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Lena Dunhams Not That Kind of Girl is a zeitgeisty exploration into the autobiographical genre with

a laser-like intent to explore the most fundamental and revealing aspects of being a young woman.
Organised under five broad sections, this critical response will explore the essays Grace and Sex
Scenes, Nude Scenes, and Publicly Sharing Your Body, in addition to exploring how the rise of
feminism has contributed to the essays in this book.
Grace is perhaps the most intriguing essay in the book, mostly because Dunhams sense of worth, of
her subjectivity, of her personhood, becomes defined by her little sister. At first, she is hostile, calling
her an intruder. Gradually, she asserts her role as the archetypal Older Sister, protective and
aggressively gentle, paradoxical as that may be. Grace is individualistic and does not shape herself in
reaction to her sister, but as an individual entity, an unexplainable satellite that crashed into Dunhams
bed in the dark of the night. From a readers perspective, Grace is far easier to empathise with: her
quirks drinking airplane-sampled vodka and counselling adults on their dating life present a fuller
picture in those small character sketches than Dunham seems to be able conjure in the rest of the book
about herself. We read about her sexual assault and how she would finish off her lunch with a fresh
pot of ricotta, but experiential substance does not mandate or create empathy. However, maybe that is
a pertinent reflection on the genre of autobiography: our stories are compilations of our life
experiences and our influences, and family is no doubt always involved in these aspects, at least in
our germinal years.
Sex Scenes, Nude Scenes, and Publicly Sharing Your Body is another essay that relies on her
familys experiences, generating a culmination of ideas about why she is unafraid of exposing her
naked body for the HBO world to see. Dunham couches it in semi-academic form, describing her
interest in nudity as sociological as opposed to straight-up exhibitionism. There is a poignant
extended metaphor that gracefully intertwines with this sociological approach: Dunhams mother, as
a fledgling photographer, took artistic nudes, relishing having control of the camera, therefore having
control of the situation. Dunham takes this approach in the filming of Girls. She does what her boss
tells her to do and, just so it happens, she is her boss. The Ouroboros justification is a cute moment in
this essay, despite talk of nipple hair and used condoms found in anal crevices hours later.

Of course, the advent of feminism and feminist critical theory has enabled the development of
women-focussed autobiographies and autobiographical writing in general. There is an atom of
Virginia Woolfs A Room of Ones Own in Not That Kind of Girl, or at least a squaring of the circle.
Lena Dunham, like Virginia Woolf, is a privileged white woman, and her memoirs betray that as does
her HBO TV series Girls. Dunham has this figurative room, in that her parents funded her education,
allowing her to host cheese and wine parties in her dorm room, planned and awkwardly calculated so
as to allow her to lose her virginity to Jonah, aptly named in that the Biblical Jonah was swallowed by
a whale: not a slight at her weight, but rather a comment on the intensity of Dunhams authorial voice.
Perhaps as a nod to the permissiveness of liberal feminism, Dunham titillates with her personal
narrative, writing of bedroom masturbation with her little sister sleeping next to her, of internet
predators, of casual dips into cocaine, and butt pimples. Woolf would have been crucified had she
published something analogous, but she did open the floodgates, so to speak, that allowed Dunhams
voice to be heard. Another comment on privilege: Dunham was paid millions for the book advance
alone; her parents raised her in a multi-million dollar New York loft and paid for her education at
Oberlin College; and Dunham bought a $4.8 million apartment of her own. While this liberal
feminism has allowed for womens voice to be heard, there is a question as to whether
autobiographical writing still privileges a certain class of woman.
If Dunham was, say, a black transgender lesbian, would her authorial narrative be as privileged as it is
now? Would the book advance be as high? Would this hypothetical woman have a have money and a
room of her own? On the balance of probabilities, the answer to these questions would be no.
Amongst accusations of nepotism and casual, implicit racism, Dunham has taken these criticisms
head-on. The question still remains, though: is Dunham to be castigated for being and writing herself?
Is it her fault that other womens voices arent being heard, or is it Morettis slaughterhouse of
literature that silences these voices? Perhaps this is indicative for a need for a shift in
autobiographical writing, a more open, more visionary, more transparent form of autobiography.

The issue with Dunhams autobiography in terms of thinking in this new paradigm of autobiography
is that her experiences are parody in comparison to stories that could be revealed in such
autobiographical writing. Although there is no obligation for Dunham to confront serious issues,
several of which she does, there seems to be no theme that underpins Not That Kind of Girl, as though
the colossal book advance inculcated Dunham into writing lewd anecdotes, but not really packing a
punch in terms of transcendent writing, the vein of creative non-fiction that Woolf cultivated. Dunham
is worldly, but so too is her writing. She is almost neurotic in her writing and these neuroses have
constricted her authorial voice. While the world, and the state of autobiography, has become more
permissive, it appears that Dunham has not been released by a chain, but that she has been attached to
another: the pressure to throw her life open and let us, the reader, choose the narrative for her. While
this minute detail into her sex life or her diet does not detract from the narrative, it does not do much
to augment the essays in it that are of genuine quality.