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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“Women” almost always means white women, and rarely ever includes Black women. First off, a question: bitch what the fuck? Anyone who still uses this quote at this point is woefully inadequate to speak on systemic oppression in any capacity, because
White feminists identify so strongly with The Handmaid’s Tale because it is a show about white women in slavery.[CW/TW: This essay contains extensive discussion of reproductive violence and some mention of sexual violence.] Reproductive rights is a subject that is central to the politics of white feminism because it is the second most prominent fight that it has historically engaged with, the first being voting rights for white women. It has always been understood as advocacy for the right to birth control and access to safe, legal abortion options as part of one’s ability to plan pregnancies and families on one’s own terms. In short, for able-bodied and able-minded white people, it has been primarily about the right to not be pregnant. Considering the historical context of eugenics, scientific racism, and certain state-sanctioned violences, reproductive justice for non-whites would largely be quite the opposite. For many, it would instead be the ability to bear and nurture one’s own children without government interference or barriers created through white supremacy and systemic oppression. In the dominant social conversation about reproductive rights, issues specific to people of color are often omitted or simply glanced over. This is why the term Reproductive justice was coined by a group of Black women in 1994, to specifically address the needs and concerns of people of color that are routinely left out of the conversation. The Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective known as SisterSong defines reproductive justice as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Black women and other people of color creating our own terminology is so necessary because white feminism has a reputation for ignoring oppressions until cis white women become affected by them, and reproductive violences are no exception. The popularity of and discourse surrounding The Handmaid’s Tale is indicative of this neglect. Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, the series and its subject matter resonate with those who work to combat rape culture and support bodily, sexual, and reproductive autonomy. The systematic sexual and reproductive violences on the show terrify those who view the story as a future dystopian (im)possibility for whiteness, when it is in fact a historical ghost for Black people who were enslaved. Distinguished by their red robes and white bonnets, Handmaids are forced into slavery, repeatedly violated, impregnated, and made to give birth to children that are immediately taken to serve the interests of others. Essentially, The Handmaid’s Tale depicts cis white women stripped of the ability to bear and nurture one’s own children without government interference or barriers created through white supremacy and systemic oppression. This is a position that they have never seen themselves depicted in, and it terrifies them.
Yes, these white girls have it hard. Shocking as both shows are, I’m acutely aware that what I’m seeing is a best-case scenario.
By Aarushi AgniElisabeth Moss stars in the Hulu original series, The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel. Moss is also known for another ‘strong female’ role – that of the enterprising secretary turned copywriter on Mad Men, the trailblazing AMC period drama. When Mad Men premiered, I was a 16-year-old budding brown woman, blissfully unaware of the male gaze. It was 2007, and T-shirts were more likely to be emblazoned with words like “angel” or “cutie” than “This is what a feminist looks like.” When friends recommended I watch Mad Men, I dismissed them, seeing the slow-paced television show set in a 1960’s Manhattan ad agency as more backwards than nostalgic. A decade later, getting sucked into The Handmaid’s Tale led me to consider Elisabeth Moss in a way I hadn’t before. In my thinkpiece-and-podcast tour of the show, I stumbled onto many allusions to Mad Men. Heavy sigh. It was time for me to check that shit out.