After posting an essay about her failed IVF treatments, Lena Dunham tweeted: “Thank you for the kindness and vulnerability many have shown in response to my @harpers magazine article on infertility. Once again reminded of how unifying the sharing of painful truths can be and that we are never alone in our pain.
But some members of the extremely online infertility community have an answer: Speak for yourself.
In “False work”, the former Girls star writes about “leaving motherhood” at the age of 34. Due to chronic endometriosis, Dunham had his cervix, uterus and an ovary removed three years ago; she has since explored the adoption process and IVF. She compares “[scrolling] via adoption websites as if they were furniture stores ”and describes the late night searches on the hashtag“ #IVFWarriors ”.
She portrays the women who open up about their fertility on Instagram as a cult: “IVF warriors cry together, and when they are successful, the women celebrate in a whirlwind of pink and blue, while allowing some of their friends of IVF to be too. shaken by the news to attend the baby shower or, maybe, to talk to them again.
As the self-proclaimed arbiter of millennial privilege, Dunham believes these women live in a rarefied, exclusive and very white world. (White women are statistically more likely to seek treatment, although it is a racist myth that women of color do not suffer from infertility, and many black women are talking candidly about it online.)
Now the #IVFWarriors Dunham has written about referring to his piece as simply “the essay”. If Instagram captions and comments could speak, some of those responses would be a growl.
“She was so ignorant and lacked basic empathy for those struggling with infertility,” Millie Brooks, a 35-year-old Bay Area woman who hosts a “Me, Myself, & Millie” podcast on different paths to parenthood. “She used this community when she paraded and sought relief, support and solace. Then [in this essay] she just took a big shit on our chest with the way she was laughing at us.
Like much of Dunham’s work, the essay attempts to explore a community aligned with popular feminism and is meant to be humorous. But Brooks isn’t laughing. In a widely shared Instagram post, Brooks held up a sign that read, “Lena Dunham is not my voice.”
She first read the article with four other women she met online and chats with the Marco Polo instant messaging app on a regular basis. Someone in my group texted, ‘Problematic Lena Dunham strikes again,’ Brooks said. ‘But this time it was with a very vulnerable community, of which she is a part.
After Dunham equated adoption with buying furniture in the first paragraph of her article, Brooks said, “She lost me as a reader. I was like, ‘It’s going to be hard to come back from this. It was just a very Lena Dunham-y article; instead of emphasizing, she criticizes, and takes off her clothes, raises her middle finger and says, “Goodbye.” It was just a very ‘for her’ outing.
Jess Veit, who goes through @ mamainthemaking21.22, said of DM that while she doesn’t want to speak for the entire IVF community, “For me personally, [the essay] has been a huge hit in the gut.
“I didn’t like her choice of words and felt like she was making fun of our community,” Veit added. “That’s all I have the energy to say at this point. [It was just a] very unpleasant article in my opinion, especially from someone who needed medical intervention to conceive.
Dunham wrote of women who experience miscarriages buying reborn dolls – “hyperrealistic dolls … made to the size and likeness of fetuses that have been lost due to miscarriage or stillbirth” .
“The dolls are ‘brought into the world’ in a ceremony called unboxing and sometimes played as if they were real babies, a practice that is either therapeutic or delusional, depending on who you ask. (There are many YouTube videos of the practice – you can decide for yourself.), ”She wrote.
Brooks said her DMs had “erupted” with issues from women in the #miscarriage community. “There was a mocking tone and a quality that she spoke about that was so insulting,” Brooks said. “Why would she even go there?” (One could answer: journalistic curiosity.)
Since the premiere of HBO Girls in 2012, Dunham’s work received relentless criticism. Many viewers are unable to divorce Dunham from Hannah Horvath, the self-obsessed main character she played in the series.
The confusion was compounded by the many times Dunham lacked any semblance of self-awareness, making one wonder where the parody ends and the person begins. In 2016, she told a podcaster that she “wished” to have an abortion because then she could help standardize the procedure. Dunham later apologized for making an “unpleasant joke”.
Along with Brooks, many women have taken to Twitter to criticize Dunham’s essay. “It is extremely odious to other women who have struggled with fertility,” wrote one. “Your article painted the community in a terrible way,” said another. “I don’t feel supported at all by this. Came as bitter.
“The shame of the ‘warriors’ here is disgusting,” added another. “Your journey is yours, but there is no need to tear down the others who are doing all they can to overcome it.”
Dunham might believe that ‘we are never alone in our pain’, but now she faces the reaction of those who feel her work reduces a deeply personal decision to her own singular experience of navigating a confusing and costly process as a that rich celebrity with a lot of material advantages.
In the end, Dunham’s words say more about herself than an entire group of women, although the brilliant coverage of her failed treatments in celebrity magazines like People assures that she will become “the face” of this procedure for many.
All of this “hurts” women like Brooks, who views the online infertility faction as a vital Internet presence. “Personally, I have never found a more tolerant, understanding, supportive and helpful community in my life – with a group of strangers,” she said.
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