With each instance of hearing someone hail Lena Dunham as a feminist icon, I cannot help but to roll my eyes heavily.
As co-creator of the HBO show, Girls, and privileged white New Yorker, Dunham has spent the past five years in the spotlight praised as a supposed progressive liberal feminist. The show—which I personally could not watch for more than a few painful episodes—followed the lives of a handful of white women in New York City, with Dunham’s character at the center of petty drama and immaturity. Many aspects of the show were apparently drawn from Dunham’s own life, making its lack of racial inclusivity and absent self-awareness all the more a reflection of her true character.
Earlier this month, amid the onslaught of sexual assault accusations being brought to light, Dunham showed her true colors once again by defending Girls writer, Murray Miller, who was accused of assaulting an actress.
Following the allegations, Dunham and Girls co-creator Jenni Konner released a statement saying: "During the windfall of deeply necessary accusations over the last few months in Hollywood, we have been thrilled to see so many women's voices heard and dark experiences in this industry justified. It's a hugely important time of change and, like every feminist in Hollywood and beyond, we celebrate. But during every time of change there are also incidences of the culture, in its enthusiasm and zeal, taking down the wrong targets. We believe, having worked closely with him 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. It is a true shame to add to that number, as outside of Hollywood women still struggle to be believed. We stand by Murray and this is all we'll be saying about this issue."
Response to Dunham’s statement was swift and full of condemnation for its hypocritical nature.
Most notably, writer Zinzi Clemmons has called for women of color to “divest from Lena Dunham.” A former contributor to Dunham’s online newsletter, Lenny Letter, Clemmons response to the defense of Miller held nothing back. She wrote of Dunham’s problematic “hipster racism” and the ways in which she existed as someone who “had a lot of power and seemed to get off on simultaneously wielding it and denying it.” She adds that she was “horrified” to learn of actress Aurora Perrineau’s assault by Miller, yet was nonetheless unimpressed by Dunham’s response due to a similar situation Clemmons had experienced with a friend previously.
Clemmons’s courage to take a stand against Dunham is incredibly important for women everywhere. Feminists, particularly white feminists, need to take a serious look in the mirror and realize that bad behavior can stem from within our own circles, and even when we don’t want to, it’s imperative that intolerance is called out. Dunham represents a particular brand of feminism that benefits her when it’s convenient, and this ideology must be confronted. Downplaying the experiences of other women, and especially women of color, does nothing to push our movement forward; rather, it takes us back three steps. All women should be shown support in their courage to come forward regarding sexual assault and mistreatment, and as feminists, we must both stand united behind truth while also condemning hypocrisy from faux feminists such as Dunham, and guard ourselves against getting caught up in the lies of inauthentic figures.