Lena Dunham Isn’t Your Feminist Savior
White Feminism™: “sees itself as ‘feminism’ without realizing that it’s falling into the old pitfall of viewing whiteness as the default standpoint and point of view. It assumes that white feminism speaks for all womanhood and all people and that it is the paradigm that will eliminate oppression. White Feminism attacks what it perceives to be misogyny against its own definition of femininity and womanhood, not realizing that it often supports colonization, racism, cultural appropriation, and reinforces white supremacy by discounting and dismissing the experiences and perspectives of women of color.” White Feminism commonly puts white women who repeat issues that were previously stated by women of color on pedestals while ignoring or degrading those who stated it before.
Lena Dunham isn’t my feminist hero. To me she isn’t even a good feminist, let alone the voice of current feminism. Dunham has repeatedly said horrible things without properly apologizing. I’ve compiled a list of quotes and images to show everyone that we need to find a better savior.
She wrote this awful racist piece about her trip to Japan, titled Sayonara:
- She insists on carrying my suitcase even though she weighs about seventy-three pounds and has hands like paper cranes.
- Judging by the medical mod squad and this cab driver’s stiff posture, I can’t imagine a passionate affair with a native man.
- I know I said I could never imagine a Japanese affair, but I’ve changed my mind. Kazu, the art handler hanging my mom’s show, is gorgeous like the strong, sexy, dreadlocked Mongol in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (causing my sister to email the instruction: “Yeah, girl. crouch that tiger, hide that dragon. P.S. That’s a Chinese movie”).
- Japanese people look so young — fourteen year olds in ill-fitting suits
- Sometimes, when you’ve been in Japan for ten days, you start to get a little funny… You will start bowing to people who hold open a door or sell you a honeydew yogurt or inform you that there are fish flakes on some crackers you’re not sure you want. You will flash a peace sign and assume a pigeon toed stance whenever someone aims a camera at you
- Remember that L’s sound like R’s and vice versa
In her piece about her trip to India, she stated in an interview with Rolling Stone that she sympathized more with “the stray dogs… than the poverty-stricken people.”
She made this classist statement, which shows that Dunham does not understand the link between healthy foods and poverty:
After her show Girls aired in 2012, people tried to call her out on the lack of people of color (POC) in her show. Dunham stated the show’s overwhelming whiteness a “complete accident.”
These were the POC casted in the first season:
- Sidné Anderson as “Jamaican Nanny”
- Jermel Howard as “Young Black Guy”
- Moe Hindi as “Roosevelt Hotel Bellhop”
- Jo Yang as “Tibetan Nanny”
She made these tweets:
In her new book, she writes about how she “experimented” with her sister. Here are direct quotes from her book:
- Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina.
- As she grew, I took to bribing her for her time and affection: one dollar in quarters if I could do her makeup like a ‘motorcycle chick’. Three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds. Whatever she wanted to watch on TV if she would just ‘relax on me.’ Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.
- I shared a bed with my sister, Grace, until I was seventeen years old. She was afraid to sleep alone and would begin asking me around 5:00 PM every day whether she could sleep with me. I put on a big show of saying no, taking pleasure in watching her beg and sulk, but I eventually relented. Her sticky, muscly little body thrashed beside me every night as I read Anne Sexton, watched reruns of SNL, sometimes even as I slipped my hand into my underwear to figure some stuff out.
In the past couple of days, these quotes have blown up. The original website that posted the quotes, Truth Revolt, created a new post stating that Dunham sent a cease and desist letter to the company demanding a retraction and apology. The site refused since they used quotes directly from her book.
Unfortunately, the person who brought the quotes to national attention is Kevin D. Willamson.
A right-wing author for the National Review, he has stated that “Laverne Cox is not a woman” and that women who have abortions should be hung.
So while it is important to focus on what Dunham is doing wrong, it is also important to check the original sources and verify what the truth is.
There are multiple issues with what Dunham said in her book. While she is defending herself as a “curious child,” a 17-year-old is not a child. At 17, Dunham would know exactly what she is doing with her sister. Child-on-child sexual abuse is not unheard of but rarely reported, and the survivor has to deal with their abuser frequently.
Grace has written about her sister’s lack of personal privacy, stating that “basically, it’s like I can’t keep any of my own secrets.” There has not been any major interview with Grace up to this point, so all the public information of her reaction to her sister’s book are on their twitter accounts.
And while Grace seems to find what her sister did when they were younger not abusive, there are many stories that are similar where the survivor did not feel the same way.
In response to people calling Dunham out on her revealed behavior, she tweeted this:
FeministFilm captured the issue with Dunham and White Feminism amazingly:
“Lena Dunham is an important symbol of white women’s upward mobility. She is an important figurehead of white feminism. Lena Dunham needs white supremacy to succeed, and white feminists need Lena Dunham to succeed. Women of color (much less not-women of color) are not relevant to the white feminist project. They do not count as women, and their rights are not valued.”
Lena Dunham is not a feminist icon.
She is racist and classist. The “apologies” that she has extended for her actions rarely qualify as actual apologies. The feminist movement does not need a woman like this to help lead us into the future.
Until I read this, I hadn’t realized that there was “white feminism” now (as well as the other ‘types’ of feminism). We are really typing people up, aren’t we? Sickening read, this was (to my perception). The author of this piece does a great job of minimizing “white woman” issues- as if they should never have any, or somehow don’t have right to their own experiences. I swear, this new age of racism upsets me more every day. Am I allowed to be a feminist any more? That’s a joke, to have other women claiming some kind of supremacy of feminist vision. We all have our own vision; there’s a lot about “new feminism” I don’t appreciate . . . but you won’t see me call out a color to subjugate.
As a white woman who wrote this piece, there is a difference between being a white woman who is a feminist and a white feminist. If you care about more than just issues that affect you (doesn’t seem too much like it from this comment) you are a feminist who happens to be white.
Angela, your defensiveness doesn’t help how clueless you appear to be. Your comment yields the implication that you are horribly apathetic, at best, to the plight of non-white women who don’t share the privilege your own race inherits by default these (and basically all prior) days. And I’m sorry, but YOU are the type of person Stephen Fry’s controversial quote about those whining about their being offended applies to. Thanks for playing, but your comment (alone, hopefully you add to it for your own benefit) tells me you lose.
-and I return today to find exactly the sort of return comment I expected, insinuating that because I intend to preserve my own identity and reality as I read media material with which I don’t need to agree, that I must therefore be ignorant of the plight of others. No. Don’t make such assumptions, unless you want to continue to be ignorant of another woman’s viewpoint. Also, again . . . “white feminism” was news to me, and something I haven’t heard about again since I’ve been here. I see a ot of media, too. So you keep on working for what you see fit, and I’ll do the same.
My perspective as a feminist is virtually the same as it’s always been and will likely not change (very much) as it regards all women equally. Interesting, this intention to once again separate the races as we should be continuing to work on solidarity. Major problem of feminism today.
I should have place my reply above directly underneath ‘MUSIVINO’, whoever that may be. Who’s ‘defensive’? Sounds like you, to me. I merely stated my position, the same one I’ve stated today. If you’re going to be both insulting and dismissive without supporting yourself, then at least use a name. You’re irrelevant to me, as it is.
I do register your distinction, in your reply to me above. I’ll give a little in reply and say that, as a feminist who ‘happens to be white’, you must surely understand my view . . but, maybe not, because it may seem incomplete to you. I’ve reacted (first comment) to the interjection of race cards into a movement that was doing just fine as it was . . . until . . . what?
The movement has suffered greatly, due to many factors. Feels to me like it’s suffere, anyway. We could go on about this to infinity, until things are right for all women. In my view, the feminism movement- if it’s going to work for all women- loses much traction as it’s confused with other issues- issues to themselves- quite separate. That’s my view, currently.
Angela, I made no assumptions. Re-read my post and stop trying to reach for a reason to play victim by it. I would continue, but in reciprocating your victim card, I’ll instead recognize my irrelevance to you and stop here. Good luck trying to find the weight to balance the hefty chip on your shoulder.