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Vogue Only Likes Lena Dunham From the Neck Up

Posted: 01/16/2014 7:49 am

When I read rumours that Lena Dunham was going to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine, I almost screamed with joy. (I didn't, because I knew I would get stares from my co-workers.)

lena dunham vogue cover


Why the fuss? For one, we rarely, if ever, see a woman with Lena's body shape (read: not a size 2) on the cover of high fashion magazines. Don't believe me? All you have to do is look through the fashion glossy's cover archive to notice that something is amiss.

In 2013, there was not one woman on the cover of Vogue who had a figure that represented the average North American woman (and no, Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence aren't "just like us").

The second reason I was happy to hear that Dunham was getting a cover on the "Fashion Bible" was not just because she owns her quirky sense of style, but because she is a hard-working (she's writing a book and directing and acting!), talented, hilarious, creative and is truly comfortable in her skin. If anyone deserved to be on the cover of Vogue, it would be Lena Dunham (OK, and also Mindy Kaling, but we will get to her later).

So, you would think that with that incredible force of a woman, the Vogue editors would have something special planned for the cover of one of the most popular fashion magazines in the world, right? Wrong.

When the cover was released on Wednesday, I couldn't hide my disappointment. There was Lena, looking beautiful with her stylishly tousled pixie cut, her bright brown eyes highlighted by lots of mascara and eyeshadow and wearing a really cute white button-up blouse with red polka dots. But that's all we saw. We didn't get to see if she was wearing pants or a skirt or maybe even shorts -- or nothing at all! -- because the editors decided to use a close-up shot of the Girls actress.

On its own, it's a great photo and makes for a beautiful and interesting cover. Hell, I would buy it off newsstands. But here's what's pissing me off, and has been pissing me off for the past couple of months: Every actress who isn't model-thin on the cover of a fashion magazine has their body hidden by closely cropped photos or oversized clothes.

Lena isn't the first and definitely won't be the last actress to be shown sans curves. Adele, Gabourey Sidibe and Octavia Spencer are just a few other celebrity women to have their bodies cut out from underneath them as if they didn't exist.

More recently, Elle magazine was criticized last week for using a close-up photo of Mindy Kaling (a self-admitted size 8), who was one of four actresses (the others, all thin) covering the glossy's Women in TV issue and who was the only actress out of the four whose body was cropped off below the chest.

Mindy rejected the criticism and made a few good points: Why should a fashion magazine have to show a curvier woman's body on their cover just for the sake of her curves? And isn't it insulting to that woman to insist that she show off her body so that we, the reader, can feel better about ourselves?

My problem with Lena's Vogue cover, Mindy's Elle cover and all the others is this: Continually refusing to show an average woman's body on the cover of fashion magazines sets a dangerous precedent for future covers. It gives off a mixed message: Yes, we want cool, smart, funny gals on our covers but their bodies aren't good enough to show off.

Not only does it send the message that fashion editors (including one of the most influential women in the U.S., Anna Wintour) don't want to see these types of figures in their magazines, but it gives the impression that they think we, the female readers out there, doesn't want to see those bodies either.

And if we keep seeing these women's bodies deliberately hidden from us (and at this point, it seems like a deliberate choice, not just a coincidence), we will never have any other type of body to look up to other than that of the model and her celebrity doppelganger.

The message I get from these covers is one of fear; fear of Lena's and Mindy's and other non-models' bodies. I also feel their shame, that their bodies aren't beautiful enough to be celebrated in these impossibly beautiful magazines. And this makes me feel sad for the thousands, if not millions, of young women who think that they should cover up their beautiful bodies too.

I feel ashamed to be a part of an industry that continues to encourage these covers and refuses to call them out for what they are: discriminatory.

So, to my fellow fashion editors: Please consider using a full-length shot next time you use an actress who isn't "thin" on your cover. We really, really do want to see all of her body.

Loading Slideshow...
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  • November 2010

    Writer, director and actress Lena Dunham attends the premiere of 'Tiny Furniture' at The Museum of Modern Art on November 9, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by John W. Ferguson/Getty Images)

  • November 2010

    Director Lena Dunham attends IFP's 20th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on November 29, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for IFP)

  • February 2011

    SANTA MONICA, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Writer-director Lena Dunham, winner of the Best First Screenplay award for 'Tiny Furniture', at the 2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards at Santa Monica Beach on February 26, 2011 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • March 2011

    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31: Actress Lena Dunham attends the off-Broadway opening night of 'Mike Birbiglia's My Girlfriend's Boyfriend' at the Barrow Street Theatre on March 31, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

  • March 2011

    AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 12: Writer/Director/Actress Lena Dunham attends 'Girls' Greenroom Photo Op during the 2012 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Paramount Theatre on March 12, 2012 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for SXSW)

  • March 2011

    AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 12: Writer/Director/Actress Lena Dunham (L) and actor Alex Karpovsky attend 'Girls' Greenroom Photo Op during the 2012 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Paramount Theatre on March 12, 2012 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for SXSW)

  • March 2011

    AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 12: Writer/Director/Actress Lena Dunham arrives to the screening of 'Girls' during the 2012 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Paramount Theatre on March 12, 2012 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for SXSW)

  • March 2012

    In this March 29, 2012 photo, actress Lena Dunham poses for a portrait in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York. Lena is the creator and the star in the series, "Girls," premiering April 15, at 10:30p.m. EST on HBO. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

  • April 2012

    Actresses, from left, Zosia Mamet, Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham and Allison Williams pose at the premiere of the HBO original series "Girls," Wednesday, April 4, 2012 in New York. The comedy premieres April 15, at 10:30p.m. EST on HBO. (AP Photo/Starpix, Dave Allocca)

  • April 2012

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 04: Actress/creator/executive producer Lena Dunham attends the HBO with The Cinema Society host the New York premiere of HBO's 'Girls' at the School of Visual Arts Theater on April 4, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

  • April 2012

    Actress Lena Dunham attends the world premiere of "Supporting Characters" during the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 20, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

  • May 2012

    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Lena Dunham and Hamish Bowles attend the 'Schiaparelli And Prada: Impossible Conversations' Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

  • 2012

    FILE - In this publicity file photo released by HBO, the creator and star, Lena Dunham, of the HBO TV series, "Girls," is shown. Television looks like the land of female opportunity with the success of shows like "Girls" and "New Girl" and the achievements of actor-writers including Tina Fey and Lena Dunham. but making TV remains largely man's work. (AP Photo/HBO, Ali Paige Goldstein, File)

  • September 2012

    NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: (L-R) Designer Rachel Antonoff poses with her brother Jack Antonoff and Lena Dunham at the Rachel Antonoff Spring 2013 presentation at the Drive In Studios on September 8, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/Getty Images)

  • September 2012

    NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Filmmaker and actress Lena Dunham attends the Rachel Antonoff Spring 2013 presentation at the Drive In Studios on September 8, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/Getty Images)

  • September 2012

    Actress Lena Dunham arrives at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

  • September 2012

    Actress Lena Dunham arrives at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

  • November 2012

    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Lena Dunham attends the 22nd annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall on November 12, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

  • December 2012

    HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 12: Actress Lena Dunham attends the premiere Of Universal Pictures' 'This Is 40' at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on December 12, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

  • January 2013

    Walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes.

  • January 2013

    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 09: (L-R) Lena Dunham and Zosia Mamet attend the Premiere Of 'Girls' Season 2 Hosted By HBO at NYU Skirball Center on January 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

  • January 2013

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11: Writer/actress Lena Dunham attends the 13th Annual AFI Awards at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on January 11, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • February 2013

    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 02: Actress/director Lena Dunham attends the 65th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards at Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland on February 2, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

  • February 2013

    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Singer Taylor Swift (L) and actress Lena Dunham attend the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS)

  • February 2013

    NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17: Filmmaker Lena Dunham attends the 65th annual Writers Guild East Coast Awards at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill on February 17, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

  • April 2013

    On the set of "Girls."

  • April 2013

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Filmmaker Lena Dunham attends the 2013 Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 23, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

  • April 2013

    NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 29: Filmmaker Lena Dunham speaks onstage at the 2013 Actors Fund's Annual Gala Honoring Robert De Niro at The New York Marriott Marquis on April 29, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

  • April 2013

    Filming on location for 'Girls.'

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    Lena Dunham attends the premiere Judd Apatow's "This Is 40" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Dec. 12, 2012, in Hollywood.

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    Lena Dunham, director Judd Apatow and actress Aubrey Plaza attend the premiere of "This Is 40" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Dec. 12, 2012, in Hollywood.

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    Lena Dunham shows off her tattoo at the premiere of "This Is 40" on Dec. 12, 2012, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

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