Lena Dunham is a curious case of feminist icon turned sour, and at this point her diehard fans have to crawl through a rubbish heap of controversies to remain loyal. The delights of this heap include sexual abuse allegations, racism and now defending alleged rapists. Each mistake is followed by an apology, and though I always promote the idea of a forgiving and nurturing feminist community, Lena’s hollow regrets lead to zero learning or change. This is clearly a woman who speaks before she thinks, and often just never gets round to the thinking.
Recently writer Murray Miller from the hit tv show Girls was accused of sexual assault by actor Aurora Perrineau. Dunham has clearly been friends with Miller for many years, and made the decision to release a public statement with Jenni Konner defending Miller and claiming his innocence:
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% of assault cases that are misreported every year
In other words: ‘this woman is lying’. There is no shortage of feminist writing on how shocking it is for a ‘feminist icon’ to accuse a woman of lying about being assaulted knowing full well the consequences this can have. The part of this saga drawing me in is an extract from Dunham’s predictable apology:
I naively believed it was important to share my perspective
Dunham’s decision to tell the world what she thinks is more than naïve – it’s utterly arrogant. She is a privileged white woman, and she genuinely thinks her opinion matters even when she’s not involved. Let’s be clear: voicing their support serves no purpose except to defend Miller’s reputation and damage Perrineau’s.
If she’s unable to process the idea of Miller doing this then fine, no one is asking her to personally deliver the verdict, but only a being blinded by egotism would feel the need to share their opinion on this. Dunham’s upbringing and professional success have fostered an attitude not only of ‘people want to hear what I think’ but ‘it’s actually important for people to hear what I think’. It’s a combination of narcissism and plain stupidity, all fuelled by privilege.
Having your close friend be accused of something so awful must be a crippling shock, and it’s common for a person to choose privately not to believe it. To share support publicly however, displays an arrogance that trumps any regard for Perrineau’s well being – or any accuser’s. We all must accept the fact that it’s ordinary people and not only monsters who commit sexual assault. The fact that you love someone, like someone, respect someone or know someone doesn’t mean they’re not capable of a terrible crime. ‘My friends never saw this coming’ isn’t a valid defence.
As women, men and non-binary people step forward to bravely share their wounds, it is our responsibility to allow them to change our perspective. We can’t keep mourning the loss of ideas we had of people. The shame is not in us losing a friend but in the damage they might have done to another’s life.