Lena Dunham Pitches For Hillary, But Are Women Listening?

At two ‘Women For Hillary’ events in New Hampshire, the Girls star spoke passionately for Clinton—even if many in the audience hadn’t picked their preferred candidate.

01.09.16 5:10 AM ET

MANCHESTER, N.H. — It was only a matter of time before Lena Dunham made her Hillary Clinton campaign trail debut.

And it was with predictable subtlety that the Girls creator approached her first event for the former first lady: wearing a navy sweater dress with “Hillary” embroidered across her chest and white stars around the neck and hem, along with a white crochet beret and pair of red patent Mary Janes. 

The occasion was a “Women For Hillary” event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Friday, where some 230 people jostled to get close to Dunham—who this week confirmed the sixth season of Girls would be the last—inside a down-home bar and restaurant. 

The 29-year-old actress and activist addressed an almost uniformly female crowd, explaining her own political résumé—from doing a PSA for President Obama’s 2012 campaign to joining Hillary Clinton’s coterie of celebrity surrogates—and why they should support Clinton in the state’s upcoming primary.

Other celebrities campaigning for Clinton include Katy Perry, who performed at a Clinton rally in Iowa in October, and U.S. women’s soccer star Abby Wambach, who appeared with Dunham on Friday.

At a second rally in Manchester, Dunham claimed that Clinton has endured “horrific gender attacks on every aspect of her character,” which demonstrated that “that our country has so much hatred towards successful women.” And as a successful and “newly grown up woman who has experienced my fair share of backlash, public shaming, body shaming, and puritanical judgments, that really fucking moves me.”

“It’s no secret that women’s rights matter to me. That’s why my Twitter feed is littered with so much heinous violence,” Dunham said in a joking tone, despite the fact that she wasn’t joking. “Women’s rights matter to me because, as Hillary Clinton said, women’s rights are human rights.

“We often think globally when it comes to women’s issues,” Dunham continued, “but it’s important to remember how many assaults women face every day in this country. Hillary Clinton’s commitment to reproductive justice, wage equality, and protecting working mothers is completely unparalleled.” 

Dunham has been stumping for Clinton since the September launch of her Lenny newsletter, which frequently reads like a love letter to the Democratic frontrunner; the debut edition featured an exclusive—and fawning—interview with her.

And on Friday, she revisited many of issues covered in that interview: student debt, universal health care, campus sexual assault, gun control, and “how committed [Clinton] is to the Black Lives Matter movement.” 

Later, one young black woman praised Dunham for referencing the movement. 

“You hear it a lot with Bernie, but you don’t hear it with other candidates and other advocates,” Joanna Kelly, 28, told me. “I live in and come from one of the whitest states in America. It’s very easy to brush aside an issue when you don’t think it’s going to matter to a majority of voters sometimes.” 

Despite winning New Hampshire in 2008, Clinton has been struggling to get out ahead of Bernie Sanders, the firebrand progressive senator from neighboring Vermont.

Sanders has a 13 percentage point lead in the Granite State, according to a new Fox News poll. 

On Friday, it seemed that more people were there for Dunham than they were for Clinton. Indeed, almost everyone I spoke to said they were still undecided about whether they would vote for Sanders or Clinton on Feb. 9, though those working for the Clinton campaign urged attendees to sign “commit to vote” cards for the New Hampshire caucus. 

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“I adore Hillary but I’m still on the fence,” said Melissa Paly, a middle-aged woman from Portsmouth. “I’m very excited about Bernie’s campaign and the issues he’s been raising, and the movement he’s been putting on this primary. But I think Hillary is so smart and so experienced. I don’t think there’s anyone in this race who even comes close to the kind of knowledge and grit that she has.” 

This was a common refrain amongst the event’s attendees: Hillary is “brilliant” and “whip-smart,” which makes up for some of her less appealing qualities in the eyes of more progressive voters. 

Karen Rosenberg, 54, said she’s “more of a socialist, so Bernie Sanders’s focus on income inequality really speaks to me. I wish Hillary wasn’t so entwined with the financial structure, but that’s also why she’s doing so well.” 

Rosenberg and her friend were waiting near the door at the second event in Manchester, cellphones at the ready to snap a picture of Dunham walking in. Both women confessed they were huge fans of Girls and had come to the event to see its creator in the flesh. 

“I want to adopt her,” Rosenberg said of Dunham. “She’s so smart and creative and observant. Have you seen Tiny Houses?” she asked, referring to Tiny Furniture, Dunham’s 2010 debut as a screenwriter. 

Dunham’s appearance in Manchester was all too short. She had to catch a flight to Chicago, she told the crowd, where she’d be doing “more of the same!” Rosenberg and her friend managed to get a selfie with Dunham as she came out of her dressing room.