02/10/2013 09:12 am ET Updated Apr 12, 2013

Naked If I Want To: Lena Dunham's Body Politic

In Hollywood, it seems you're only allowed to be naked if you're Megan Fox. If you're not, you had better be apologetic about it, like Melissa McCarthy in "Mike & Molly." But God forbid you're a woman with an unconventionally beautiful body and you're okay with it. That's when people like Howard Stern start to get hysterical: Lena Dunham, whom the radio host described as a "little fat girl who kind of looks like Jonah Hill" and likened her taking off her clothes to rape, has become a feminist heroine largely due to the fact that she unapologetically parades her naked body across the TV screen. Dunham has been both derided and deified for baring her unconventionally beautiful figure throughout both seasons of her HBO series. (And don't expect her to stop anytime soon, she told Entertainment Weekly in a February cover story: "My point with getting naked is never proven.") And through her performance, she has established a new body ideal. Carolee Schneemann, the feminist artist who originated nude performance art in the '60s and was dubbed "body beautiful" for her stunning figure, believes Dunham does more than add a dose of reality to the "deformations" - "the swollen puffed up lips, the emaciated shapes, the huge inflated boobs" - that populate Tinseltown. "There's nothing deformed about Dunham," she said. "She's the ideal of normal."

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