Lena Dunham has found herself in the midst of a messy controversy, again. And she’s very sorry, again.
But this time, the performer-director’s misstep has drawn scathing condemnation from author Zinzi Clemmons, who said she will no longer contribute to Dunham’s weekly feminist newsletter, Lenny Letter, and called on others to follow her example: “For all you writers who are outraged about what she did, I encourage you to do the same,” Clemmons wrote in a statement posted to social media on Sunday. “Especially women of color.”
It is time for women of color–black women in particular–to divest from Lena Dunham. pic.twitter.com/dxOWCLhTpA
— zinziclemmons (@zinziclemmons) November 19, 2017
A quick refresher on what, exactly, Dunham did: Last week, she and Lenny Letter co-founder Jenni Konner issued a statement defending “Girls” writer and executive producer Murray Miller after actress Aurora Perrineau accused him of raping her in 2012, when Perrineau was 17 years old. (In a statement given to The Wrap, Miller’s attorney, Matthew Walerstein, said he “categorically and vehemently denies Ms. Perrineau’s outrageous claims.”) Dunham and Konner stood by Miller, and instead questioned Perrineau’s credibility: “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,” they said in their statement.
Those words marked a rather striking reversal for Dunham, who, only weeks before, had penned an impassioned op-ed for the New York Times about the need to support and empower survivors of sexual assault and harassment in the film industry.
The backlash against Dunham and Konner’s statement was swift and severe among Dunham’s critics, many of whom noted that her blunder was only the latest in a long-standing pattern of gaffes followed by self-flagellating apologies. For instance, there was the time Dunham was sorry that she said she wished she’d had an abortion. Or the time she was sorry because she suggested that star football player Odell Beckham Jr. was a misogynist simply because he didn’t seem particularly interested in talking to her at the Met Gala. Or the time she acknowledged that comparing Bill Cosby to the Holocaust “wasn’t my best analogy.”
Lena Dunham knows the language of feminism and may very well be a feminist. But the countless times she’s had to apologize for oppressive language and behavior is a real problem. https://t.co/xS7ImfoDru
— Evette Dionne (@freeblackgirl) November 19, 2017
seems like Lena Dunham is always apologizing but never quite learning lessons
— Katy Stoll (@katystoll) November 20, 2017
Lena Dunham is the epitome of performative feminism and allyship.
— Monique Judge (@thejournalista) November 19, 2017
Dunham and Konner quickly walked back their support for Miller with a second statement apologizing for their first: “We have been given the gift of powerful voices and by speaking out we were putting our thumb on the scale and it was wrong,” they said in a statement Dunham shared on Twitter. “We regret this decision with every fiber of our being.”
But for Clemmons, Dunham’s latest transgression was a final straw.
“It is time for all women of color — black women in particular — to divest from Lena Dunham,” Clemmons said on Twitter Sunday.
In her statement, Clemmons described a long history with Dunham’s social circle dating back to their college years. “I avoided those people like the plague because of their well-known racism,” Clemmons wrote. “I’d call their strain ‘hipster racism,’ which typically uses sarcasm as a cover.”
The author added that she had been “overcome by emotion” since learning of Perrineau’s account, because it echoed a similar assault that one of Clemmons’s friends had experienced in college, also allegedly perpetrated by a member of Dunham’s group of wealthy and influential friends.
“My friend was going through a hard time then, and we decided not to report it or take it further because we didn’t want to expose her to more trauma, which would surely come from facing these people,” Clemmons wrote.
But now, Clemmons said, she was finally in a position to do something about Dunham’s behavior, by deciding never to work for her again and urging others to do the same.
“Let’s hold Lena accountable,” Clemmons wrote, “and to me, that means sacrificing some comfort and a little bit of cash.”
Dunham’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. As of Monday afternoon, Dunham had not responded to Clemmons’s statements.