The Free Woman’s Body
Another quality of postfeminism, found in Girls is the
focus on the exclusively female body as a source of empowerment
(Adriaens). The show highlights and makes commentary on issues
that are either exclusive to or primarily affect female bodies, as well
as makes consistent choices surrounding the featuring of actresses
bodies in ways that make their femaleness undeniable. In “All
Adventurous Women Do” from the first season, Hannah’s HPV
diagnosis results in her confronting her current sexual partner,
Adam, and her college boyfriend, Elijah (Andrew Rannells), to
determine who gave her the infection. The discourse that
surrounds HPV focuses on testing for Hannah involving pap
tests and cervical scraping with a direct focus on the physical reality
of having a vagina which contrasts with HPV’s un-detectability
in men. The episode concludes with Hannah embracing HPV as a
marker of her empowered (sex) life, tweeting, “All adventurous
women do.” While the refusal to shy away from discussions of
vagina and sexually transmitted infections is commendable, the
ultimate argument of this episode is not that women face higher
stigma regarding sex, promiscuity, and STIs, nor is it truly any kind
of commentary on our discomfort with the female body and
female sexuality; it is, instead, that all one has to do to be liberated
from the anxiety surrounding sex and sexuality as a heterosexual
woman is to be courageous and to own one’s sexuality enough to
vaguely tweet about it.
Another way Girls restricts empowerment exclusively to
the female body is through the frequent exposure of Hannah’s
body, most frequently her breasts, but at times throughout the
show her entire body is put on display. Throughout the series,
Dunham has Hannah taking off her shirt on camera in both sexual
and nonsexual situations. We see her body when she has sex and
when she simply changes clothes alone in her apartment. One
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