go through extreme, dangerous lengths to get.
— Leah Rocketto (@LRocketto) December 20, 2016
There’s a difference between fighting for reproductive rights and wishing you’d had an abortion, @lenadunham. If only you understood that.
— Sarah Baram (@sarahbaram) December 20, 2016
Lena Dunham visiting fans in burn wards: “I wish someone had set *me* on fire.” pic.twitter.com/7W3mAEYr0f
— JenAshleyWright (@JenAshleyWright) December 20, 2016
Lena Dunham must got a special brand of narcissism. She can make anything, ANYTHING, about her.
— Shyne Coldchain Jr. (@Smooth_Orator) December 20, 2016
I don’t believe abortions are inherently stressful or sad, but its incredibly out-of-touch and privileged for Lena Dunahm to “wish” for one.
— Sam Escobar ?? (@myhairisblue) December 20, 2016
Lena Dunham almost made it a month without saying something dumb af.
— laire (@laire) December 20, 2016
@morninggloria “extremely not helping” is what lena dunham has always been about
— brian levinson (@BrianBLevinson) December 20, 2016
how feminists look at Lena Dunham every time she opens her mouth pic.twitter.com/4T98ZHuukQ
— yung goku (@palegoon) December 20, 2016
I generally advise against reading any story with a headline that begins “lena dunham on her podcast” pic.twitter.com/00qVjhVshg
— Liam Stack (@liamstack) December 20, 2016
How insensitive is Lena Dunham to have the nerve to claim to want to have an abortion???
— Blair (@bsqueakk) December 21, 2016
— _Heidi?? (@garden_heidi) December 21, 2016
LOL @lenadunham no one “wishes” they had an abortion. You can support a cause without it directly having affected you & still create change.
— ladyjane. (@HerHIGHNESSx) December 21, 2016
Lena Dunham: never had an abortion, but “I wish I had”
— Erin (@EZErin_) December 21, 2016
The lesson here is: you can still be an ally without experiencing the issue at hand. You don’t have to have experienced something to be able to listen and connect and have empathy for and fight alongside those that have been affected.
You just have to listen, rather than talk. Support the group in question. If you have a platform to create change, elevate their stories and lived experiences – don’t make a situation about you. It’s not about you.
Photo: Randy Shropshire / Getty.
P.S. As a sidenote, we’d just like to add that anyone saying that they ‘wished Lena Dunham‘s mum had had an abortion’ is also a bloody enormous fuckwit.