Friday, May 29

Second Take: Lena Dunham’s white feminism ignores intersections of race, sexuality

Lena Dunham claimed she was sad she wasn't gay, ignoring her societal privilege as a straight woman. She also refuses to take responsibility for her actions and blames a delusional girl persona for her previous mistakes. (Creative Commons photo by David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons)

Telling people you wished you had an abortion is unacceptable. So is outing your sister to your parents, and then again in the public eye, not to mention equating Jewish men to dogs.

These are all things Lena Dunham, creator and actress of the HBO show “Girls,” has done.

The amount of praise and notoriety Dunham has received from the media is surprising, considering how many times she has had to apologize for the problematic statements she has made throughout her career.

Dunham is a white feminist. UCLA’s on-campus feminist news magazine, FEM, says white feminism is feminism that ignores sexism faced by women of color and women facing classism, racism, homophobia or ableism, usually exemplified by white women.

Dunham proved that she is not fighting for all women by ignoring intersections of race and sexuality through ignorant comments. Though her comments may be interpreted as though she is defending feminism, she isn’t educating herself on topics.

Audiences, including UCLA students, need to acknowledge Dunham’s false sense of feminism, and then call Dunham out when she makes inappropriate comments. With enough reinforcement, her feminist viewers can educate her on why her actions are wrong.

Her excuses for her comments emphasize her white feminism. After saying she wished she had an abortion, Dunham claimed that her comments came from a delusional girl persona. Instead of taking responsibility for her words, Dunham blamed her acting career and television image.

Though feminism is focused on equality for all women, Dunham only uses girl power as a platform when she believes it helps her, such as accusing a magazine of photoshopping her body.

Dunham garnered national headlines and followers from the incident without investigating or talking to the magazine privately first. If she were not a white feminist, she could campaign for influential magazines to stop photoshopping altogether, instead of only talking about her own body.

The epitome of Dunham’s white feminism was her claim that Odell Beckham Jr. ignored her at the 2016 Met Gala because of her weight. She painted him as a misogynist, saying that he was intimidated by her refusal to fit society’s beauty norms.

She ignored the racial implications of her words. She is pushing stereotypes about black men’s character and sexuality – that they must be attracted to every woman.

Her insinuations of the motivations of Beckham Jr. also has a painful historical connection of white women accusing and punishing black men for crimes they did not commit. Her comments are another example of white feminism, in which Dunham was insensitive to the topic of race while making a flawed point about gender. Her seemingly subconscious racial prejudice took over her feminist beliefs.

Within the claims against Beckham Jr., Dunham also talked about her attire. Dunham thinks she is innovative for being a woman in a tuxedo by ignoring the tradition of wearing designer dresses on a red carpet. However, other women, especially women of color, such as Janelle Monáe and Rihanna, have done so for years. Dunham wants praise for a statement that has already been made.

Celebrities like Dunham are the reason some activists, particularly minority women, hesitate to identify with the term feminist, and may even disown the term altogether. If they continue identifying as feminists, they find themselves overly explaining that they aren’t the same type of commercialized feminist as Dunham.

Dunham’s show “Girls” has an all-white, top-billed cast of characters she created and cast to be white. And yet, Dunham somehow still finds ways to ignore her show’s whiteness and complain that Hollywood isn’t diverse.

“Girls” is the prime example of her idea of feminism. She said the show is a feminist show and is for female representation.

However, with a white female cast, she is only catering to white women, who’ve had a platform for decades. The final season premiered Sunday night, but it spent all five seasons since 2012 ignoring women of color’s desire to be portrayed, especially as feminists.

While she is supporting feminism and social justice, she is doing more harm than good. Dunham’s feminism seems to be more of a ploy for publicity than a call for action. White feminism, particularly with celebrities like Dunham, gives the entire movement a bad reputation.

By making inappropriate and offensive comments, antifeminists can use her as an example for why feminism is wrong.

Entertainment networks need to start calling her out for her problematic actions more often. They cannot simply forgive her excuses that could be interpreted as an apology.

Dunham will feel more accountable if she receives pressure from her viewers who won’t let her hypocritical words and actions slide.

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