In my lifetime of watching white ladies have excuses made for them, none has reached the ranges of peak eye-rolling the approach Lena Dunham has. The identical era that has had no drawback throwing the child out with the bathwater when it got here to Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, and Amanda Bynes, who’ve had a mockery made of their public lives as a result of psychological well being points (and problematic conduct).
But, there has all the time been a camp prepared to excuse and prop up Lena Dunham as a result of she represents the similar mainstream soft-wave New Yorker feminism that’s in style amongst white ladies simply studying to “rebel.” Her failures as an ally are simply met with sighs of “Oh, she’s doing it again,” quite than an actual callout by her white feminist sisters.
This drawback isn’t simply Lena Dunham herself; it’s the means society portrays her ignorance as a sorry aspect impact of privilege. When ladies like Cardi B stay their fact, as problematic as it might be, the proven fact that she didn’t have entry to schooling and language in her life doesn’t cease individuals from calling her “ghetto.”
Regardless of her placing herself in place to be lionized, Dunham needs to cry foul when she is held to any type of commonplace. That’s as a result of Dunham is the variety of individual white feminists need on their aspect, to the level that they may mild a candle to invoke knowledge for her each few months, however will mock different, much less privileged ladies, who attempt to discover methods to make feminism work for them, although the motion has not often ever taken the time to see them as individuals, not to mention as equal ladies value educating or defending.
Again in 2017, when Women was ending, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the forged was going by means of the present’s historical past, and the criticism it confronted the situation of race, naturally, got here up first, adopted by nepotism:
DUNHAM The race stuff blew up first. [The series was criticized for having an all-white cast.] The second night time we aired was the first time I met my boyfriend [musician Jack Antonoff]; we have been on a blind date. I had been metabolizing the criticism all week, and I made a very, actually dumb joke that I’m completely advantageous to repeat now ’trigger I used to be f—in’ 25. I stated, “No one would be calling me a racist if they knew how badly I wanted to f— Drake.” He stated, “Don’t say that in public; that’s not going to help you.” I simply didn’t get it. I used to be like, “I have the three most annoying white friends, and I’m making a TV show about it.”
KONNER I knew [the lack of diversity] can be a problem, however I didn’t assume the criticism can be at the degree it was …
DUNHAM … Or that the dialog about race would flip right into a dialog about racism.
KONNER However at the time, we have been so targeted on the wrestle of ladies and the proven fact that we’d gotten 4 ladies on TV.
DUNHAM We had 4 actual ladies who weren’t well-known. I keep in mind Jemima going, “I just had a baby, and I have two different-sized boobs, and I’ve got a huge butt right now because I’m f—in’ breast feeding and I’m the hot girl.”
BLOYS We knew we have been doing one thing that was provocative, however I used to be nonetheless stunned [by the criticism]. There was the variety stuff, the fees of nepotism [all four lead actresses have famous parents in the arts and media world, including Dunham, whose mom is a renowned photographer], which by no means made sense. … I feel some of it needed to do with the proven fact that Lena represented a brand new era breaking via, and that may be unsettling for individuals, particularly as a result of she was a lady and she was somebody who was snug not being a rail-thin actress.
Sure, the cause black and brown ladies have been criticizing the present’s whiteness was as a result of … we aren’t snug together with her not being a rail-thin actress? We who’ve embraced Queen Latifah as a romantic lead with out fat-girl angst and confirmed Monique, Amber Riley, and others as dynamic, charismatic leads?
Calling out the present for nepotism or its lack of variety is legitimate when Dunham’s profession is constructed on her mother and father’ wealth and entry, which … you understand what? Do you, woman. If my mother and father might fund my writing profession, I wouldn’t cry over it.
Do you see Willow and Jaden Smith crying over the entry attained by being associated to 2 of the most noticeable individuals on Earth? No, they’ve used that privilege to carve out their very own id, separate from their mother and father, and have taken warmth for that very cause. They know their father is Will Smith, and that may all the time be an element of their lives.
Dunham’s 2010 directorial debut, Tiny Furnishings, with a finances of $65,000, is what allowed her to get mentors and turn into the star and author of Women in 2012. Two years and a profession that was made up of cameos became an HBO collection that went on for six seasons. Examine that to Issa Rae, whose Insecure took years to get off the floor and got here after Rae created the net collection Awkward Black Woman in 2011, via a by means of Kickstarter that gained $56,269 from 1,960 donations.
This isn’t to say Dunham doesn’t deserve her success. Based on individuals who take pleasure in her present, Women was one thing that spoke to them, and even I can respect her bringing consideration HPV, having a personality get an abortion on tv, and being okay with displaying her physique. That doesn’t imply she’s above criticism.
Inside some (principally white) feminist circles, there exists an inclination to offer Lena Dunham the freedom to fail like a white man: to have mediocre expertise, be subpar woke, and promote a model of empowerment that targeted on her personal vanity. The issue is that isn’t even a normal society usually applies to different white ladies.
Individuals haven’t any drawback crushing ladies who mess up, even when they by no means gave themselves a platform the means Dunham has. The elitism that empowers Dunham to be whom she is isn’t simply on her, it’s the means individuals view her. For some cause, individuals are okay with the incontrovertible fact that, regardless of dwelling in New York Metropolis and being half of the elite, her Women character had no non-white buddies, as if there are not any individuals of colour in that bracket she’s dwelling in.
When that’s introduced up, individuals will scream, “But Friends! But Sex and the City!” as if we didn’t have these complaints then (and for the report, Women is much less numerous than Intercourse and the Metropolis).
Final week, The Reduce revealed a tremendous profile of Dunham by Allison P. Davis, which was so wonderful in the means it allowed Dunham to show her personal bullshit by way of quotes and pure information:
“Dunham lists the causes for the hate — together with her explanations for why she is the means she is — as if she have been reciting a poem imprinted on her mind in grade faculty: She grew up privileged in New York, which led to what individuals understand as a way of entitlement. Her mother and father are Soho art-scene royalty, and she was raised round ‘very specific, liberal provocateurs,’ who taught her she might say issues that ‘might now warrant a trigger warning,’ which informs her sense of humor. (For example: the joke she made on her podcast, Ladies of the Hour, about by no means having had an abortion however wishing she had.) Race is a continual blind spot for her as a result of she didn’t develop up with lots of variety in her New York Metropolis personal faculty, she explains.
“An incomplete list of things Dunham has been asked to apologize for: the nondiverse casting on Girls; casting Donald Glover as a black Republican boyfriend the season after she got in trouble for having an all-white cast; saying in an interview, ‘No one would be calling me a racist if they knew how badly I wanted to fuck Drake’; declaring herself ‘thin for, like, Detroit’; writing a New Yorker essay called ‘Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz’; constantly being naked; tweeting a photo of herself wearing a scarf around her head like a hijab; accusing a Spanish magazine of airbrushing her photos (it did not); comparing Bill Cosby to the Holocaust; giving Horvath a brown baby at the end of Girls (and casting a baby that was Puerto Rican and Haitian, not half-Pakistani, as the script dictated); comparing the reading of negative Jezebel coverage to getting beaten in the face by an abusive husband; accusing NFL player Odell Beckham Jr. of not wanting to sleep with her; saying she disliked India because of the visible poverty; apologizing but never learning.”
That final half is vital: apologizing however by no means studying. Yesterday, Dunham wrote a visitor letter for The Hollywood Reporter, apologizing for her disgusting dismissal of actress Aurora Perrineau, a black lady who accused Murray Miller, an in depth pal of Dunham, of sexual assault (one thing that induced Judd Apatow to say, “I don’t think this is what you meant to do. That’s not how, in this day and age especially—this isn’t how we talk about women”).
Dunham speaks about how she internalized the “dominant male agenda” and it led her to make her statements towards Aurora, calling the lady a liar:
“My job now’s to excavate that half of myself and to create a brand new cavern inside me the place a candle stays lit, all the time safely lit, and illuminates the wall behind it the place these phrases are written: I see you, Aurora. I hear you, Aurora. I consider you, Aurora.
“This space is yours to do with as you please, when you please. I will keep holding this space—it will always be here.”
She says in the visitor letter that she is sorry, however to me, it simply continues to really feel like her typical mixture of self-flagellation combined with making an attempt to redeem her area. It’s not Aurora’s duty to show her expertise right into a approach for Lena Dunham to know to not lie on behalf of somebody who’s accused of sexual assault. (Dunham claimed that she had inside info when the claims have been initially raised towards Miller, however now admits that was a lie).
It’s truthful to say that Dunham has to earn that confidence and religion that she needs the common public to have in her, as a result of she squandered it, and she, of all individuals, ought to know higher. White feminism allowed Dunham to make use of that as defend regardless of not absolutely incomes that standing, and that’s as a result of Dunham, together with her whiteness, privilege, and “sense of humor,” embodies the similar middle-class aesthetic feminists have liked for generations. White feminism doesn’t give much less privileged ladies the similar area to err the means it gladly provides it to Dunham and asks all different non-white feminists to cosign.
I can empathize with Dunham in some ways—as a weirdo, as a author, and as somebody deeply needs to be adored and understood. I also can say that it’s gross and unproductive to mock her about her weight, psychological sickness, and well being points. I’ve made errors, I’ve been dragged, and I’ve needed to study, however I additionally do this with the full information that feminism won’t be there to mud me off and restore me to some unseen pedestal.
I don’t have her freedom to fail. Most black ladies don’t, regardless of how excessive they’ve reached, and so long as Dunham continues her feminist model of arrested improvement, we’ve got the proper to say that she shouldn’t be entitled to our forgiveness, as a result of she’s absolutely earned our mistrust.
Need extra tales like this? Turn into a subscriber and help the website!
—The Mary Sue has a strict remark coverage that forbids, however is just not restricted to, private insults towards anybody, hate speech, and trolling.—
(perform(d, s, id)
var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s);
if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1”;
(doc, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));