Well, that only took a year.
At The Hollywood Reporter’s 2018 Women in Entertainment Power 100 luncheon, the relentlessly problematic Lena Dunham made yet another in a long series of public apologies for her behavior; this time to actress Aurora Perrineau.
As you may or may not recall, as the #MeToo movement gathered steam in the fall of 2017, Perrineau came forward with a rape accusation against Girls writer Murray Miller. Dunham and showrunner Jenni Konner quickly rose to their friend and colleague’s defense, despite his fraudulent claims Perrineau, who was 17 at the time of the alleged attack, was trying to extort money with the charge. In the process, two white women who had repeatedly and loudly claimed to stand for women and against patriarchy effectively threw Perrineau, a mixed-race woman (and daughter of actor Harold Perrineau), under the bus. In a joint statement, the two wrote, in part:
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 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year. It is a true shame to add to that number, as outside of Hollywood women still struggle to be believed. We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.
It’s a stance we’ve become all too accustomed to seeing from self-proclaimed “feminists” of Dunham’s and Konner’s ilk, who all too often abandon principles they’ve previously espoused the moment they aren’t directly affected. But as it turned out, it would be far from the last thing Dunham would be saying about it. Widely and rightly called to task for her anti-survivor stance, she soon issued a blanket apology:
I naively believed it was important to share my perspective on my friend’s situation as it has transpired behind the scenes over the last few months. I now understand that it was absolutely the wrong time to come forward with such a statement and I am so sorry. ...
Every woman who comes forward deserves to be heard, fully and completely, and our relationship to the accused should not be part of the calculation anyone makes when examining her case. ... We apologize to any women who have been disappointed.
First of all, your perspective is never more important than a survivor’s, Lena.
But until Wednesday morning, Dunham had not publicly apologized to Perrineau herself; that is, until she ascended the stage at New York City’s Milk Studios with none other than Aurora’s mother, Brittany Perrineau. Perrineau, a fellow white woman, stoically stood alongside Dunham and accepted an apology on behalf of her daughter (who was not in attendance), as well as offering Dunham forgiveness and asking the THR luncheon guests to redirect their anger.
It was intended to be a poignant moment, but as with most things Dunham does these days, it felt performative. It was another Band-Aid PR repair attempt by a persistently myopic personality (she calls herself a “chronic oversharer”) who is eloquent in her delivery but repeatedly reckless in her behavior.
The appearance coincided with Dunham’s stint as guest editor for The Hollywood Reporter’s accompanying issue on women in entertainment. In her editor’s letter, she spoke of what an incredible year 2018 has been for women in Hollywood, writing, in part:
But with that progress, there have been mistakes, there has been pain. There has been a deep and gut-wrenching reckoning. And not just for men. ...
I never stopped, much less stopped to consider that I might be capable of traumatizing somebody, too (the exact complaint I’ve always had about old white man artists).
And so I made a terrible mistake. ... There are few acts I could ever regret more in this life. I didn’t have the “insider information” I claimed but rather blind faith in a story that kept slipping and changing and revealed itself to mean nothing at all. I wanted to feel my workplace and my world were safe, untouched by the outside world (a privilege in and of itself, the privilege of ignoring what hasn’t hurt you) and I claimed that safety at cost to someone else...
It’s a far better apology than the publicity stunt pulled at Wednesday’s luncheon. But as much as Dunham wants to (again) make this about her awakening, this is the exact criticism and fear that women of color fighting for their rights and recognition have always had of “white feminism”—and white women, in general. In myriad ways, we are shown that our safety will always be relinquished to theirs, when necessary—and often, to that of their men. What Dunham doesn’t seem to realize is that we are the “outside world” she’s been trying so desperately to insulate herself from, and we have also most often been the collateral damage in her evolution.
And no amount of posing and posturing with the mother of someone she’s helped to re-victimize changes that fact—a fact with repercussions that sadly extend far beyond Perrineau, as Dunham wields power in the Hollywood firmament. And while Perrineau’s mother may feel compelled to forgive Dunham, let’s just say it’s a good thing her daughter’s healing and survival didn’t depend on that belated apology.
What Dunham’s continued self-centeredness once again indicates is that her feminism is conditional—and worse, reactive. And while she may consider herself one of an “army” of survivors changing the tide in Hollywood, it’d be great if Hollywood would stop rewarding her myopia and positioning someone so desperately in need of guidance as a leading voice. She’s simply not qualified.
Because as Viola Davis pointedly said in an unrelated moment during Wednesday’s event: “I cannot lead with bullshit.”