For a so-called feminist, Dunham does a mean impression of male entitlement.
“This year has been incredible for women in Hollywood,” Lena Dunham’s love letter to herself, which promises to include an apology to Aurora Perrineau—somewhere—begins. “We have spoken and we have spoken loudly, and our voices, once muffled under layers of crinoline and repressed rage, have been heard.”
In “have been heard,” she prematurely and presumptuously tucks the voices of #MeToo—many of whom remain radio silent—squarely in the past-tense. A summation of Dunham’s thinking here, intended or not, is this: “I have spoken loudly. I have been heard. And therefore all women have spoken loudly. All women have been heard. Right? What a triumph! We can all finally shut up, now—right after I’m done talking.”
Which is ironic, of course, when ostensibly the point of her piece is to apologize—for silencing a woman.
Equally galling are her unconscious displays of privilege, white and otherwise.
Who among us can suppress a rueful smile upon reading, “our voices, once muffled under layers of crinoline?”
As if the majority of women descend from great-grandmothers who languished in Edith Wharton drawing rooms and Rooms Of Our Own, trussed up in hoops and petticoats—as if the majority of women don’t descend from great-grandmothers who dragged their way through time from dust-blown farms, tenements, or slaves’ quarters, muffled under layers of burlap, blood, and baby shit.
The eye roll continues with, “there are magazine covers and TV specials and parties and instas celebrating the very real, very important and long overdue progress that has made.” Since when are magazine covers, TV specials, parties, and—above all—Instagram indicative of anything real?
The media blitz is nothing greater than glorified P.R.—a premature congratulations for acknowledging a problem without even beginning to solve it.
Her examples of progress reek of classism, referencing an insular experience (parties?) from which most people in Hollywood—thousands upon thousands of crew members, teamsters, assistants, and struggling artists—are excluded.
Have those women been heard? Have they witnessed, “very real, very important,” progress? I honestly don’t know. One would have to ask—and to ask, one would have to assume they have yet to be heard.
When she gets to the apology, things get worse. “To Aurora:” she addresses me and a million anonymous readers. “You have been on my mind and in my heart every day this year. I love you. I will always love you.”
In the words of venerable feminist icon and abuse survivor Tina Turner: “What’s love got to do with it?”
Love is cheap—particularly when declared on a public forum (well, unless you’re in some repressive, love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name scenario—then, by all means, shout it from the rooftops).
And love is particularly cheap when declared to a person to whom you owe contrition. In the context of an apology—to a virtual stranger—love is distracting, irrelevant, discombobulating, and subtly manipulative, robbing the maligned of their right to anger by muddying it with guilt (because are you allowed to hate someone who wuvs you?)
There’s a phony televangelist tenor to Dunham’s “I love you,” a street pimp’s ooze.
She doesn’t love Perrineau—she’s spinning a tale—selling the Romance of Sisterhood. Perrineau is a symbol: the Magdalene she learned to love in order to become Feminist Jesus. And by reducing Perrineau to a narrative device in the Story of Lena Dunham’s Redemption, she strips Perrineau of her own truth, her own story.