Vaginal anxiety and other issues: reviewing Not That Kind of Girl

The unapologetic narcissism that has become a staple for most people born after 1985 is packaged neatly and entertainingly in <em>Not That Kind of Girl,</em> Lena Dunham&rsquo;s first book.

Dunham is a household name thanks to her hugely successful HBO series, <em>Girls,</em> of which I am a fan. The show arguably gave her the platform to share her personal essays and gets her that much closer to her <em>Girls</em> character Hannah&rsquo;s aspiration of being &ldquo;the voice of her generation.&rdquo; Dunham has spoken several times reminding people that that was her character talking, not her. But Dunham&rsquo;s wit and willingness to share her personal stories puts her in the running for the title of the more vague &ldquo;voice of <em>a</em> generation.&rdquo;

I&rsquo;ll be honest, reading the first few chapters of the book made me think Dunham&rsquo;s narcissism was pretty irritating. Why is this 20-something assuming people care about her OCD and sexual anxieties? And then a third of the way through, I had to admit that I did care; I&rsquo;m not sure what that says about me as a reader. I&rsquo;m choosing to read a privileged white girl&rsquo;s diary instead of memoirs of, say, Malala Yousafzai. Even just in the realm of feminist literature, Roxane Gay and Caitlin Moran arguably have more to offer than a waspy girl who grew up in a Soho loft.

But I think that is kind of the point of Lena Dunham &ndash; she is writing what she knows, following the most basic rule for writers. At no point in her book does she try to be more insightful than she is; she is telling her story, that of a privileged, bleeding-heart liberal, anxiety-ridden girl who, in her 20-something years, has had more than a few hiccups. Albeit very first-world hiccups.

Growing up a &ldquo;weird&rdquo; kid, dealing with OCD and other psychological issues, heading to college inexperienced and unconfident when it came to love and sex, and extremely self-centered; these are the traits that plague mine and younger generations. It was a little comforting to read someone&rsquo;s open and honest account of growing up with these &ldquo;first world problems.&rdquo;

She divulges embarrassing and confusing moments from her childhood that most of us have buried away out of shame. She talks about the moments she realized she had, in fact, been raped, and she is not afraid to share her emotional dependence on her parents and the boys she&rsquo;s shared her bed with.

This book is not for everyone, and Lena Dunham is not for everyone, but she knows that and was not trying to write something universal.

She&rsquo;s been turned into the face of so-called &ldquo;white girl feminism&rdquo; and criticized widely for ignoring the deeper issues of feminism. But I&rsquo;d blame that more on the media attention she receives than on her herself. I think she embodies a lost New York girl with superficial, though real, problems and is just trying to be that.

She shares her experience with an openness few people would be willing to &ndash; seriously, there are a lot of cringe worthy moments &ndash; and for that, all of the 21st century, upper-middle class, pseudo-feminists should rejoice.


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