It’s been 36 hours since Lena Dunham’s “Your First Time” video touched a nerve somewhere deep inside of me, and since I can’t stop thinking about it, it must be time to write about it.
Maybe you will read this and think I am totally uncool, unhip, and out of touch with pop culture. You are entitled to your opinion.
But I hardly think appealing to a woman for her vote via thinly veiled innuendo about losing her virginity is what Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, et al had in mind as they bravely fought for and won our right to vote through the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
My job and other activities keep me daily in touch with the youth of my community, who I believe are a fair representation of the youth of our country, and I can promise you this: they need, crave, and deserve better than this.
Though I have a myriad of feelings about what the popularity and praise for this ad says about our culture, mostly I am sad.
I am sad for Ms. Dunham, of whom I was completely unaware prior to Thursday night. Apparently she has quite a following from her show “Girls” on HBO. How pitiful that a young woman who is clearly talented would allow her hard won platform to be used for a cheap political trick.
Her message to young women is clear and ironically the exact opposite of the suffragettes – don’t think for yourself, do what I say everyone else is doing, do what I tell you is cool, otherwise you are a loser.
Do young women, who are, from the cradle, incessantly bombarded with the conflicting sexual messages of our culture, really need this?
Do young adult women really need to be told that they should cave to peer pressure like an insecure adolescent?
Is this not degrading in every possible way?
Instead of raising the bar for independent thought and action, and calling young women to expect and wait for a fulfilling sexual relationship to develop within a covenant bond, sex is used as a bad metaphor for casting a ballot for the coolest guy you can find. Sadly, this is false advertising of the worst kind, both for sexual relationships and our electoral responsibility.
I am also sad for Michelle Obama. To have to sit by while your husband and his campaign lower the bar for young women while disrespecting the sacred union of your marriage must be humiliating. Maybe my sympathy is misdirected and she is fine with this. But somehow, if that is the case, I feel even worse for her.
I have a hard time believing that President Obama actually wants his 2 beautiful daughters to hold Ms. Dunham’s low view of sexuality. I doubt he wants a newly turned 18 year old Malia to shop around for the edgiest campus hipster to have sex with just so she can say she had sex with him. I truly believe, that like any loving father, he wants his daughters to find intelligent young men who treat them with honor, love, and respect.
Why would he promote the exact opposite to millions of other men’s daughters?
How does he plan to explain this dichotomy to Malia and Sasha?
I am sad for President Obama. He holds the highest office in the land, I believe in the world. That alone requires presence of mind, wisdom, prudence, and restraint. In this case, he has failed.
Has he surrounded himself with advisors and campaign managers who are so foolish as to believe that this type of vulgarity will actually assist him in victory?
And even if it would, is such a Pyrrhic victory worth it? I would bet that he has lost the same number of votes he has gained if not more.
Finally, I am sad that so many people think this is ok. Yes, Putin did the same thing. Not ok. Yes, the ad wasn’t really about sex, it was about voting. Not ok. Yes, it was clever and edgy and got lots of attention. Still not ok.
There is nothing about this, for any reason, at any time, that makes this ok.
When we start devaluing women’s minds by believing they can be reduced and manipulated by crude, debased, and frankly creepy attempts to win their votes, then we have strayed very far indeed from the intellectual respect half of our citizenry deserves.
My senior year at the University of Arkansas, President Clinton was running for his first term. Sitting around the Kappa lunch table, there was a lively debate going on because Girl #1 had said she was not going to vote. Girl #2, active in student government and avid Clinton supporter, was telling #1 that it was un-American not to vote, that she needed to exercise her civic responsibility, that women before us had fought for decades just for us to have the right, and she needed to honor their sacrifice. They ended up with quite an audience.
Two days passed, #1 walked back in to the dining room, and she announced that she had been convinced by #2’s impassioned argument and had decided to vote after all. #2 smiled and told her she was proud of her. #1 then said, “after researching both candidates, and thinking about which one best represents my views, I have decided to vote for George Bush.” #2 didn’t understand how she could come to this conclusion, they debated some more, but #1 stood by her decision, and they remained close friends despite their ideological disagreements.
I implore you, man or woman, young or old, to exercise your right to vote for the candidate of your choice for the exact same reasons. Please encourage others to do the same.