Lena Dunham—and what many see as her brand of privileged, white feminism—continues to face one controversy after another. First, she mishandled responding to sexual assault allegations against a writer on her show Girls, then, as she often does, she apologized for offending a massive swath of the population by saying she was acting “naively.”
But author Zinzi Clemmons isn’t buying it. She says she is leaving Dunham’s newsletter, “Lenny Letter,” citing the writer-producer-actress’ “well-known racism.”
Clemmons distanced herself from “Lenny Letter” on Sunday in a Twitter post, referencing Dunham’s recent statements against Aurora Perrineau, who accused Girls writer Murray Miller of sexual assault during the show’s run. The former Lenny writer reportedly knew Dunham “for years,” as both women went to Brown University. Clemmons said Dunham and her friends “had a lot of power and seemed to get off on simultaneously wielding it and denying it.”
“Back in college, I avoided those people like the plague because of their well-known racism,” Clemmons wrote in her post. “I’d call their strain ‘hipster racism,’ which typically uses sarcasm as a cover, and in the end, it looks a lot like gaslighting.”
Clemmons alleges that one girl in Dunham’s circle “was known to use the N word in conversation in order to be provocative.” She also claims one of her best friends was “victimized in almost the exact same way” as Perrineau by someone Dunham knew.
“It was never addressed, and he continues to move in those circles and has a powerful job,” Clemmons wrote. “I grew up middle class, with no family connections in the writing or art worlds, and my friend was from a similar background. We were powerless against them.”
Clemmons has since gone viral. Many point out that writers of color are no longer putting up with white-dominated media spaces because they know they’re being held down by powerful people like Dunham.
Thank you for your letter. I had my qualms against subscribing to Lenny in the first place because of Dunham,but the stories (including yours)were soooooo good. The fact that she put out that statement feels like a stab (1/2)
— mp (@kiaraapee) November 19, 2017
In the chest because of the intimate stories about sexual violence that I’ve read. I stand in solidarity with you and will be unsubscribing today ❤️ thank you for your words (2/2)
— mp (@kiaraapee) November 19, 2017
This hit home so hard for me because, as an aspiring writer, and one of color, it’s hard enough to know which pubs will accept your work for what it is. But I feel so much more empowered by your statement, thank you zinzi!
— paris bueller (@parisspeaking) November 19, 2017
I can't stand @lenadunham and have never watched or read anything of hers. She's the embodiment of white feminism and white privilege. Born 3rd base and thinks she hit a home run. I'm white but am marginalized because I have a disabling chronic illness. Thank you for this.
— Laura Durnell ♿ (@LauraDurnell) November 20, 2017
Others hope that more celebrities will call out Dunham and distance themselves from her.
— A A (@chVol93) November 19, 2017
— Julia J (@JuliaJ45) November 19, 2017
Don't forget @shondarhimes
— Gayelle (@Gayelle10) November 19, 2017
And some are just utterly unsurprised. After all, Girls was pretty obsessed with white hipster womanhood.
I should’ve known Lena Dunham was a lil racist biotch there was never any black ppl on GIRLS except for that one time she dated Gambino on the show
— 𝕵𝖎𝖓𝖝 🧞♀️✨ (@MissHonieB) November 20, 2017
Lena Dunham is constantly on some bullshit. Please send her racist ass into irrelevancy where she belongs.
— Sarah (@grumpyfeminist) November 20, 2017
Even though “feminism” has become trendy in recent years, white feminism’s roots continue to have a stronghold in mainstream movements, often poisoning discussions by forcing activists to focus on white cisgender women’s experiences as the default. Hopefully, challenging powerful women like Dunham is a start to solving that problem.