Why Lena Dunham is The Worst Kind of White Woman to Black Women
When Lena Dunham hit the scene five years ago with her HBO hit — Girls — I seemed to be one of the few who balked at its instant success. The show about four White girls navigating the complexities of young adulthood in New York didn’t appeal to me for obvious reasons.
I found the characters to be annoyingly righteous, petty, ridiculously insecure and blatantly stereotypical. Aside from that — there were similar elements from another incredibly popular show (Friends) that was also based in New York — with an all-White cast — and like Girls — despite the diverse pool of the chosen location — the writing rooms had the mandate to exclude those sentiments.
As the popularity of Girls grew — so did the throngs of naysayers who criticized Dunham for refusing to showcase the thorough experience of New Yorkers in a a way that doesn’t resemble the Whitewashed scenes — with sprinkles of color that were being fed to loyal viewers.
After a long period of avoiding the issue — Dunham finally addressed the elephant in the room during an interview with Nylon magazine where she delivered her signature response:
“I wouldn’t do another show that starred four white girls,” Dunham said. “When I wrote the pilot, I was 23…I was not trying to write the experience of somebody I didn’t know, and not trying to stick a black girl in without understanding the nuance of what her experience of hipster Brooklyn was.”
To be honest, Dunham expressed exactly what I had concluded after peeping the ever first episode. It occurred to me that the actress/writer was producing the stories that were relatable to her lifestyle. It’s abundantly clear that her privilege makes it impossible for her to click with anyone outside of familiar territory.
Her reasoning behind sticking to what she knows in an effort to avoid casting “a black girl” based on the insecurities of not being able to adequately illustrate how Black girls thrive in “hipster Brooklyn” is unbearably insulting — not to mention patronizing. It’s as if we’re are a monolith that require collective analytical prowess to determine how we can be represented by White people — who ordinarily prefer to dwell within their safely secured circles.
As the tunnel of accusations against the illustrious heathens of Hollywood systematically pour in with no tidal waves to disrupt the nightmare — the flurry of testimonies are breeding the expected “he said, she said” banter as those accused weigh in on their sins and sort “fake” from “real.”
When Lupita Nyong’o shared her experience with disgracefully ousted mogul Harvey Weinstein — she was one of many, with the only distinction being her race. As the only Black woman in the bunch — it was both noteworthy and disturbing that hers was the only entry that Weinstein publicly denounced.
The pattern of giving White women the freedom to be outlandishly emotional for the benefit of the support they almost always receive — across the board — while Black women are discarded, discounted and publicly disemboweled by just about everyone — including the men that were born to serve us — is a practice that is very much beloved and enthusiastically adhered to.
The instances are too many to document, but the latest woman of color to be dishonored for daring to share her story is particularly unsettling for the sole fact that her attackers are two White women who couldn’t harbor the decency of remaining silent — out of respect for a chaotic climate with a consistently dismal forecast.
Dunham excels at the art of being the worst kind of White woman to Black women because of her perfected stance as the well-packaged artist from a background that funded her dreams and gave her the platform to be wholly expressive without the risk of being abruptly silenced.
The actress has weathered her share of self-orchestrated controversies that have ranged from accusing a Black athlete of downplaying her femininity at a high-profile event to the present snafu that has her publicly calling out a 23-year-old actress — Aurora Perrineau for misrepresenting an occurrence that Dunham herself never witnessed.
Perrineau was a 17-year-old ingenue at the time of her harrowing encounter with the much older guy who allegedly took advantage of her after their night out with a group of acquaintances. Murray Miller is the accused and apparently he is also very well-known to Dunham and her parter-in-crime — Jenni Konner — her former co-show runner.
It’s this “close relationship” that prompted Dunham and Konner to swiftly release a joint statement — supporting Miller and condemning Perrineau’s account of events — five years ago — where she painfully details the night she was raped.
“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% of assault cases that are misreported every year.”
Interestingly enough, Dunham has been quite vocal about her own experience with sexual assault and just like anyone who bravely shares something so personal and hauntingly revealing — the weight of such a decision can be over-burdened with the threat of being tragically dismissed.
It goes without saying that Dunham expected her tale of woe to be readily received with the level of empathy and dignity that is usually afforded White women without reservation or hesitation.
We’re all accustomed to the cultural significance of catering to the needs of White women to ensure that their aches and pains vanish accordingly. We see it dramatized on soap operas and TV dramas — as the White female characters are nurtured and supported by a cast that are tasked with playing the role of “comforter.”
In real life — Dunham and her cohort are embodying the characteristics that make them unsettlingly intolerable as they willingly and destructively set out to maim the character of an up-and-coming Black actress by vilifying her almost immediately after her story made headlines.
Naturally, once the damning statement was unleashed — the overwhelming response forced Dunham to post a rushed apology via Twitter that was transparently half-assed.
“Every woman who comes forward deserves to be heard, fully and completely, and our relationship to the accused should not be part of the calculation anyone makes when examining her case.”
Dunham represents the branch of White feminism that helps to seal the divide that keeps Black feminism miles away from any hopes of reconciliation or even the beginning stages of a truce. Her actions help to fuel the ugly truth of how White women prefer to maintain their position in a hierarchy that propels their worth above all others — at the expense of those that are typically regulated to the bottom of the barrel.
Tarana Burke, is the Black activist who initiated the #MeToo movement back in 2007 — in response to how distraught she was after encountering a 13-year-old victim of sexual assault — a decade earlier. The hashtag’s re-activation was temporarily sidelined by actress Alyssa Milano who initially used it as a form of solidarity with the victims of Harvey Weinstein — before it was confirmed that Burke was the originator.
As always — Black women do all the work — and the credit is automatically swayed to their White counterparts with ease and blunt assumption. There is also the evidence that proves why Black women who’ve been sexually violated — prefer to remain silent — rather than speaking up about their ordeal.
According to Burke — the stakes are just too damn high for Black women versus White women:
“You have women of colour who have to think a little bit differently about what it means for them to come forward in cases of sexual harassment.”
There is also the historical implications that haunt the sought-after template of Black women who have suffered the immense consequences of being over-sexualized, which translates to the carelessness of being labeled “promiscuous” whenever there’s the a need to scoff at our audacity for much-needed validation for our woes.
Whether or not Perrineau attempted to extort money from the man she’s accusing of rape isn’t the issue (her mother vehemently denies these claims) — because White women somehow are able to speak their truth with no rude interruptions or the hovering silence of neglect.
What Dunham did was basically overshadow a victim of abuse with her poised privilege in the form of her race and the undeserving power she wields as a celebrity who still enjoys the ability to be wickedly vile and inappropriately condescending more than she should.
White women are allowed such pleasures and are grossly feted for it by the crowd of admirers who encourage and revel in such a sport. Black women are permitted to stay in their lane without the respect of title of or even the space to add on to a narrative that sadly never discriminates.
White women like Lena Dunham are the worst kind and what’s even more sickening is that there are more of them than the good kind. And until White feminists are able to harken to this outstanding issue — the love affair between White women and Black women will remain stale from the one-sided bitterness of nonchalance.
And that kind of treatment is the absolute worst.