Lena Dunham Feels Bad That She Cries At Work

Photo: Gregg DeGuire/ Getty Images.
Is it ever okay to cry at work? Gloria Steinem seems to think so.

In the latest issue of Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner's email newsletter, the feminist icon answers the Lenny Questionnaire. Dunham explains in the intro that this is an updated adaptation of the famous Proust personality quiz, though it really feels like a super-intimate conversation between two smart women. On the eighth question ("When was the last time you cried?"), Steinem initially gives a happy answer, and the Girls creator expresses the hope that she'll cry less as she gets older. But Steinem isn't so sure:

"I don’t know about you, but if I really get angry, I cry. Does that happen to you?" Steinem asks Dunham.

"Always. I find it really embarrassing," Dunham says. You can almost hear the sound of relief in her voice. Or maybe I'm just projecting my own relief in reading that Gloria Steinem, who is a total badass, cries when she gets angry. (More than once, I have hidden in a bathroom stall at work, crying hot tears of pure frustration.)

Dunham goes on to relate a story of a male coworker who frequently makes her so angry she just starts crying. She gets really upset when it happens, because she feels like the tears are a sign the man has won the argument. Steinem suggests that crying is powerful, but admits she's not good at owning it herself. She does, however, urge Dunham to do so: "Why don’t you do what I can’t do?" Steinem says. "Say: 'This is how I get angry.'"

Steinem isn't the only tough woman who has encouraged tears in the workplace. Sheryl Sandberg has admitted to crying at the office, though there are many powerful female bosses who think that's not a great idea. While crying has certainly been considered a sign of weakness in the past, it's heartening to read that impressive women like Dunham and Steinem can be crazy-successful and still cry when they're angry.

As women's numbers grow in the workforce, we shouldn't be expected to just mold our personalities so we act like our male colleagues. There's power in vulnerability, and it's time to start encouraging women to own their emotions at work — the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Though we're not suggesting it should be all waterworks, all the time.) The world your career won't end if you occasionally shed a few tears, but it might if you hide your authentic self.
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