Lena Dunham, creator and writer of the TV series “Girls,” can now be added to the list of white feminists who navigate through Hollywood with an ignorant lens perpetuating stereotypes under the guise of “comedy.”
Dunham has been under fire after attending the Costume Institute Gala in New York City on May 2, where she made bigoted comments about Odell Beckham Jr., black wide receiver for the New York Giants, insinuating he is not following the stereotype of black men being attracted to white women when he seemed disinterested toward her.
Beckham’s decision of scrolling through his Instagram rather than looking at the tuxedoed Dunham apparently sparked something in her that ended up in an extremely distasteful comment.
As Dunham continued to bash Beckham with her racist and sexualized comments, her followers on Twitter did not let her off the hook easily.
“It was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, ‘That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.’ It wasn’t mean—he just seemed confused,” Dunham said during an interview with comedian Amy Schumer.
The problem in assuming that a black man is purposefully ignoring a white woman is the connotation that black men need to have some form of sexual interaction with white women.
These assumptions force Beckham to be seen as a stereotypical black man only interested in white women.
While Dunham tries to portray her comments as comedic, her poor taste really doesn’t settle well with the climate of current race relations.
Rebecca Dolhinow, Women and Gender Studies professor at CSUF, believes most comedy is inherently offensive but also feels that intersectionality and race relations are factors that affect everyone.
Therefore, there is no reason Dunham should be joking about things like this and not expect some sort of backlash.
Comments like “Get over yourself, girl” and “Racism aside, of course Lena Dunham would think that someone who isn’t interested in her is also obsessing over her,” from various Twitter posts in a Huffington Post article highlighting Dunham’s arrogance.
Dunham’s comments inevitably caused tension with black writers, such as Kirsten West Savali who felt her comments were more than just a comedic slip-up.
Savali said she believes that comments like these are vitriol to the progressive ideals society is trying to instill in the world.
“She weaponized her body against him while centering herself as the victim,” according to an op-ed Savali wrote for the Root, a premier news, opinion and culture site for African-American influencers.
There is some truth in Savali’s conclusion when thinking about the implications that the comment portrays.
Dunham’s racially-charged comment perpetuates the stereotypical notions of blackness, such as the belief that black men are violent tricksters and have been the real reason for the deaths of one in every three unarmed black citizens by police in 2015.
These deaths are not a joke to the families that have lost their loved ones and neither is Dunham’s horrible sense of humor when it comes to her interpretation of how black men think.
Dunham doesn’t have to worry about being objectified in the media as much as others, and it’s ironic that she’s aiming to be a positive role model. There is a racial intersectionality that, as a white woman, she never has to consistently monitor while in public spaces. On the other hand, black men and women are constantly being judged by historical stereotypes like the “jezebel” and the “angry black woman.”
If Dunham wants to make a positive impact on others, she needs to learn to look past her privilege and understand the problems of other people, rather than perpetuating them.
While Dunham did apologize for the turmoil she caused, she only did so because she received a large and justified amount of judgment for her offensive comments.
“I went ahead and projected these insecurities and made totally narcissistic assumptions about what he was thinking, then presented those assumptions as facts. I feel terrible about it,” Dunham said in an Instagram post.
What seems to be a sincere apology from Dunham is served only as a pathetic method of saving face and being revealed for who she truly is: a white-privileged woman who only cares about the issues of other white-privileged women.
In such a racially sensitive and violent time, it’s easy to dismiss this comment as humorous, but while black people are being profiled, people like Dunham get to slander and defame whomever they please all in the name of “comedy.” Hopefully, this issue will bring to light some of the deeper problems that stereotyping causes in our society.