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Dunham has shown us who she is, and white women have continued to support and uplift her as a feminist hero.

by Sherronda J. Brown and Lara Witt This essay contains discussions of sexual violence, including r/pe and molestation Last week, a writer at The Guardian posed what she no doubt thought was a poignant question: “Lena Dunham is a hugely original writer. Who cares if she’s a good person?” Before you ask—yes, she is. See, Martha Gill is deeply invested in protecting a fellow white woman from the consequences of her actions, and she is willing to tell lies about Lena Dunham’s talent, ignore truths about her poor character, and gaslight the people who have and continue to rightfully criticize her and her dangerous white feminism in the process. Just a few days after Martha's contribution, Katie Herzog wrote "The Pleasure of Hating Lena Dunham Is Less About Her And More About Us" for The Stranger. All things considered, it looks a lot like Dunham or someone close to her enlisted white women writers to do proactive damage control ahead of her latest apology in a long, long string of apologies for shitty behavior. Even more frightening than the idea that this might be premeditated apologism on her behalf, is the fact that white women reflexively feel the need to defend Dunham in the first place, because like so many terrible white men artists and literary figures, she is a terrible white woman who makes media that they enjoy. So they stand by her in the name of abusive white feminism, and perhaps like the terrible men, they feel that she too deserves a chance to stand separate from her art, able to continue succeeding while she uses the bones of Black and Brown women as her throne. Gaslighting us, shifting the animus for the criticism of Dunham onto people of color rather than Dunham’s proven record of investment in white supremacy, is easier than interrogating themselves and the white womanhood that connects them. When Aurora Perrineau revealed last year that she had been raped by Murray Miller, Lena Dunham called her a liar. Dunham, who has long used “feminism” as a platform for herself, her voice and her work, issued a statement along with Jenni Konner, co-showrunner and writer of “Girls” stating, “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 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year. It is a true shame to add to that number, as outside of Hollywood women still struggle to be believed. We stand by Murray and this is all we'll be saying about this issue.” But it's Dunham who was lying. As part of her recent PR run—which comes after the death of her website, the dissolution of her production partnership with Jenni Konner, the very public and controversial resignation of a Lenny Letter writer, and a call for women of color to no longer work with/for her—she has now apologized for this damaging lie one year later. And in classic Lena Dunham form, she centered herself and her own feelings in her apology for a lie that harmed a Black person who was sexually assaulted at 17 years old: “I didn’t have the ‘insider information’ I claimed but rather blind faith in a story that kept slipping and changing and revealed itself to mean nothing at all,” writes Dunham. Aurora Perrineau deserved far better, but women like Dunham are only consistent in perpetuating white supremacy and, in particular, misogynoir.
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Black, Brown, poor, and trans sex workers absorb most of the stress and violence and are erased constantly.

Incel is such a strange word to me. It’s not a term I use often. Like, “cock” and “cuck,” the word incel conjures up a “lone wolf” white boy who sits on 4chan counting his colored and gendered enemies, plotting mass destruction. I returned to Twitter after a light weekend break to see a new hashtag making its rounds—a man who calls himself David Wu started a campaign against camgirls and other cyberthots on Facebook and it made its way over to Twitter. Cisgender, presumably heterosexual incels were reporting “thots” to the IRS because, apparently, “hoes don’t pay taxes.” The main folks being targeted were women who use and advertise SnapChat Premium accounts. Although the word “thot” connotes a Black woman and has been specifically weaponized against Black women and girls’ sexuality, it was cisgender white women who apparently felt the most attacked and were the loudest voices “fighting back” against the incels. During this social media moment of mass harassment and hysteria, I saw the phrase “this is a war on women” from white and Black women alike, and many were not sex workers or directly related to the community at all. I wondered what each of them meant. Often the category of “women” excludes trans women and nonwhite or Black women. Deviant women, often not considered women at all. But then there are other classes of women within those classes, like women who are sex workers. Sex workers are comprised mostly of cis and trans women but there are men in this profession as well. However, this campaign solely targeted women, and used a racialized word to further drive home their point: to target working class and poor women, mostly women of color.
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Jones used white liberalism and performative allyship to target mostly poor Black folks, seduce them into his abusive cult, take their money, and orchestrate the death of over 900 people.

This essay contains discussions of suicide, murder, and spiritual abuse

Black people were integral to Jim Jones’ ambitions. Without black followers, and black causes to encourage and support, Jones might have ended up pastoring a tiny Methodist congregation in backwater Indiana, largely frustrated and entirely unknown” (273)

—Jeff Guin, The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

Sunday marked the 40th anniversary of the massacre at Jonestown. Jim Jones is a name that many people know or have at least heard of. It’s a name that invokes fear and awe. “Mass suicide” is the story that most know about Jonestown, but much of that is a fiction or an incomplete truth. Those who refused to drink the concoction of grape Flavor Aid laced with cyanide were held down and injected with the poison or executed by the armed guards. This is how up to a third of Jonestown, nearly 300 people, met their end on November 18, 1978, murdered on Jim Jones’ command. When we remember Jonestown, we cannot only examine that gruesome ending. We have to look at what led up to it and the insidious methods used by Jones to manipulate his followers. Jones used white liberalism and performative allyship to target mostly poor Black folks, seduce them into his abusive cult, take their money, and orchestrate the death of over 900 people. Peoples Temple began as a community of citizens who believed in racial equality and social justice, but unbeknownst to them, they were being led by a man whose only motivation was power and control. What Jones wanted more than anything else was immortality. He wanted his name to be eternal and he wanted to achieve this immortality through having total sway and dominance over others, a man who “seemed to believe that once he did anything for someone, from that moment forward the person belonged to him, with no right to disagree about anything or ever leave” (60). [caption id="attachment_50250" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Jim Jones in Guyana[/caption] In the low-income, inner city Black communities of Indianapolis, Jones saw real injustice, but he also saw people he could easily manipulate and take advantage of. He saw an easy, unobstructed path to power and having people indebted to him, belonging to him, and he used his position as a spiritual leader to lure them into his web. “Trapped in poverty, confined to vermin-ridden slums where their children were educated in crumbling, underequipped schools, African Americans in the city most often found church to be their only source of solace. It was a relief to spend long hours there, listening to sermons reminding them of God’s love and His promise of heaven, eternal land in a milk-and-honey Promised Land. Commiseration now and better times after death were the message of the city’s black churches. Their ministers did little to help their members overcome the immediate challenges of Indianapolis and its apparent unassailable racism. It took a white preacher to show them how” (67).
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If your allyship only extends as far as your comfort, you are not an ally.

John Brown was an abolitionist who died in 1859. He was hanged after a failed attempt to attack a federal arsenal to provide arms to a future slave rebellion. He was a flawed human being but he lived by his principles and died by them. And in 2018, that's the kind of energy allies really need to have. I'm not saying you need to attack the government (but that's absolutely an option that is open to you, put a pin in it), but I am saying that you need to sacrifice your own privilege in order to fully combat oppression and make a real change in the world. And if you're not willing to do that, fuck you then. You read that right. In 2018, in a world where rapists are being voted to the Supreme Court and there are literal Nazis in the street, we just don't have time for platitudes. We just don't have space for people who are merely paying lip service to a cause without fully investing themselves in the cause.   This message is specifically going out to white people and men. In 2018, you need to do way better than you are. You need to engage. You know it's bad out there, you know that people who have far less privilege are taking the brunt of the abuse while still fighting against oppression every day. As a real ally, you should be engaging those systems in conflict from the door. In Brown's time, he saw what the pro-slavery group was doing and imitated their tactics to further his side. He rejected his own privilege. He helped slaves escape, he formulated plans to create a stronger system of safety and escape and fought for full-scale end to slavery. We can find people like Brown throughout history, many have been turned into memes that we share because we love a good hero. People who rode bikes through war zones to deliver coded messages, women who seduced Nazis to shoot them in the head. Sometime in the last few years the title of ally has been co-opted. It has come to mean a person who is just not a flaming a bigot. But go into any ally group and you'll see, quite quickly, that there are lines to how far they'll go. They believe in equal rights but won't step to their dad when he makes a sexist joke. They're not racist but won't confront their neighbor on their “all lives matter” sign.
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