For years, Lena Dunham was the mainstream’s go-to example for a fantastic feminist. While some groups have always had their own opinions of the Girls star, in general, there was a consensus among the followers of celebrity that Dunham was a feminist. And a good one. Now, amid several faux pas, ignorant comments and downright counter-feminist decisions, the world is starting to see that maybe Lena’s not quite the feminist we thought she was.
Last week, actress Aurora Perrineau accused Girls writer (and friend of Dunham) Murray Miller of raping her in 2012 when she was 17 years-old. Perrineau filed a report with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Friday and Miller has denied the claims through his lawyer. Dunham has been vocal about the bravery it takes for women to come forward and report rape. In August, she tweeted that society should trust women when they make rape accusations because it’s not something they lie about.
Things women do lie about: what they ate for lunch. Things women don’t lie about: rape.
— 💎 Lena Dunham 💎 (@lenadunham) August 4, 2017
Despite those previous comments, Dunham stood by her friend, rather than the accuser, and claimed that Perrineau’s accusations were false. In a joint statement with Girls producer Jenni Konner, the women claim that while their first instinct is to believe the woman in any given situation, this case is “one of the three percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.” They cite their “insider knowledge of Murray’s situation” and the fact that they have “worked closely with him for more than half a decade” as their reasoning for believing him over the alleged victim. Those comments drew a lot of heat for Dunham.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) November 18, 2017
lena dunham: women coming forward about sexual assault are so important this is so necessary but only if it’s about a known scumbag and not someone i know personally, please
— jor (@menopausekink) November 18, 2017
It is hard to imagine a better avatar for white liberal capitalist feminism than Dunham. Truly this is *kisses fingers* spot on for that brand. https://t.co/O8Z1hI18zn
— Tressie Mc (@tressiemcphd) November 18, 2017
Lena Dunham victim blaming is peak Lena Dunham. I thought I couldn’t dislike this woman any more than I already do and then she goes and makes this statement….
— Ashley Lane (@ashleybesslane) November 18, 2017
The “Twitter Moment” for the backlash had barely finished trending when Lena’s feminist image was dealt another blow. Lenny Letter writer Zinzi Clemmons resigned from Dunham’s feminist website, calling the actress out for “‘hipster racism,’ which typically uses sarcasm as a cover.” Clemmons writes that she’s known Lena (and her type of feminist) since college — “they had a lot of power and get off on simultaneously wielding it and denying it.” She describes how Perrineau’s case is strikingly similar to a situation her friend was in during her time at college, also involving an acquaintance of Dunham’s.
It is time for women of color–black women in particular–to divest from Lena Dunham. pic.twitter.com/dxOWCLhTpA
— zinziclemmons (@zinziclemmons) November 19, 2017
Clemmons goes on to say that she wants to hold Lena accountable for her treatment of other women while she wears the badge of feminist. She writes: “It is time for women of color–black women in particular–to divest from Lena Dunham.” Many women of colour supported Clemmon’s statement and decision to leave Lenny Letter, denouncing the white capitalist feminism that Dunham practices.
Hipster racist : The term usually applies to a racist joke or statement where the declarant believes that “irony” or otherwise general well-meaning excuses or mitigates the racism.
— Jennifer Padjemi (@jenniferpadjemi) November 20, 2017
At last. Thx sis. We spotted this ages ago. Woc got to stop giving white women power to appropriate and silence us and use us to further their goals.
— Yasmin A. Choudhury (@yasminisyasmin) November 19, 2017
Starting w/the 2016 election and continuing, white women have a whole lot to answer for. Even now, petty victim blaming of women telling their truths. More-so than ever I am committed to push for more WoC in leadership and having a voice. White women we need to do better! https://t.co/N2y9Cy3I97
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) November 20, 2017
Lena Dunham’s ignorant defense of alleged rapist Murray Miller reminds me of my own rape experience: the silencing & dismissal from my rapist’s family — that it wasn’t a big deal because “he’s a good kid” — was far more damaging than the assault itself. #BelieveWomen
— Amanda Crew (@amandacrew) November 19, 2017
Powerful statement. Your courage in calling out Lena Dunham is an inspiration to many women, particularly women of color.
“She cannot have our words if she cannot respect us.” https://t.co/kz28wLbT5p
— Jo Kaur (@SikhFeminist) November 19, 2017
Clemmons’ words are a good reminder for any “feminist” to check their own privileges. Feminism is about more than gender inequality, it also needs to interrogate inequalities in race, class, sexuality and other intersectional privileges and disadvantages. It is not enough to claim that you respect women. Inequality is multi-layered and therefore, feminism needs to be too.