Last night, Nylon, among other outlets, reported on an Instagram post left by Thor: Ragnarok actress Tessa Thompson. In it, she had shared an image of herself and many big name female celebrities and activists who had gathered together before the Golden Globes in a show of solidarity. Amy Poehler was there, so was Tracee Ellis Ross, Rashida Jones, Tarana Burke, Laura Dern, Billie Jean King, and so on.
Lena Dunham was also there.
As expected, this raised a few eyebrows, and some commenters in Thompson’s post asked about this. Thompson responded accordingly:
Lena was not anywhere present in our group during the countless hours of work for the last two months. We hosted an open house for actresses for red carpet messaging and Lena presence was a surprise to us all. This is a time of reckoning. And for many, a re-education. So many women also have real work to do. I’m afraid it’s too nuanced a conversation to have on this platform. But I hear you, and know that your thoughts and words are not lost on me. It’s been discussed.
It seems that no love was lost, and rightly so. Dunham, who has been laying low — for a change — since defending accused rapist Murray Miller, a former Girls writer, was suddenly part of this immense display of change and promise. The woman who can’t go 15 minutes without offending someone, making everything about her or just generally spoiling the occasion, had gone from rape apologist to photo-op ready activist without ever having to apologize to Aurora Perrineau. For Thompson to call that out took nerve, but it was also exactly what #TimesUp and the surrounding movement needs. As she said, a lot of women have real work to do on this.
Thompson has since deleted her post and added this apology to Twitter.
Here’s the thing: I highly respect Thompson and understand why she gave this comment. There’s probably more pressure on her for this than we’ll ever see. I can also understand not wanting to give fuel to any unnecessary fires, something that seems to follow Dunham everywhere whether she deserves it or not. But damn if it isn’t highly indicative of the problems of modern feminism that Tessa Thompson has to be the one to walk back her comments and not the rape apologist. Here are the facts: Lena Dunham’s name is not on the original #TimesUp open letter. She doesn’t seem to have made any donations to the cause by name, although could have done so anonymously, and she also wasn’t at the Golden Globes this year. She didn’t walk the red carpet, she wasn’t attending with any activists, and she wasn’t invited. She showed up at an after-party but that was it. There was no focus on her at all. Thompson’s original comment pointed to her only coming for this one night — another comment allegedly said she had been invited by another guest — so how can we help but question what the hell she was doing there.
Thompson talks of Dunham’s ‘work, her voice and her importance,’ which frankly, I personally feel has been greatly overplayed. Remember when she designed a fundraising t-shirt for Planned Parenthood with the slogan ‘Lena <3 Planned Parenthood,’ wherein her name was bigger than, you know, the organization being supported?
She could have single-handedly saved feminism from a burning building, but it would not undo the callousness of her comments towards Aurora Perrineau. A woman accused her pal of rape and she, the glowing feminist activist Tessa Thompson had to apologize for, threw her under the bus. Perrineau didn’t get the solidarity of womanhood Dunham demands for herself. She didn’t get to be believed by someone who could have used it. Instead, Dunham and co-writer Jenni Konner wrote a grandstanding statement of shocking coldness that insisted they had inside information that ensured them Perrineau was sadly one of the tiny percentage of accusers who is lying. They love to believe women, just not this one black woman this one time, they swear.
A lot of women are still struggling to come forward with their stories, even during this massive industry shift. You could hear a hundred women tell you it’s okay and they believe you and they’ll support you, but it’s that one voice in the background calling you a liar that’s the most amplified. Did Dunham think people were willing to forget that? Did she and whoever invited her that night think her presence would inspire hope or comfort for those who need that light in the dark? Is Dunham such a crucial voice that she has to be allowed into these conversations? Who benefits from her presence at #TimesUp other than Lena Dunham herself?
Lena Dunham is a rape apologist. Our movement needs her input like it needs a hole in the head. Let’s leave her in 2017 and be done with the mess.