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The Trials and Tribulations of TMI

In a recent interview with Rosie O’Donnell on “The View,” Lena Dunham dished on love, art, and her new novel Not That Kind of Girl.  In closing the discussion regarding her book’s dedication to both Nora Ephron and her boyfriend Jack Antonoff (lead guitarist for Fun), Dunham states, “It can be tough to share stuff that private, but I guess that’s what book dedications are for.”  In true journalist fashion, Rosie O’Donnell catches the bait and continues on the topic, one that has garnered a handful of criticism that surrounds Dunham: “A lot of people have accused you, as they’ve accused me, of the TMI.  That…we share too much; that we are oversharers.  Would you say that’s a sexist perspective?”  Not even allowing a second of deliberation to pass, Dunham responds passionately, “I mean have you ever heard someone say TMI to a man?”  And in true Hannah Horvath eloquence, “…so for me too much information is one of the most offensive phrases in the English language and if someone says it to me I am immediately sure that we are not going to be friends.”

Before this video, we had never questioned our friends’ usages of “TMI.” On more casual terms, the phrase is a social tick: It’s merely a way to steer clear of the raunchy details of your friends’ Wednesday night escapades. For example:

–“Oh my gosh, Tim Riggins and I had the most incredible night last night. First, he dimmed the lights, then he lit the candles, then…”–“Girlfriend. TMI.”

But “TMI” isn’t always used lightly: it also serves as a silencer, especially for women. Too often, we hear on the news, read on Facebook, or see on TV, women who are portrayed as emotional hysterics who spill their hearts out to every newscaster or soap opera star about the trivial details of their everyday lives. Recall the hysteria that resulted from a commonplace Glamour photo shoot featuring Olivia Wilde sharing her organic breastfeeding sentiments?  The overarching responses: TMI, Wilde, keep it for Sudeikis.  Or how about Sofia Vergara on the resulting happiness when someone confuses her son for her boyfriend? “I love that!  Especially when they say he’s my brother.”  Huff Post, in response, looks to Vergara directly saying, “perhaps better to keep quiet.” 

And it continues, TMI to tweets (here’s to you Katy Perry, we feel that Midol madness) and even truthful interview answers (Heidi Klum, we appreciate those adventurous sexcapades, thanks for the inspiration).

TMI evidently has been culturally morphed into a phrase we use to dissuade women from “over-sharing” and exposing too much about themselves to other people. Yes, stereotypes tell us that women are the more emotional sex, but speaking one’s mind – freely, in that matter – should never equate to “too much information.”

Considering Dunham’s vocabulary, “too much information” is nothing more than a cultural construct that projects demeaning stereotypes onto women. Instead of forcing us to go outside our expressive comfort zone, it squashes our equal right for expression and dare we say, constitutional freedom of speech. And like Dunham asserts in her interview, we rarely hear someone say “too much information” to a man. While TMI has become a staple in the spheres of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Dunham’s argument holds true in the real world –it has become one of the most offensive phrases in the English language, due in part to our cultural perpetuation of the expression. Sitting on the first floor of the library at Bucknell, we often hear the courtyard-hoarding men boast about their previous night with Tim Riggins’ respective Lyla Garrity play by play, hand placement to leg placement, and neither engaged counterpart tells the other to keep it to themselves. Jason Mraz tweets about his bodily functions and 763 gas enthusiasts retweet. Proclaimed “chronic masturbator” James Franco is just expressing his natural desires, not getting the eye shielding, ear closing action that female celebs alike have received after mentioning details about their married sex life debacles. 

It is clear that the notion of TMI is reserved for females, like Dunham who use life experiences to relate to their supporters through writing books, tweeting at followers, or even conversing intimately on nationally broadcasted talk shows.  Although we have successfully delineated the obvious creation of gendered restraint on over-sharing, we cannot help but question, where does the notion of a filter truly belong?  In both males and females, what needs to stay inside our respective minds and what deserves to be shared? You tell us.

Ladies, dare we address you directly, it’s time for you to help in finding a happy medium. Sitting here and complaining is fair…for a second…but fight for your right to filter (or not to filter) just as much as you fight for your right for the big, bad BC. Start talking. Although, let’s be honest, that period last week was killer.  Do they make an alcohol-like Midol to numb the pain? 

Elizabeth is a senior at Bucknell University, majoring in English and Spanish. She was born and raised in Northern New Jersey, always with hopes of one day pursuing a career as a journalist. She worked for her high school paper and continues to work on Bucknell’s The Bucknellian as a senior writer. She has fervor for frosting, creamy delights, and all things baking, an affinity for classic rock music, is a collector of bumper stickers and postcards, and is addicted to Zoey Deschanel in New Girl. Elizabeth loves anything coffee flavored, the Spanish language, and the perfect snowfall. Her weakness? Brunch. See more of her work at www.elizabethbacharach.wordpress.com 
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