Two years ago, when Lena Dunham went on a bizarre rant about her interaction – or lack thereof with Odell Beckham Jr. at the Met Gala (since removed), I immediately thought of Emmet Till and how a white woman had fingered him for harassing her, ultimately leading to the 14-year-old boy’s infamously gruesome murder. Despite recent attempts by white women to rebrand their self-serving feminism as intersectional and inclusive of Black women, white woman have always wielded their racial capital to the detriment of Black people. Dunham following in the footsteps of Carolyn Bryant Donham is no surprise because when it comes to white women, bargaining for equality with white men by imitating their oppressor’s tactics is customary.
Even as white women have sought to carve out a feminist ideology rooted in their avowed commitment to destroying patriarchy, those who’ve been catapulted to superstars of white feminism consistently demonstrate not only a willingness but an eagerness to lend their loyalty unambiguously and unwaveringly with their race over their gender. And this week, as if her history had not been enough, Lena Dunham proved herself the best and worst example of the aforementioned as she, after enthusiastically aligning herself with the #metoo movement (ironic considering the movement’s founder, Tarana Burke, has been clear that Hollywood’s co-opting of the movement is counter to her intended purpose of having poor Black women’s experiences centered – lied for a male coworker to discredit the rape accusation of biracial actress Aurora Perrineau.
Last November, Perrineau filed a report with the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department accusing Murray Miller, a writer on Dunham’s show Girls of rape five years prior, when Perrineau was just 17. Responding to the charge, just weeks after she’d penned an op-ed for the New York Times calling out “Harvey Weinstein and the silence of men,” Dunham and her executive producer issued a statement saying, “We believe, having worked closely with [Miller] for more than half a decade, that this is the case with Murray Miller. While our first instinct is to listen to every woman’s story, our 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.” To translate, “We believe women so long as we have no personal stake in the reputation of the man accused.”
So this woman who paints herself of champion of women’s rights, who so fervently inserted herself into a campaign calling for women to be believed about their experiences with sexual assault, who would have anyone willing to listen believe that she stands with all women, blatantly contradicted all of the principles she sanctimoniously asserted she lives by, essentially accusing a victim of lying. And despite whatever backlash she received, she has still been allowed to exist in white feminist spaces wearing the uniform of white feminism. Now either Dunham’s actions in shouting down the patriarchy while propping it up are what white feminism is really about, or white feminists are willing to allow their spokeswomen to controvert their alleged foundational beliefs. Or both.
But Dunham’s retraction of her support of Miller in her letter to Perrineau published by The Hollywood Reporter, filled with feigned support and overwhelming regret, is as exhibitive of her and her white feminist fan base’s performative advocacy as any example I can provide. Dunham admitted that she did not just take the side of her friend, but that when someone she “loved as a brother was accused,” she lied about having “insider information” that proved Perrineau’s account to be at least unreliable. She goes on to issue unctuous praise of Aurora for being brave enough to speak out, and wraps up by discussing her own sexual assault trauma, under the duplicitous guise of showing that victims and apologists can be one in the same.
And true to form, one of Dunham’s counterparts took the opportunity not to lambaste Dunham for her disgusting support of an accused rapist simply because he’s her friend but to admonish Dunham’s critics because “hating Lena Dunham is less about her and more about us.” Writing for The Stranger, Katie Herzog asserted, “So while Lena Dunham is certainly flawed, the reason we hate her isn’t that she’s particularly monstrous,” wrapping up her argument that we take glee in dragging Lena Dunham because it unites us. This was published after Dunham admitted to lying to discredit a victim. Yes, white woman, we hate her because she’s an easy target, not because she’s a deserving target whose racism and loyalty to the patriarchy she purportedly loathes has devastating effects.
White women collectively continue to show that they cannot be feminists. How can you fight for all women when the oppression of all non-white women is what cements your own privilege? And how can white women ever be trusted to fight for anyone when they don’t even support each other?
Dunham’s complicity in silencing and disgracing a victim doesn’t disqualify her as a feminist because she is a white woman and their feminism is not in fact about deconstructing patriarchy, fighting for all women or even self-preservation. Their feminism is about ensuring they can take their place beside white men as equal oppressors. Dunham is doing nothing more than the Suffragette’s, Carolyn Bryant Donham, and every other white woman who used her whiteness to dehumanize, devalue, abuse and exploit a Black person did. She is following the road paved for her by women who were all too happy to try to escape their fate as oppressed by being oppressors.
Fuck Lena Dunham. Fuck her treacherous attempts to divert attention from the fact that she used her privilege and platform to cast doubt on another woman’s story by revealing she too has been a victim. Fuck her performative call out of men who silence women as she did the same. Fuck her force field of white feminist who will twist and contort whatever convictions they allege to stand by to protect her.
Fuck white feminists and its pasty purveyors!