So, Um, Why Did The Girls Girls Do A Reading Of Emily Doe’s Essay?

Emily Doe's essay for Glamour, published a day after the mag announced it would include the anonymous sexual assault survivor in its roundup of Women of the Year nominees (see also: Bono), is a moving and eloquently written triumph of spirit. Doe — not her real name, of course — has become a symbol of hope, strength, and determination across the world since speaking her mind at the culmination of the trail of her Stanford University assailant. She also happens to be a beautifully articulate writer, capable of giving voice to sentiments that assault survivors, and really just human beings, need to hear. "Victims are not victims, not some fragile, sorrowful aftermath," she writes. "Victims are survivors, and survivors are going to be doing a hell of a lot more than surviving." It's powerful and important stuff. But did we really need to hear the Girls cast do a reading of her essay? My two cents in a very small nutshell: nope. Through no fault of their own, it's impossible to separate Lena Dunham, Zosia Mamet, Allison Williams, or Jemima Kirke from the Girls phenomenon. They've come to represent a certain kind of millennial woman and to "speak" for that kind of woman's experiences. Hell, Lena Dunham's character, Hannah Horvath, says in the pilot episode that she wants to be the "voice of her generation." And while yes, I know that was a line in the script, no one bothered to ask that generation if they wanted to elect these women as representatives in the first place. As someone who gets lumped into the Girls demo, I am here to tell you that Hannah Horvath and her crew of friends are not representative of even a sliver of Brooklyn women's existence. (I should know, after all.) But I am also here to tell you that, when four actresses read someone else's story out loud, they cannot avoid performing it, which is what this reading sounds like: a performance of a powerful script. Or an early reading of an update to the Vagina Monologues. I'm sure that the writer who is Emily Doe agreed to have these four famous women read her essay on video — this isn't a consent issue. But there's an argument to be made about how the anonymity itself is powerful, and universalizes the message. To a degree, sexual assault narratives are always some part synecdoche: individual experiences extrapolated to communicate what the whole is up against. But I didn't need to hear it secondhand from a group of famous actresses; it was enough to read what Emily Doe wrote. She said what she wanted to say. Her story doesn't need another narrator.

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