Lena Dunham’s Fake Naïveté Is Hurting Black Folk. And It Needs To Stop.
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Lena Dunham reminds me of a Spotify playlist I recently discovered called “Beggin’ Ass R&B Songs.” Much like those songs, when Dunham finds herself in trouble, she offers an apology that loosely translates to “Please, baby-baby, please, forgive me, take me back. Love me, baby! Love me!” And more often than not, Dunham is apologizing for controversies of her own creation.
The latest example of this took place last week where she, alongside Lenny Letter co-founder Jenni Konner, issued a statement defending Girls writer and executive producer Murray Miller after actress Aurora Perrineau (daughter of actor Harold Perrineau) accused him of raping her when she was 17-years-old. Miller’s attorney sent a statement to The Wrap saying Miller “categorically and vehemently denies Ms. Perrineau’s outrageous claims.” As the accused, such is his right. However, Dunham and Konner felt compelled to release their own remarks that not only championed Miller but questioned the credibility of Perrineau. “Insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year,” Dunham and Konner claimed in their statement. Why did they feel the need to interject themselves into this? And if they were going to, did they need to use statistics to attack a young woman claiming to have been raped as a teenage girl? How exactly did Dunham, who only a month ago penned an op-ed for the New York Times stressing the need to support survivors courageously stepping forward to shed light on sexual assault in the entertainment industry, think this was going to go? When I first read the statement, my immediate reaction was, “Who wrote this? Her arch-nemesis.” Considering Dunham is often her worst enemy, the question proves easily answered. After rightfully being roasted all across Al Gore’s Internet, Dunham issued an apology. The apology reads as a thoughtful examination of a reckless, thoughtless statement, but sometimes sorry isn’t good enough. It certainly wasn’t for Lenny Letter contributor and author Author Zinzi Clemmons (who says that she has known Dunham since their college years and floated in similar social circles which led her to subsequently dismiss those of Dunham’s ilk for their apparent “hipster racism”). Clemmons went on to write: “As a result of Lena Dunham’s statements, I have decided that I will no longer write for Lenny Letter. For all you writers who are outraged about what she did, I encourage you to do the same. Especially women of color.” I don’t know Dunham personally, so I cannot speak to Clemmons’ experiences. But, as both a fan of Girls and some of Dunham’s other work and someone who has long been puzzled by her perpetual need to lodge her foot down her throat, I can note that at some point, Dunham has to stop hiding behind the notion of naïveté. Dunham reached that point a long time ago. In “Lena Dunham Is A Veteran Apologizer,” The Cut’s Amanda Arnold offered a brief history of Dunham’s long list of apologies. Say, the time she suggested that Odell Beckham Jr.’s fine ass was a misogynist simply because he didn’t seem interested in talking to her at the Met Gala. Or the time she acknowledged that comparing Bill Cosby to the Holocaust “wasn’t my best analogy.” When you have such a lengthy list of public apologies as someone who hasn’t been famous that long, wouldn’t you be a bit more cautious about sharing your opinions? Such is not the case for Lena Dunham. Still, it should have dawned on Dunham and Konner that their experiences with Miller may not mirror those of Aurora Perrineau. Somewhere along the way, each of them, who have long been criticized for their feminism not always being intersectional, ought to consider the reality that how Miller treats them may be polar opposite of how he treats Black women and Black girls. It is not too far fetched to grasp that one person’s friend is another person’s tormentor. Also, did no one consider the optics of two powerful White women rallying behind their White male Hollywood friend against rape allegations of this young, not nearly as well known Black actress might not be a good look for any of the parties involved? I guess not when you’re used to being told that everything you says matters and no one can pull you to the side, sigh, and let out a “Beloved…” before dragging you back to Earth with the rest of us. I don’t believe Lena Dunham intentionally tries to be malicious with her terrible statements, but intent never negates impact. She was dead wrong here and she appears to know that. However, she’s been dead wrong before, learned that after the fact, apologized yet somehow continues to keep making the same mistake. It’s a terrible behavioral pattern, only this time folks are not allowing another apology elude her from facing real consequences. She did it to herself, though. As she always does.

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