Is Jezebel bullying Lena Dunham?

Jezebel puts out a $10,000 bounty on Lena Dunham's unretouched Vogue photos.
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Warren L. Waterman, January 17, 2014 11:37:50 AM

Wanted: original, unretouched, pre-photoshop copies of Lena Dunham‘s Vogue photos. Reward: $10,000. That’s the offer the feminist-leaning, celebrity-centric website Jezebel made in the wake of the release of the February issue of Vogue.

It had long been rumoured that the magazine was going to feature Girls star and creator Dunham on its cover, a move that was welcomed by many who are a) fans of Dunham’s work; and b) fans of seeing someone other than a size 0 model/actress on the cover of a women’s magazine. But, like Melissa McCarthy and Mindy Kaling before her, Dunham’s plus-sized body on the cover of a fashion mag has stirred up some plus-sized controversy.

Let’s be clear: Dunham’s Vogue photos are the kind of beautiful, high-fashion shots that Anna Wintour‘s magazine is known for. They’ve also undergone the kind of extreme (sometimes bordering on ridiculous) photoshopping that Anna Wintour’s magazine is, uh, also known for.

In one photo, Dunham seems to be missing an arm, and in all the photos she appears to have been slimmed down to a degree beyond the capabilities of a simple pair of Spanx. Sure, this is what Vogue does – they smooth out the lumpy, bumpy bodies of mere mortals, making them appear perfect in the pages of their magazine. The problem with doing that to Dunham is that it seems to go against everything she and her show stand for.

That said, the offer made by Jezebel is unfair and borders on bullying. Their attempt to pay thousands of dollars for photographer Annie Leibovitz‘s original photos of the actress is unprecedented. There are examples of ridiculous, offensive photoshop jobs all over the internet – whole websites have been dedicated to the problem. It should be sufficient to point out that photos have been altered (as if Dunham’s missing arm didn’t immediately tip you off) and then to subject them to the criticism they deserve. But the bounty that Jezebel has put out on the photos implies some sort of twisted sense of ownership over the actress (she’s one of us!), women’s bodies, and Dunham’s body type in particular.

The fact that their call for the photos was answered (and that they then made gifs of the retouched vs. untouched photos) is even more disappointing.

The actress isn’t having any of it.

Even Gawker, Jezebel‘s parent site, countered with a mocking offer of their own that highlights the hypocrisy of a feminist website offering to pay for Dunham’s “fat” photos. $50 (and a bottle of Captain Morgan) goes to the insider who can produce unretouched photos of Dunham’s co-star Adam Driver and a goat, the subjects of a Vogue photo shoot from 2013. I, for one, can’t wait to find out if that seemingly size 2 goat actually had love handles.

Image: Courtesy Vogue

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Warren L. Waterman

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