How much would you pay to get your hands on the un-retouched photos of Lena Dunham by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz in the latest issue of Vogue? Women’s website Jezebel is willing to part with a cool $10,000.
Unhappy that the “Girls” star and creator’s “after” images in the magazine are airbrushed and Photoshopped, Jezebel (part of Gawker Media) apparently wants the “before” pics to see what Dunham really looks like.
We could ask why Jezebel would seemingly bait Vogue employees into stealing their employer’s property. But the real question is why would anyone need to glimpse the “real” Lena Dunham when we see all of her all the time? (Some would even argue that we see too much of her on her TV show.)
“This feels skeezy, kind of weird,” says Leah Berkenwald, a health communication expert who has written about women and body image issues. “This is something the paparazzi would do.”
Sarah Seltzer, a feminist writer who does online communications for the National Council of Jewish Women, agrees. “Although on one hand, this is in keeping with Jezebel’s mission to expose Photoshopping of women’s bodies, it seems absurd to go to such lengths this time,” she says. “It looks like a publicity stunt.”
According to Jezebel, the bounty has nothing to do with how it feels about Dunham or her decision to pose for Vogue.
“Lena Dunham is a woman who trumpets body positivity, who’s unabashedly feminist, who has said that her naked body is ‘a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive’ and ‘if you are not into me, that’s your problem,’” it writes. “Her body is real. She is real.”
Jezebel’s longstanding beef is with Vogue (and other fashion magazines). “This is about Vogue, and what Vogue decides to do with a specific woman who has very publicly stated that she’s fine just the way she is, and the world needs to get on board with that. Just how resistant is Vogue to that idea? Unaltered images will tell.”
Based on the huge amount of negative feedback posted on the Jezebel site, it appears that few — if any — readers are interested in becoming Dunham bounty hunters.
Some commenters are particularly unhappy about the singling out of Dunham.
“Does anyone place bounties for untouched photos from the Gwyneth Paltrows or Nicole Kidmans of the world? No, because it simply wouldn’t be as fun for Jezebel editors to place such traditionally attractive women under the same microscope…,” writes Huffington Post editor Inae Oh.
“Overall, what Jezebel has been doing to expose Photoshopping, of raising awareness that magazine covers are not a realistic reflection of celebrities or models, is a net good,” says Seltzer.
“The intention was probably to try to get at Vogue,” she says. “But what ended up happening is that Jezebel is unintentionally calling Dunham out as hypocritical for posing for the magazine.”
Neither Seltzer nor Berkenwald believe Dunham is being hypocritical. “I understand that some people would feel betrayed by her appearing in Vogue, but it is her choice,” says Berkenwald.
“Why can’t she glam it up for once?” asks Seltzer.
Berkenwald is mainly put off by the $10,000 reward. “These are interesting things to talk about, but introducing money into this is problematic,” she asserts.
It appears that Dunham herself doesn’t think it is worth talking about this at all.
She did not directly answer an inquiry via Twitter from The Times of Israel, but late on Thursday she tweeted (presumably in response to Jezebel), “Some shit is just too ridiculous to engage. Let’s use our energy wisely, 2014.”