Average looking white woman Lena Dunham has built her career (actress, writer, self-proclaimed feminist) on her body’s deviation from the Hollywood’s thin norm. Her body’s become inextricable from her work, partly because the public won’t let it be anything else, and partly because Dunham can’t separate it when it’s such a key piece of her cultural and feminist credibility. So it’s not a huge shock that Dunham’s latest newsworthy event is directly tied to her body and the perception, both ours and hers, that it’s unattractive.
In many ways Dunham’s “candid” interview with Amy Schumer (her equal in cringeworthy attempts at comedy and halfhearted feminism) was just another day ending in a “Y”. Lena’s insufferability isn’t new to anyone–starting with her whitewashed depiction of New York City in Girls, to her vomit-inducing recollections of pretty much molesting her kid sister, to the recovery of probably-to-be-deleted racist tweets. But today we’re gonna talk about Dunham and NFL star Odell Beckham Jr, who didn’t talk to her at the Met Gala.
[bctt tweet=”In many ways Dunham’s ‘candid’ interview with Amy Schumer was just another day ending in a ‘Y.’ ” username=”wearethetempest”]
In the highly embarrassing and extremely unfunny interview, which also includes stupid comments about Schumer’s mess with Kurt Metzger (women are weak for being offended by rape apologists) and an uncomfortable mention of trying to grind on Michael B. Jordan, Dunham says of Beckham:
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.
The vibe was very much like, ‘Do I want to f— it? Is it wearing a … yep, it’s wearing a tuxedo. I’m going to go back to my cell phone.’”
It was like we were forced to be together, and he literally was scrolling Instagram rather than have to look at a woman in a bow tie. I was like, ‘This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Getting Rejected by Athletes.’”
In case you’re confused, this is all Dunham talking. Quotation marks aside, Beckham said none of this.
It’s a mystery if Beckham 1) knows who she is and 2) remembers being seated next to her. But without saying a word, he’s shallow, sexist, dumb, and unappreciative of Dunham’s bowtie. He’s a misogynist who can’t fathom a woman who looks like Dunham, who’s written her off as unfuckable and unworthy of his attention. And we’re supposed to feel sorry for her because her average body failed to make an impression on a man.
[bctt tweet=”Without saying a word, he’s shallow, sexist, dumb, and unappreciative of Dunham’s bowtie. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
And maybe we would have if that’s what happened, but it wasn’t.
It does happen in the world, however, men taking one look at a woman and deciding she isn’t attractive because she’s not a Victoria’s Secret model. This view may be annoying, painful, and alienate most of the female population, but it’s still a view men are entitled to. Like women, men should be allowed to determine who’s desirable to them without explanation and harassment and certainly without ending up in Lenny Letter to be the butt of Dunham’s unfunny jokes. But Dunham, stinging from an imaginary slight, conjured a narrative of oppression and twisted the scenario so she looked like the wounded party.
[bctt tweet=”Like women, men should be allowed to determine who’s desirable to them.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Dunham refers to this nonexistent exchange as a “rejection”, but it’s not. A rejection implies some kind of offer was made, but Dunham says nothing about her striking up a conversation with Beckham while simultaneously criticizing him for saying nothing to her. Nothing. Nothing rude, nothing cruel, nothing about her attractiveness (or her damn bowtie). He just scrolled through Instagram.
It’s impossible to watch this unfold and not see the historical and social underpinnings that dictate that white women are the peak of sexual attractiveness, even white women who aren’t “conventionally attractive”. It’s an idea ingrained not only in people of color but in white women, just as ingrained as stereotypes about black male sexuality being animalistic and available, especially to white women. All of which combine in Dunham’s account of their “interaction”.
Though Dunham admitted to not being a fan of the Met Gala, surrounded by coiffed and glamorous people she didn’t fit in with, her discomfort didn’t make her feel any less entitled to Beckham’s attention. In Dunham’s effort to push back against ideas of her body as undesirable, she dumped her insecurities on a complete stranger (which she admits in an annoying tweet) and decided it was up to him to make her feel secure and sexually desirable because she didn’t feel that way at the moment.
When she was rebuffed (in her own mind) she lashed out via Lenny Letter. Because he failed to satisfy her ego she made up a story (with dialogue!) of a black man who was too stupid and misogynistic to give her what she wanted, presented it as fact, identified him by name, and published it in an apparent effort to laugh off her self-wrought humiliation, and shame him for something she imagined.
Beckham, just living his life and not catering to a woman he’s never met, becomes the problem even though it’s Dunham who’s clearly got one. This is uncomfortably reminiscent of white women claiming violence from black men (whether it be a mere look from one or in this case their rejection of white women’s sexual advances) to justify their own violence against them.
This isn’t to deny Dunham, or anyone else, the room to be disappointed and hurt when someone isn’t attracted to you. Lots of women have known the kind of rejection Dunham imagines here, but in this case it is imagined. While the suspicion someone’s dismissed you and your body is a blow (I’ve felt it), that mere suspicion isn’t anyone’s to manage but Dunham’s.
I’m denying her entitlement to Beckham’s attention and interest. It is not an “outrage machine”.
Whatever insecurities Dunham is still wrangling, they’re hers. They belong to her, are hers to unpack and hers to overcome. No one can do that for her, and no stranger should have to bear their weight and become the public face of her insecurities for sitting silently next to her. In Dunham’s search for empowerment she’s veered (been there for awhile really) into plain self-centeredness. Self-love, self-confidence, and all forms of being proud of oneself are important, but they don’t give you license to be an asshole.
[bctt tweet=”Self-love is important, but it doesn’t give you license to be an asshole.” username=”wearethetempest”]
If Dunham wanted to talk about how she felt, she could have done that. Instead she pushed a narrative that really has nothing to do with Beckham but is made all about him. Or at least about a made up version of him Dunham created to rationalize his neutral response to her presence and make herself feel better.
[bctt tweet=”This guy is publicly blasted for leaving Lena Dunham alone. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
After thinking so hard about this man she didn’t know and what he thought of her, Dunham doesn’t think about him at all when dropping his name on her journey of self-empowerment, making him a funny anecdote to share with Amy Schumer and Lenny Letter‘s readers. Lost on her is what effect this would have on Beckham, who now has articles being written about his sexual orientation and is being asked to respond to Dunham’s imagination.
All this time spent telling people, especially men, they aren’t entitled to women’s time or attention, and this guy is publicly blasted for leaving Lena Dunham alone.
After criticism and a private conversation with director Xavier Burgin, Dunham’s apologized to Beckham and for her role in perpetuating stereotypes about black male sexuality, particularly in relation to white women. We can only hope Dunham will actually take this criticism (unlike any of the other criticism she’s received) and do better in the future. But considering her track record, I won’t hold my breath.
The next time someone doesn’t talk to you, Lena, consider that this may be why.