Dear Tessa Thompson, You Don’t Owe Lena Dunham an Apology Because She Actually Owes You One
It’s no surprise that Lena Dunham is trending — and once again it’s not because of her humbleness or enviable heroism. Aside from my timeline being weirdly populated with headlines about the demise of her five-year relationship — there’s the matter of her affiliation with another actress — who I happen to like and respect a ton.
Just to be clear — not too long ago — I wrote an essay about Lena Dunham — where I asked critics of her then thriving show — Girls — to give her a fucking her break. My logic was that as the show’s creator with an artsy background that conveniently limited her exposure to other cultures — including the privilege of having first-hand knowledge of what it’s like for a “Black girl in Brooklyn” — Dunham shouldn’t have to apologize for showcasing the White world that matches her very existence.
That being said — I was never a fan of Dunham or Girls. After tolerating the first season — I found it to be quite assaulting as it reminded me of my days working at a retail post on the Upper East Side — Madison and 93rd to to be exact. I basically had to share space with twenty-something heiresses who were either shopping or “working” to appease their parents. I imagined that these were the Girls that could navigate the complexities of a city that was built for them and still have a shitload to fret about.
My distaste for Dunham really peaked when she had the gall to publicly call out an actress of color who bravely shared accounts of her sexual abuse. Aurora Perrineau — an up and coming actress who was quite young when the alleged assault took place — detailed her horrifying encounter with Murray Miller. Miller happens to be a close buddy of Dunham and her Girls co-creator — Jenni Konner. Miller was also a writer for the show — and apparently someone that both Dunham and Konner felt comfortable defending — against the young woman who shared her truth — despite the danger of being publicly bullied.
Dunham did exactly that and I wrote about how she symbolizes the kind of White woman that Black women can’t fuck with even on a good day.
Her ability to seamlessly insert herself in cultural and timely narratives as if she’s in a position to relate to the issues that threaten the threads of feminism is disarmingly off-putting. Even her online publication Lenny can only take her so far — even though it’s quite the attempt at presenting a glossy push for “all women” — while shading a vulnerable and impressionable victim who has nothing to gain by divulging her harrowing tale of abuse.
Her generic apology after her shameful act went viral didn’t quite cut it — as it was a general ode to her falsehood and not at all directed at Perrineau. It didn’t properly address her abominable dismissiveness — and instead maintained her habitual self-serving exercise, which by now is played out to the hilt.
And now we have a front row seat to another shit fest that pits Dunham against actress and badass Tessa Thompson who won me over in the sleeper hit Dear White People.
The story goes that Thompson posted a group picture on Instagram — that features a bevy of actresses including Rashida Jones, Reese Whitherspoon, Tracee Ellis Ross — and yes — Lena Dunham.
A fan on Twitter peeped Dunham in the photo and challenged her presence, which gave Thompson the incentive to say this:
“Lena was not anywhere present in our group during the countless hours of work for the last two months. We hosted an open house for the actresses for red carpet messaging and Lena presence was a surprise to us all. This is a time of reckoning. And for many, a re-education. So many women also have real work to do. I’m afraid it’s too nuanced a conversation to have on this platform. But I hear you, and know that your thoughts and words are not lost on me. It’s been discussed.”
This was the TRUTH with no filters and basically no surprises — especially when you consider the character in question. Based on her past activities — it’s quite natural to believe Thompson when she expresses frustration at someone who wants to take credit for services that weren’t rendered.
But Black women are used to being historically shunned for all that we do in favor of White women who are somehow able to make a bigger splash at our expense.
Actress Alyssa Milano was almost bequeathed the founder of the #MeToo movement — until her Time was UP and Tarana Burke came into focus with receipts and an astoundingly impressive back story.
It felt good to hear Thompson stand up for herself and the other women who evidently did the work — and didn’t appreciate the task of having to share the glory with someone who was nowhere to be found when the seeds were being planted.
Unfortunately the good times never last for long. Thompson has now released an apology that is drenched in political fodder and reeks of what happens when the pressure cooker is hissing madly and you have no choice but to react:
“I sometimes lack finesse in navigating social media. Hard to discuss issues with nuance there. A response I made to comments on an Instagram became fodder for a piece that I believe was designed to create conflict where there isn’t any. It’s perhaps more complex than that. But I, in no way, want to diminish Lena Dunham and her work, her voice, and her importance. We have spoken and she knows my heart. I feel a responsibility to women that have sometimes felt ignored, dismissed, and underrepresented. They are my beacons. I regret that my words were misinterpreted to distract from the most important thing: The Time’s Up campaign is for everyone, in all capacities, contributions big and small. It doesn’t belong to any one. It is for us all. The beauty of this huge collaboration has been a group of countless committed people who have come together for a shared purpose. To create change. And it is such a powerful thing. I stand, humbled, with everyone involved. Linked not ranked.”
Here’s the thing — if Lena Dunham was able to escape the responsibility of issuing a heartfelt apology to Aurora Perrineau — then she shouldn’t expect anyone to offer her that courtesy — ever.
If anyone is owed an apology in this latest scandal — it’s Thompson and all the ladies in her crew who worked tirelessly to uplift and validate the Time’s Up initiative — not for the benefit of a photo-call — but because it’s a cause that’s dear to their hearts. Dunham’s absence during the countless hours of work for the last two months — is probably due to the fact that she has a knack for shaming victims of abuse and defending their abusers — based on personal preferences.
She’s not a feminist and she’s definitely not qualified to champion anything that is activated with the intention of securing the safety and dignity of those who don’t have access to a supportive network that’s implemented for their overall betterment.
Thompson’s apology is proof of what women like Dunham consistently get away with — blemish-free. It’s sickening to behold and it doesn’t in any way invalidate the truth or scrub away the griminess that accumulates when White women behave badly and still get rewarded for their efforts.
Tessa Thompson is the better women in this scenario, but the rest of us are petty as fuck. And trust when we say — that we’re keeping score.