FASHION NEWS

The great importance of Lena Dunham’s perfectly imperfect thigh 

Lena Dunham on the cover of US Glamour

In a world of damaging image manipulation, Lena Dunham’s un-Photoshopped US Glamour cover is a step towards normalising the female form, says Laura Craik 

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By Laura Craik on

Lena Dunham isn’t the first celebrity to appear on a magazine cover without the crutch of Photoshop, but she’s probably the most convincing. So high fives all round for the new issue of US Glamour magazine, which sees Dunham shot full-length alongside her friends and Girls co-stars. The pink hotpants and the silver wedges might be by Marc Jacobs, but the thighs are model’s own. To emphasise the point, Dunham is shot sideways, allowing full view of their ample, dimpled beauty. No digital manipulation here – just a real pic of a real leg on a real woman. 

Somehow, it looks more shocking than it should. After all, we’re not used to “real”. We’re more used to Kendall and Gigi – flawless specimens, both – being made more flawless still by expensive, extensive post-production work. Only three months ago, W Magazine put both models on its cover, subjecting their images to such extreme digital manipulation that they appeared to lose their kneecaps. Not only did their legs have the same dimensions as Barbie, but they had the same weird, lifeless plasticity.  

Lena Dunham on the cover of US Glamour
 

This Christmas, I mostly sat on sofas watching my daughters sit on sofas taking pictures of themselves. “What’s so funny?” I asked as they peeled with laughter. The six year old was chortling at the sight of herself as a dog, whose tongue unfurled when hers did. The ten year old was transfixed at the sight of herself as a sort of festive Kardashian. The seasonal Christmas Snapchat filter – the one that placed a wreath of holly berries on your head, made your eyes sparkle and turned your lips bright red and luscious – had morphed her perfect child’s face into a glossy, bland approximation of a Disney Princess. And she was loving it. “I look so pretty!” she gasped, angling her head and pouting. 

In the era of the filter, when anyone can make their eyes bigger, their lips fuller, their thighs slimmer and their waist smaller, it seems almost quaint that people still worry about Photoshopped magazine covers. Never mind the newsstands – image manipulation is going on in teenage bedrooms throughout the country. The damage is already being done. And it is damaging. Young girls whose notions of self are still being formed are able to fashion new selves before they’ve even had a chance to get properly acquainted (and make peace) with their real one. Bad skin? Thin lips? No problem. Stick a filter on them and pretend it’s really you. Then post the pic on Instagram, so all your friends can “like” it. And cry tears of inadequacy that they don’t look like that in RL.  

Here’s hoping that 2017 is the year of the dimpled thigh, the crow’s foot, the un-lightened skin, the bingo wing and the belly

This is why Lena Dunham’s Glamour cover is so important. Sure, you could dismiss it as just another clever way of netting publicity, but that would be cynical,and miss the point. The point being that if grown women admit to feeling inadequate about magazine covers (a fact borne out by numerous surveys), how are younger girls supposed to cope? How are they supposed to deal with the head-fuck of being able to fashion their own face into a Disney avatar or a Kardashi-clone? Bombarded by filters that can eradicate their perceived flaws, no wonder they find their real selves lacking. 

“Throughout my teens I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was fucking funny looking,” writes Dunham in an extended Instagram post to accompany her Glamour cover. “I didn’t hate what I looked like – I hated the culture that was telling me to hate it. When my career started, some people celebrated my look, but always through the lens of ‘isn’t she brave? Isn’t it such a bold move to show THAT body on TV?’. Well, today this body is on the cover of a magazine that millions of women will read, without Photoshop, my thighs on full imperfect display. Whether you agree with my politics, like my show or connect to what I do, it doesn’t matter – my body isn’t fair game. No one’s is, no matter their size, color, [or] gender identity…. thank you to the women in Hollywood (and on Instagram).... normalising the female form in EVERY form.”

 

Okay, here goes: throughout my teens I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was fucking funny looking. Potbelly, rabbit teeth, knock knees- I could never seem to get it right and it haunted my every move. I posed as the sassy confident one, secretly horrified and hurt by careless comments and hostility. Let's get something straight: I didn't hate what I looked like- I hated the culture that was telling me to hate it. When my career started, some people celebrated my look but always through the lens of "isn't she brave? Isn't it such a bold move to show THAT body on TV?" Then there were the legions of trolls who made high school teasing look like a damned joke with the violent threats they heaped on, the sickening insults that made me ache for teen girls like me who might be reading my comments. Well, today this body is on the cover of a magazine that millions of women will read, without photoshop, my thigh on full imperfect display. Whether you agree with my politics, like my show or connect to what I do, it doesn't matter- my body isn't fair game. No one's is, no matter their size, color, gender identity, and there's a place for us all in popular culture to be recognized as beautiful. Haters are gonna have to get more intellectual and creative with their disses in 2017 because none of us are going to be scared into muumuus by faceless basement dwellers, or cruel blogs, or even our partners and friends. Thank you to the women in Hollywood (and on Instagram!) leading the way, inspiring and normalizing the female form in EVERY form, and thank you to @glamourmag for letting my cellulite do the damn thing on news stands everywhere today ❤️ Love you all.

A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

 

We really do have to normalise the female form in every form, before the disconnect between real, imperfect, natural beauty and the filtered/Photoshopped/airbrushed kind grows any larger. Here’s hoping that 2017 is the year of the dimpled thigh, the crow’s foot, the un-lightened skin, the bingo wing and the belly. Because no one is fucking funnier looking than a woman without a kneecap. 

@LauraCraik

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Lena Dunham on the cover of US Glamour
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