Lena Dunham’s Mom Sparks Debate About Sexuality and Feminism in This Photo Series

by Samantha Albala


Lena Dunham’s mother, Laurie Simmons, is an artist known for her work with tiny models (hence Lena’s movie Tiny Furniture), and dolls. Her work has evolved over the years from miniatures to life size, and now, real life (modeling a doll’s life). You may remember her recent photography set, The Love Doll where a sex doll was posed in normal everyday scenes. This is fairly different. 

This set is called Kigurumi, Dollers and How We See

The above photo is from the How We See section of the series. Inspired from an anime convention of painting eyes on eyelids, it plays with the idea that women are expected to be visual objects while being blind to what is around them.

In fact much of this series seems to be making that connection. As David Berry said, “It also seems to be a fairly incisive critique of femininity in our society, a space where women are still strongly encouraged to be visual objects without strong viewpoints of their own.” 


The Kigurumi part of the name comes from a type of live action cosplay that involves dressing head to toe in a vinyl bodysuit, plasticized wigs, and masks, which she had commissioned by a cosplayer in Russia. Simmons coupled this with latex fetish wear. The coupling of the erotic with the playful illustrates the constant pressure society places on women regarding their sexuality, namely the dichotomy of needing to be both the madonna and the whore.

Keeping with the blindness theme, most of the models, who were of all genders, couldn’t see throughout the shoot, requiring a guide to walk around set. Simmons commented to Berry “That [it] would make you feel more vulnerable, and more helpless. When you’re in costume, you’re a little bit enslaved, dependent on being led around a little bit” 


Simmons also explores the connotation of the Selfie phenomenon in the series. The personal portrait, although occassionally fun and empowering, is a strange aspect of today’s approval-seeking culture. With cell phone cameras constantly within reach and a multitude of social media platforms on which to post the picture, there is no point in ignoring that the Selfie is here to stay, but artists, like Simmons, will continue to explore its reflection on our social and cultural mores.

“It turns back on how women are seen, how they see themselves: the way that women kind of need more and more armor to interact with the world. I also thought about it as a phenomenon of the age we live in. More and more of our life is lived online, and more and more we’re interacting with people whose identities are unclear to us…” Simmons says.  

“In the last decade the boundaries separating identity and persona have become increasingly blurred- as individuals ‘present’ their BEST selves to their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers. One tilt of the iPhone can make the difference between a glamorous, funny or obscene selfie. I wonder about the fuzzy space between who “we” are to ourselves and the “we” that is invented, constructed and expressed using the readily available tools of the 21st century? Aren’t we all playing dress-up in some part of our lives?” –Simmons

It is certainly something to think about. Go to Simmons’ site to see the whole set, and let us know what you think in the comments below. 

 Photos c/o of Laurie Simmons and National Post

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