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Over-sexualizing Odell Beckham Isn’t The First Time Lena Dunham Had No Chill On Fetishizing Black Men

Lena-Dunham-Screen-Shot-Youtube-WYV

Lena Dunham during an interview for Girls.

Lena Dunham, like many of her white comic contemporaries, is known for having absolutely no chill on throwing black male bodies under the bus to forge her sexual identity as a plus-size white woman.

White comedian and screenwriter Lena Dunham made headlines over the weekend for her not-so-feminist and tone-deaf remarks about black NFL player Odell Beckham, a wide receiver for the New York Giants.

Quick recap of what happened, in case you haven’t read anything about it: During an interview with fellow comedian Amy Schumer, Dunham regaled her bestie with a racialized account of her experience of being seated next to Beckham during the Met Gala, a formal event and fundraiser that celebrates fashion, held annually at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Here’s the jab:

I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, “That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.” It wasn’t mean — he just seemed confused.

The vibe was very much like, “Do I want to fuck it? Is it wearing a … yep, it’s wearing a tuxedo. I’m going to go back to my cell phone.” It was like we were forced to be together, and he literally was scrolling Instagram rather than have to look at a woman in a bow tie. I was like, “This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Getting Rejected by Athletes.”

She has since published an apology to Beckham on Instagram. Nonetheless, her lengthy discourse on her capitulation in the over-sexualization of black male bodies, where she admits to projecting her insecurities as a plus-size white woman on a black football star, hasn’t removed the foul taste her initial comments left in the mouths of many black Americans, particularly when one remembers the history of white women lying on black men — expressed clearly here — and the extremely violent consequences suffered as a result.

Dunham, like many of her white comic contemporaries — notably Ellen DeGeneres, Schumer and Rebel Wilson — is known for, ahem, having absolutely no chill on throwing black bodies under the bus in her pursuit to forge her sexual identity as a white woman. In the same interview with Schumer, she recounts her attempts to grind her ass on Creed actor and star Michael B. Jordan, a comment that she later struck from the interview. Then there’s this tweet she shared in 2010, where Dunham thinks back on a, uh, twisted dream she recorded in her “creativity journal” from 2005 that involved her sexually assaulting an “African American rodent.”

Lena-Dunham-Tweet-Racism-WYV

Yeah, she said that.

Such comments are not only racist but compromise Dunham’s role in advancing feminist and body-positive movements as a whole.

Wear Your Voice columnist Laurel Dickman called Dunham’s body-positive bona fides into serious question in her recent reflection on Dunham’s Lonely Girls lingerie shoot.

Related: Lena Dunham’s Lonely Girls Lingerie Shoot Isn’t Nearly as Body-Positive as it Claims

Dickman’s impression was that Dunham’s Lonely Girls shoot:

“[…] is co-opting the plus-size and body-positivity movements without committing to real representation. It doesn’t push beyond the forms of fat currently embraced (and standards of beauty currently enforced) — or beyond the most Eurocentrically acceptable level of melanin. The campaign winds up holding itself to the same standards of the gaze it claims to subvert.”

Dunham’s apology was intended for a different but related purpose: her candid expression of her insecurities and struggles as a plus-size woman, especially in the presence of traditionally modelesque, “handsome” black men, may add some deep and disturbing context to why some of her body-positive campaigns, like Lonely Girls, while aimed high, fall far short of the mark.

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Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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