THE BLOG

Being a Public Figure Doesn't Make Your Body Public Property

01/16/2014 12:14 EST | Updated 03/18/2014 05:59 EDT

Two things really pissed me off this week, and I'm grateful for every moment I feel incensed about things that have nothing directly to do with me.

The first is the response to Lisa Boncheck Adams' battle with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. The second is Lena Dunham's apparent unacceptable and random naked body. Both involve personal choices. But they are public figures, and that seems to entitle whoever feels they have value to add, to have a go at them.

As someone who's fighting cancer right now, and as someone who has written about and been trashed for my own nudity, I thought I'd weigh in.

This week, NYT columnist Bill Keller wrote a piece about Lisa Adams. He attacked her choice to keep fighting her cancer, and implied that her battle metaphor demeaned others not quite as militaristic as she is. I guess Keller is a big pacifist. While he claims that he supports Adams, and wishes everyone had access to the kind of options she has at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, his judgment of her is transparent and contemptible

Keller actually compares the mother of three in her early 40's to his own father-in-law, who died gracefully of cancer at 78 saying:

"His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America."

Lisa, we can thus deduce, is behaving dishonourably. She's a loud pushy American who won't go quietly, and is costing a fortune "...including not just constant maintenance and aggressive treatment, but such Sloan-Kettering amenities as the Caring Canines program, in which patients get a playful cuddle with visiting dogs. (Neither Adams nor Sloan-Kettering would tell me what all this costs or whether it is covered by insurance.)"

So not only is Lisa being greedy in her Amazonian fight for life, but she has the gall to want the comfort of a puppy on top of it.

"Adams is the standard-bearer for an approach to cancer that honours the warrior. It's an approach that may raise false hopes, and that, implicitly, seems to peg patients like my father-in-law as failures."

Interesting, since Lisa herself once tweeted about the lack of strength, or failure that might be implied in not having a flash mob dance party minutes before undergoing a double mastectomy, as Deborah Cohan did, at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco.

Point is, everyone is different. Strength, courage, stamina, grace, honour -- who gets to define those? Keller, I guess, or Steven Goodman, an associate dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, who cringes at the combat metaphor. Clearly we need to take note when an associate dean of medicine at Stanford, cringes.

And we also need to be concerned when Tim Molloy, entertainment journalist at The Wrap, is not turned on. At a Girls panel at the Television Critics Association's winter conference, he said to Dunham:

"I don't get the purpose of all the nudity on the show. By you particularly. I feel like I'm walking into a trap where you say no one complains about the nudity on Game of Thrones, but I get why they're doing it. They're doing it to be salacious. To titillate people. And your character is often naked at random times for no reason."

Now, if Hannah Horvath left her apartment and went to the post office naked, that could possibly be construed as random. But nudity in your own house, in the bath, or in your relationships: not so clear. As for Game of Thrones, it's hard to say, because those aren't my times, so they get to do nudity whenever and argue it's historically contextual, never random.

Mr. Molloy seems a) to have used his outside voice and b) to have been placed on the wrong panel. Did he really just tell Lena Dunham that unless her body gives him a boner, it has no place on TV? Nudity serves no other purpose? Everyone finds the same thing erotic? Women with certain types of bodies need to keep them hidden?

Where to begin with how problematic his comments are.

So here are my two tips to Bill and Tim. 1) Go cringe in private. 2) Consider that, given the diversity of people on the planet, there might be more than one right way to go about most things.

And to Lisa and Lena, You go girls. You are inspiring and bold.

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