Last week, Girls star and creator Lena Dunham had a conversation with comedian Amy Schumer, where they discussed what it is like to be a woman in the entertainment industry and deal with sexism on a regular basis. However, the conversation took a strange turn when Dunham and Schumer discussed their experiences at the Met Gala last year. Dunham’s comments sexualized and projected her own insecurities onto the unsuspecting Odell Beckham Jr., who had the misfortune of being seated next to her at the Met Gala.
“I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and 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 fuck 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.”
Now, while I am certain that we all have objectified very handsome, famous men who we do not know and likely will never know personally, Dunham’s comments ring narcissistic at best and clueless at worst. Many on Twitter and in the media criticized Dunham for her comments, as they harkened to a long history of white women over-sexualizing and lying on black men in public.
It's even more disgusting when you take apart the stereotype of black men being oversexed, hypersexualized beings.
— X (@XLNB) September 2, 2016
While it seems to me that this instance is simply a misstep on Dunham’s part (I imagine that she was probably just trying to be funny when speaking to Schumer), it should be noted that in many cases in the past, black men lost their lives over the public lies and accusations of white women.
After an extensive dragging on Twitter and in the media, Dunham issued a long apology on Instagram, acknowledging the racial undertones of her comments. Dunham actually reached out to Twitter user, Xavier (quoted above). He is a writer and director who tweeted at and informed Dunham of the racist history behind comments like hers. Dunham responded to X’s tweets, which is great, but Dunham’s response warrants a question: why has she refused to listen to the critiques of her work from black women, who have been vocal about her race issues for years?
In any case, Dunham apologized for accusing Beckham of ignoring her, while he had in fact done absolutely nothing to her besides not give her the attention she believed she deserved. She conceded that she was wrong to ascribe misogyny to a man who had not even said a disparaging word to her. While I do believe that women may (accurately) sense sexism in a man’s actions or inactions, ultimately no one owes anyone time or attention.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) September 3, 2016
Good on Lena for listening to her critics and apologizing to Beckham. As a public figure, her words matter, and historically, what white women say about black men in public can have dire consequences for their career and even their lives. This exchange was mostly another example of Dunham’s obliviousness when it comes to issues of race, but as this story shows, nothing said in public is absent the context of history.
Photo Credits: Flickr