erin judge writes this

My photo
I'm Erin Judge. I'm a comedian and a writer. I live in Los Angeles. Let's hug.

March 11, 2013


Last year, I spent some time working as a temp, because I am a writer and a comedian and sometimes we need to scrape together some extra cash. Everybody at my temp gig knew what I did at night. One day, a guy five years younger than me told me that another guy said I could probably do the job of four of the secretaries in the office. "Uh, I could do his job," I replied. Stunned silence.

Girls is the best thing on television right now, and it's certainly the realest. I haven't written much about it, mostly because adding my voice to the din seemed unnecessary during those first crazy commentary-overloaded months. Kelly from Vice pretty much covered it: Lena Dunham is a white woman in her mid-twenties who is writing and directing a show on a major network and it's making people insane.

And now the girls themselves are going insane on the show, and it's perfect, because their dreams are mocked and the advice they're given is flat and the boys around them get so much more fucking leeway both to fuck up and to succeed. And once you leave college, girls, you're not sex-positive anymore, you're a slut. Once you leave college, you're not a leader, you're an uppity little bitch. And once you leave your liberal arts college, you're not an A student or a senior studio art major with your own thesis show or class president, you're a girl.

You're judged and categorized by your looks more than you ever imagined possible. Nobody accepts you as a protagonist. Everybody -- everybody -- feels they have the right to criticize your opinions, your choices, and your cultural contributions, all in a jarringly condescending way. Your fiction and screenplays and pilot scripts and even essays and storytelling pieces are "not relatable" because, come on, no girl really thinks that way, come on, who is this girl, come on, she's just a whore, right, come on, black girls don't talk like that, come on, the lesbians in this should be hotter, and shouldn't you really just make a web series instead of something for network since, come on, nobody is going to want to watch this story which is your story about people like you?

Every woman talking shit about Girls seems so defensive, and it's because we're so sick and tired of not being taken seriously, of having our own stories marginalized and devalued, of competing with one another for a handful of precious opportunities in the arts and entertainment. And now Girls is confronting those feelings and the truth of that experience so clearly and brilliantly, and it's perfect and cathartic and real and good and wow. (If you're not on board, I urge you to watch episodes five through nine of the current season with an open mind.)

Because look at how privileged you are, girls. Look at you, you're young and pretty and you went to college. Nobody is shooting at you or raping you when you go to collect firewood, so why can't you just get it together and stop with your white people problems, huh? Oh and we know it too! And we get so mad at ourselves for being confused and complaining and needing help and seeing injustice in the fields in which we want to work, and we feel guilty that we're upset about something so trivial as injustice in the fields in which we want to work when we're walking around with all the privilege in the world, and so we yell at ourselves for feeling frustrated and then we tick, we panic, we drink, we cut ourselves. We hurt us, sometimes badly. Because the only thing worse than the shock of how the world suddenly disregards us is how laughable it is that we're bothered by it, how selfish and childish and whiney and cunty it is to complain about something like nobody wants to publish my story, and we double-internalize it and start to destroy ourselves. Lena Dunham is nailing this on her television show right now.

If you are a woman who went to college in the last couple decades or so, odds are the real world was an incredibly rude awakening. It's traumatic, frankly. Girls knows that, and the criticism of Girls is evidence of that, because Girls is criticized both by the people who seek to marginalize us girls and by us, the girls who are marginalized, because if Girls is the one shot we get for a whole fucking generation of being heard and seen then of course we all want to feel more represented by it.

I didn't grow up in a two-parent opposite-sex middle-class household with lots of stability in a college town like Hannah Horvath did. I went to college with my own story, and I met tons of friends from all kinds of different backgrounds with all kinds of different life experiences under their belts. When it came time to graduate, despite our diverse challenges and identities upon entering college, we all encountered the startling unfairness of the real world head-on in an overwhelmingly similar way. Whether we'd grown up in a trailer park or an inner city or a sprawling suburb or the Upper West Side, we all went to college and had our ideas taken seriously and grew as people and emerged poised to be leaders and colleagues and professionals and educators and attorneys and scientists and fully-fledged humans. But in a whole lot of those arenas of life, we were suddenly just girls, and the world came down on us very hard. What we have in common is the shock of that transition, from the educational system that validated and valued us as multidimensional adults to the socio-economic "real world" system that marginalizes, mocks, judges and ignores us, that in turn labels us whiney spoiled children for merely mentioning the double-standards. To the world where a 26-year-old office guy cannot recognize 31-year-old me as a peer. To where it doesn't even occur to him to do so.

I am not complaining, kids; this is called analysis. But I do continue to be pretty surprised by it all. And I am sticking up for the reality of the pain of that experience, and I am celebrating the fact that Lena Dunham is portraying it so adeptly.

My college friends and I celebrated our 10th reunion last year, and some of us lamented how much self-esteem and ambition we'd lost since college. Maybe those of you who think Girls is a navel-gazing narcissistic Klan meeting of sorts think we never should've liked ourselves so much to begin with. We thought we were actual people. How silly of us. We were -- we are -- just girls, and our problems are not really problems. We are your wives and daughters and sisters but we are not selves, not subjects, not I, not you. I'm done with all that. You can take me or leave me. I'm determined to reconnect to the 21-year-old me who knew what a smart, sharp, powerful badass I was.

I am.

March 4, 2013

one of these girls is just like the others

Oh, to be labeled an Exceptional Female!

"You're not like other girls," goes the would-be compliment.  Because most beings like you -- female beings -- are uncool, mystifying, shallow, petty, untalented, irrational, infuriating, terrifying, dumb, insufficiently sexual, too sexual, louder, quieter, worse, lame. Not you, though. No no. Because you're not like other girls.

If you're anything like me, you hear this all the time. And if you're anything like me, you're probably the only kind of woman any dude I know ever really talks to in his day to day life. So we all hear this all the time. Which is ironic. And odds are good that we like it when we hear it, which is the whole problem, or at least the part of the problem that we as women must confront.

All of us humans love to hear that we're special, and we all really are extraordinary creatures who deserve to be seen and celebrated. And we also want to believe that we buck convention and stand out as independent thinkers, that we've figured out how to be our authentic selves while others fall prey to self-imposed stereotypes and repressive social expectations. But people with no Y chromosome make up more than half of the human species. It is only through a deep systemic misogyny that we are invited to buy the argument that by being decent or competent people we are somehow exceptional... for girls.

I tend to get this type of compliment from the men in my life with respect to my sex-positive attitudes and my unconventional stance on sexual ownership and jealousy in my own relationships. And I'm sure that, when some new girlfriend cries every time an ex-girlfriend sends a harmless text, my male friends really are driven to the end of their wits. Rightly so. Of course, there are plenty of men out there who behave in a similar way, perhaps storming off instead of bursting into tears (or however they express insecurity in their gender-normative reality). In that case, the dude in question is generally labeled insecure. In the other case, the jealous female is simply labeled as behaving "like a girl."

Here's an example of where I'm firmly in the "acting like a girl" camp: I tend to write and speak openly about the egregious underrepresentation of women in the arts and entertainment. I know for a fact that many of the most successful women working in these fields enjoy frequent public and private praise for never mentioning the gender gap. Those women get all kinds of primary and secondary benefits from being "not like other girls." The bitter pill they're inherently swallowing, though, is the logical conclusion of this "compliment:" You're definitely not like other girls, because a girl couldn't do your job.

Sometimes men in my life tell me flat out that they're not "typical" guys. And I always agree, with a nod to Socrates. The trait that truly distinguishes all of my friends and most of my acquaintances is the willingness to live an examined life. Everybody in my circle -- men, women, comics, artists, software engineers, bird scientists, doctors, lawyers, bicycle repair people, farmers, teachers, students, parents, children, friends, countrymen -- has made choices informed by a deep expression of who they are instead of what might've been dangled in front of them by society as the lowest hanging fruit. They've questioned the frameworks of traditional marriage and child-rearing, career, religion, philosophy, life, sex, and everything. None of them is strictly bound by race, culture, gender, tribe, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation. We live. We grow. We like what we like. We are.

And so, if you are such a woman, and a man (who also aims to take the road less traveled by) comments on your remarkable individuality in such a way as to suggest that other members of our sex are generally incapable of such transcendence, you must stop him. You must resist the urge to feel elevated, promoted, plucked out, exceptional. You must pause, you must question, you must urge him to formulate his impression in a different way.

Because girls, like boys, are so often remarkable. We make art and write books and formulate philosophies that rattle social conventions and force society to move and change and break and think and grow.

Smart girls and boys know girls are people.