Since the creation of her show Girls, Lena Dunham has made so many missteps that you could probably fashion them together to make a full length novel. Her most recent ‘blunder’ was coming out in defence of Girls’ writer Murray Miller, following allegations that he had sexually assaulted Aurora Perrineau.
Dunham has, in the past, championed the concept of believing women and their experiences, so it’s little surprise that people were less than impressed by her blatant hypocrisy.
Like clockwork, however, the actor and writer offered up a hollow response, one so predictable I knew what it would say before it was compiled. In fact, while writing this, my husband brought to my attention the new Lena Dunham Apology Generator account on Twitter, which is both amusing and a sobering testament to how formulaic – and frequent – her apologies have become.
“This neoliberal feminism offers nothing to those who aren’t white and middle class.”
But let’s be honest; nothing about this situation should surprise anyone. Over the years Dunham has been accused of casual racism towards black men, her show has been criticised for a blatant lack of diversity among its cast members, and she’s come out with bizarre statements like wishing she had an abortion so she could help remove the stigma of having one.She was more recently accused of ‘hipster racism’ by author and former Lenny Letter writer, Zinzi Clemmons who announced her resignation from the online newsletter following Dunham’s support of Miller. The list goes on.
And yet, despite all this, many would still herald Dunham as the voice of the millennial feminist, despite her continued ignorance and lack of self-awareness. It is at once frustrating and alarming the pervasiveness of Dunham’s message among certain groups of women. This neoliberal feminism, if you will, offers nothing to those who aren’t white and middle class. It is the same kind of activism that, in the 60s, allowed white women to fight for their place in society, beyond the confines of wife and mother, while wilfully ignoring the ongoing plight of their black counterparts. Only now, in 2017, this same kind of activism hides behind oversized black frame glasses and a stylish cardigan.
“The problem is while much of what Dunham has to say doesn’t hold a great deal of substance, her voice is still one of the loudest.”
Moreover, as though this wasn’t dangerous enough, Dunham has used this ‘persona’ of the avid feminist ally to carve out a substantial career for herself. Simply put, she has commodified the issue in order to further her success as a writer, and in doing so, has trivialised the very issue itself.
The problem in all of this is that, while much of what Dunham has to say doesn’t hold a great deal of substance, her voice is still one of the loudest. And though it’s easy to dismiss this sort of ignorance as nothing more than vapid beliefs laid down by a yet another privileged millennial, it does nothing to help further what so many women have been working tirelessly towards. It also provides the perfect ammunition to those who would happily see the fight towards equal rights fail. The sorts of individuals who would jump at the opportunity to paint the entire feminist movement with the same deeply flawed, broad brush, while gleefully proclaiming ‘I told you you so’.
At this juncture, what women actually need is for Dunham to allow others a chance to speak. Those who have been silenced by the same activism that claims to both speak for, and protect, them, but has failed to do so. If what Dunham says is true, that she actually does care about the fight towards equality for women, all women, now would be a brilliant time for her to stop talking and, instead, begin listening.