One of Lena Dunham’s writers blasted her in a Twitter post on Sunday announcing her resignation from Dunham’s newsletter, dubbing her a “hipster racist” and calling on women of color to “divest from Lena Dunham.”
Zinzi Clemmons, a black woman who wrote for Dunham’s publication, Lenny Letter, said in a letter posted to Twitter that Dunham’s recent defense of Murray Miller, a writer on her TV show, “Girls,” who has been accused of raping actress Aurora Perrineau in 2012, was one straw too many.
In the explosive resignation letter, Clemmons describes an eerily similar situation: her best friend was raped by another one of Dunham’s friends while they were studying at Brown University together, she writes, and was intimidated into silence while the perpetrator went on to have a successful art career.
Then, like now, Dunham displayed what Clemmons calls “hipster racism,” hiding bigoted opinions behind a veneer of sarcasm and humor and using the “it was only a joke” defense when called out. She mentions one member of Dunham’s circle who used this response to justify frequent uses of racial slurs, a system uncomfortably similar to the victim-blaming logic of gaslighting, putting the blame for the offense on the offended instead of the offender.
Dunham’s defense of Miller amounted to little more than vouching for his character, but most notoriously — and painfully, for sexual assault victims whose stories are routinely subjected to intense scrutiny — cited Perrineau’s accusation as “sadly… one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year,” according to the New York Daily News. In her bid to carry her friend and writer’s water, Dunham took one of the statistics used by women to criticize rape culture and weaponized it to discredit a woman of color’s accusation of rape.
Although Dunham walked back her defense of Miller and implied accusation of Perrineau on Saturday under a hail of fire in a mealy mouthed Twitter post, it was clearly not enough to dissuade Clemmons from resigning and airing Dunham’s dirty laundry in the process.
Clemmons posted her letter with a plea: “It is time for women of color — black women in particular — to divest from Lena Dunham.” She asks people to “sacrifice some comfort and a little bit of cash” in order to hold Dunham accountable.
Perhaps it is unsurprising that Dunham would defend Miller against a rape accusation in such a manner, given that her hero and role model, Hillary Clinton, to whom her newsletter never tires of writing panegyrics, has recently done the same in almost identical language for both Democratic Senator Al Franken and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
“[Franken is] a good friend of mine and I deeply regret what he did. There’s no excuse for his behavior but he has called for an investigation and apologized to the woman involved,” Clinton said in an interview with WABC radio host Rita Cosby on Friday.
It would seem that for both Clinton and Dunham, the only women who deserve “to be heard, fully and completely,” as Dunham’s apology reads, are those who aren’t directing accusations against their friends.