Image via Latina Magazine
If you missed Lena Dunham’s appearance on Saturday Night Live, you’re not alone. Last week’s show was one of the least watched of the season. Fortunately for you, at least you missed the bizarre, humor-free Planned Parenthood advertisement disguised as an SNL skit.
In the skit (which you can watch here), Dunham appears as a successful white person hosting a jewelry party for her successful white friends from work. The nice white people have also invited their new coworker, Marisol, a naive woman from Venezuela who speaks loudly in poor English and dresses flamboyantly. Joining Marisol at the party is her boyfriend, a dorky “male rights activist” who somehow tricked her into coming to America to date him. Lena and her friends quickly realize the true nature of the boyfriend’s work to protect higher wages for men and shut down abortion clinics. Marisol is too stupid to understand what’s REALLY going on so Lena saves the day by exposing him to Marisol in slow, broken English. They explain the Planned Parenthood clinics were actually “good things” and that she’s been deceived. Marisol kicks out her boyfriend and celebrates with her rich, white saviors.
The most obvious problem with the skit was how painfully unfunny it was. SNL is often hit or miss but this one was cringe-worthy in its lack of humor. The second problem, noted here, is the falsehoods in the thinly veiled pitch for Planned Parenthood.
But the bigger problem, I think, is the view of women Dunham has adopted. She is convinced every intelligent woman supports abortion. This is why she chose the jewelry party setting for the skit; to showcase all of the business-suited women. Look at all these successful, educated women who are OBVIOUSLY pro-choice! In Dunham’s mind, the only people who would oppose abortion rights are men who want to control women’s’ wages and bodies. Men like the skit’s male rights activist. The problem with this view is that a majority of American women are actually pro-life. So how does Lena Dunham account for this? Marisol! Poor, stupid, uneducated, immigrant Marisol. The woman can barely speak English! Of COURSE, she was tricked by a malevolent MAN.
Now, the racist element of this skit was so obvious and so offensive, it’s really baffling NO ONE in the SNL writer’s room thought to say, “Maybe we shouldn’t make the only Latina character really loud, stupid, and oblivious?”
Behind the racism, however, is the more generally offensive implication about all women. Any woman who opposes abortion, Dunham suggests, does not do so because she is a smart and compassionate human being who has examined the issue and made up her own mind. Instead, pro-life women are simply too stupid to know any better. If they would just listen to her, she could save them from their own ignorance and the clutches of misogynists!
This position is so ridiculous it’s not even worth arguing against. I’ll just say, if I were Lena Dunham, I would maybe pick a different tactic for my crusade. I’ll also say the pro-life women I know are intelligent, well-informed, and compassionate. They don’t need me to patronize them and they certainly don’t need Lena Dunham to do it either.
Edit: As some kind folks have pointed out, Lena Dunham was just the host of this episode and may not have been the writer behind this skit. I mostly just used her name her for two reasons: 1. It was a lot easier than listing all dozen or so SNL writers. 2. I’ve heard her speak on this subject before and I’m fairly certain the views I described are hers. Still, I don’t mean to demonize this one woman. I mostly wanted to criticize the idea behind the skit and I’m sorry if I didn’t communicate that well.