White women have a legacy of protecting white men, even if it means hindering their own progress and especially when it means gaslighting Black women.
[TW- mention of sexual assault.]
Men who attack and harass women, other men, non-binary, trans and gender non-conforming people live in our social circles. It’s a culture and it’s unavoidable but when we find out that someone we know has acted poorly or worse, generally, they are no longer invited out with the gang. Unless you’re Lena Dunham in which case you just claim, “insider knowledge” and accuse the victim of being part of the 3% of made up claims.
Before you slide up in my Twitter mentions with your outrage, I know that Dunham issued a statement apologizing for her earlier remarks. We’re going to talk about that too and lay out why it compounds the bullshit of the original issue.
The Problem with Her First Statement
I believe in a lot of things but the first tenet of my politics is to hold up the people who have held me up, who have filled my world with love.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) November 17, 2017
When Murray Miller was accused of raping (not just inappropriate sexual comments or touching but sexual assault) of a then 17-year-old actress, Aurora Perrineau, who happens to be a woman of color. Dunham came forward to say that she supports her friend alluding to some “behind the scenes information.” When the accused were not in her circle, she was quick to “stand with victims” and denounce the bad behavior. As soon as it was one of her friends — Miller works as a writer on her show, Girls — suddenly things aren’t so black and white.
It is difficult to ignore the racial dynamics of Dunham’s statements, Perrineau is a biracial Black woman, one of the few to have made an appearance on Girls and for Dunham, who is white, to protect a cisgender white man adds layers to the racialization of rape and rape culture. White women have a legacy of protecting and electing white men, even if it means hindering their own progress. The misogynoir runs deep.
This is made worse by Dunham’s position in the world. She is a well-known “feminist” actor and author. She is influential and many women see her as a voice to be listened to. Right or wrong, this is the place that Dunham occupies in our media landscape.
Her statement did the opposite of what she claims to want. Instead of supporting victims and women that speak up, she has cast doubt on Perrineau’s testimony. While it is difficult for white cisgender women to ever see justice for the violent crimes against them, it is even harder for Black and indigenous victims of assault, considering how the State is often complicit in the rapes of BIWOC. This makes Dunham’s defense of Miller even darker — she isn’t part of the legal team, this wasn’t a statement given to the police — this was spoken to the public and in essence she is saying, “Believe all women except this one because this guy is my friend and I know better.”
Only she doesn’t.
As we discussed during the incident with Gal Gadot, toxic women are part of the machine that protects toxic men. This is a shining example of that dynamic at work. Dunham has branded herself as an “imperfect” feminist. She uses feminist theory and ideas of solidarity to rally people to her side and cover up what are often insensitive, biased, and bigoted commentary. This is one such example.
Had Miller not been associated with Dunham, she likely wouldn’t have said anything at all but this idea of protecting our friends, even when they’ve done something terrible, is supported by the culture we live in that doesn’t believe women.
Her statements help to discredit the alleged attack in the minds of the public. They cast doubt on Perrineau before she even steps into court — the same way that the cheerleading squad sticking up for the quarterback that assaults a fellow student discredits that account. Dunham has more cultural clout than Perrineau. Miller’s closeness to Dunham is part of the cloak that keeps him safe.
Too often we side with the people we know over victims because we don’t want to think that the people who we are close to have committed these terrible acts. It is the desire and this cloak of friendship, especially female friendship, that keeps people like Miller from coming under scrutiny. Once someone has come forward to say, “Hey, you don’t know the situation” it creates a conversation around the idea there is more to the story of misconduct. That there will be some valid explanation for the events or it bends the perception towards, “We don’t really know what happened.”
Those doubts are why so many attackers do not face any consequences for the things they do. Those doubts are what keeps victims from coming forward. Those doubts are created by people like Dunham. While their intentions were to protect themselves and their friendship(s), those intentions are grossly misplaced. Unless you were there, you have no idea what happened and although you can support them, spiritually, emotionally, you should not condone their alleged actions.
Dunham should know what ripples her words will cause but she never seems to be aware (or she simply does not care) when she speaks, despite making a career from talking about . . . herself. When women act this way, they are not feminist — they are tools for upholding patriarchal systems that allow men to continue to abuse and hurt people.
The Problem with Dunham’s “Retraction”
After receiving public backlash for her original statements, Lena “retracted” them. She actually didn’t change her statement, she stands by what she said but now apologizes for the timing of the statement, but not for throwing her hat into the ring at all.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) November 19, 2017
The fact of the matter is that she does likely have access to insider information due to her proximity to Miller. I am sure it is very compelling. However, she also acknowledges that her relationship with Miller colored her reaction to the accusations.
The issue is that she always does this. As mentioned earlier, her brand of “imperfect feminist” allows her to say these things and then say “oops!” afterwards and it’s tiresome, at best.
She is not an imperfect feminist. She has shown herself time and time again to be feminist as a brand, not to change the lives of others. Feminism is convenient way to market herself but when it comes to showing true feminism or practicing any sort of intersectionality, she fails. Time and time again.
I’m happy that she seems, in some way, to get what she did was wrong but the fact that she came forward with her statement shows, once again, that Dunham has very little understanding of true feminism outside of the ideals that she can use to serve herself and she never even mentions Perrineau’s name in her non-apology, she never apologizes to her.
This illustrates Dunham’s particular brand of feminism that serves and protects white supremacy over all women. She has made many racist comments and is now failing to stand with the victim, conveniently, when that victim is a WOC. Her use of “we” instead of “I” during her apology further helps to distance herself from her racism and sexism by creating the idea that she is part of a system and somehow not accountable for her actions.
She isn’t sorry for making a mistake, not really, she’s sorry she got called on it. She’s sorry for not sticking to her branding better and now must clean up. In Dunham’s perfect world, she could support Miller with no consequences.
Friendships Don’t Excuse Bad Behavior
Whether or not you choose to be friends with someone who has hurt other people or have been accused of doing such is between you and the people in your life. Your relationship with them should not be used to protect them from justice for the victim. Don’t help people turn social status into get-out-of-court free points.
This is a major problem in Hollywood as illustrated by Dunham and countless others but it is also a problem in lives less affected by fame. Being good at sports, a standup member in church or helping you through your personal rough time does not mean that the person in question didn’t also do something terrible to someone else. Don’t be like Dunham. Don’t fall into this trap.