Dangerously close to empathizing with Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham, millionaire

Lena Dunham: She’s the worst. I’m not exaggerating, either; I’m curating. I spend hours each day thinking about the people, things and concepts I don’t like, and Dunham is the sandwich that brings them all together. A wealthy Oberlin graduate famous for making works of art about young people who struggle to complete works of art, she got her own HBO series at age 23.1 Girls is about the experience of being a young woman in New York: not having a job but living in the good part of Park Slope as you learn to accept yourself and struggle to complete works of art. Hanna doesn’t know how she’ll pay the rent after impulsively quitting her internship, so she goes to a party and cries. Hanna isn’t sure whether the new Darth Vader likes her, because he’s so handsome and she’s the protagonist/star/writer/producer. Dunham sucks, is what I’m saying here, and she sucks at the intersection of several broad trends in how society sucks now.

I also heard she was racist. I’ll be saying that at parties for the next 40 years, but today I will add that I heard it specifically from Zinzi Clemmons. The author and former contributor to Lenny Letter2 said she will no longer work for Dunham and urged other writers of color to do the same. Zinzi identifies a pattern of “hipster racism” among Dunham’s friends when their social circles overlapped in college. “She and her friends are racist” seems like an unfalsifiable statement, but let me give some advice to any white people who may be reading this: don’t say what’s racist and what’s not. Leave that to someone darker than you. You get to say what’s what in nearly every other area of society, but this is a situation where you will not be rewarded for speaking outside your expertise.

Clemmons says Dunham is racist and I believe her. It’s a matter of policy. You know who does not respect that policy? Lena Dunham. I quote the Washington Post:

A quick refresher on what, exactly, Dunham did: Last week, she and Lenny Letter co-founder Jenni Konner issued a statement defending “Girls” writer and executive producer Murray Miller after actress Aurora Perrineau accused him of raping her in 2012, when Perrineau was 17 years old. (In a statement given to The Wrap, Miller’s attorney, Matthew Walerstein, said he “categorically and vehemently denies Ms. Perrineau’s outrageous claims.”) Dunham and Konner stood by Miller, and instead questioned Perrineau’s credibility:  “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,” they said in their statement.

First of all, let me call the crisis center so they can get started on a plaque to thank you for reminding everyone what percentage of assaults didn’t actually happen. I’m sure no one will use that statistic to cast doubt on accusers, as you are doing now. If you adopt the policy “believe victims,” subclauses “believe women” and “believe people of color,” then it’s clear that Dunham’s defense of Miller is bad. She implies that Perrineau is mistaken to accuse Miller of rape—not just because her account of events is wrong, but because any report of assault could be wrong. That strikes a dissonant note given the tone of the editorial she wrote for the Times last month.

So it’s a clear-cut violation of the believe victims policy. At the same time, you can see how she got there. Miller is her friend and coworker. She doesn’t want him to be a rapist, so she doesn’t believe it. She also doesn’t want to imply that other rape claims are false, maybe because that would be brand suicide but probably because she, too, believes women. I bet Dunham regularly reminds people that the rate of false sexual assault allegations is miniscule. So in her statement, she makes sure to emphasize that only three percent are misreported.3 As she’s writing, it feels like she’s defending her friend while reminding people that this situation comes along very rarely. To the reader, of course, she comes off as casting blanket doubt on claims of sexual assault.

Why doesn’t she see that? Because she sucks! Stupid Lena Dunham can’t write well enough to agree with her own opinions, almost as though she had spent her whole life being rewarded for effortful mediocrity. The thing that sucks the most about her, though, is that she can’t help it. I have no evidence and I disdain her with the cool of a thousand dead suns, but I believe she got caught up trying to defend her friend. Her brain looked for a way this whole situation could be a misunderstanding, and her simpering garbage talent did the rest. The problem with the believe women policy is that you can’t control what you believe. I suspect she is an awful person, and I don’t doubt Clemmons’s assessment of her, but I believe Dunham is at the mercy of her biases as much or more than anyone else.

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