On Tuesday night, Lena Dunham accepted an award for her resilient uterus. She and Susan Sarandon, both endometriosis patients, were honored at the Endometriosis Foundation of America’s annual Blossom Ball and recognized for raising awareness of the health issue.
The oft-misdiagnosed disorder, in which the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus and sticks to other organs, has affected many celebrity women: Hillary Clinton, Padma Lakshmi (EFA’s co-founder), Jenni Konner, Whoopi Goldberg, Khloe Kardashian, Nicole Kidman, Marilyn Monroe, and many others.
Before Dunham’s acceptance speech, which appears below, award presenter Allison Williams traced Dunham’s diagnosis and recovery during the filming of Girls. She started with this scathing gem of an open letter to Dunham’s endometriosis:
Dear endometriosis…Screw you. Screw you for making my friend, Lena Dunham, feel pain, worry and weakness. Screw you for inflicting pain on this brilliant writer, advocate, producer, actress, editor, activist, director, daughter, sister, friend and girlfriend. Her revenge will be living life like you never existed, and we will do everything in our power to make sure that that happens. We are going to delete you from her addressbook, we’re going to tell her we never liked you in the first place. We’re going to say we ran into you and you looked weird and awful. The women in this room, and everyone in Lena’s life, are going to make you miserable until you slink away and cease to cause her pain. She is too good for you, as are all of the women here, so leave them alone, OK? Love ya, Allison.
Dunham went onstage to accept the award and gave the following speech, in which she opened up about sharing the struggle with other women. It’s worth a read.
I guess I would probably have preferred an award for, like, pole-vaulting, or an Oscar. I guess I’d like to start by thanking my uterine tissue for growing in places that it shouldn’t. I’d like to give a shout out to my fallopian tubes for their hard work through this. I’d like to thank my ovaries, you know I love you, ovaries, even though you’ve acted pretty bitchy and weird for the last 15 years. And most of all I’d like to thank my bladder and my urethral sphincter for really, like, holding up through some rough times this year.
So, I’m feeling really good, my team’s just been amazing, and I’ve got to give love to my team. But seriously, this means so much to me. I’m not a doctor, I don’t even play one on TV, but I’ve been given the unique opportunity to have an audience to share this struggle with. One that’s so private and so painful, emotionally and physically, for so many women.
I’m also in a position of extreme privilege. I can create my own schedule, I have the financial resources to seek medical care outside of my insurance network, and I even have insurance in the first place. I can take the time I need to recover without worrying about rushing back to my minimum-wage job to feed my children. I’m also lucky that my parents, Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons, who are here with me tonight, have always encouraged me to speak up when something feels bad and wrong, when I needed answers. And they’ve picked me up off the floor countless times over the last 15 years, and I love them not just as parents, but as friends.
So here’s the part where I ask you for money. I’m not going to like brag, but it’s not like a small amount of money, so just be cool. Padma says it’s a lot, and I’m not as rich as some people think I am, so it’s a big sacrifice on my part and I feel really good about it. I hope you will, too, because guess what? Medical research is really misogynistic. Endo affects about 10 percent of women, and last year the NIH only spent less than $10 million on research. They have sunk far more money into diseases that affect far fewer people, and I think we all know that’s because of the stigma that surrounds reproductive health in this country. So let’s let our dollars speak and give to a cause that may or may not seem sexy or essential to some, but hey, what is sexier or more essential than vibrant, healthy women?
Reported by Renata Sellitti.