Lenny Letter writer quits over Lena Dunham’s sexual assault response, calls out her “hipster racism”
Author and Lenny Letter writer Zinzi Clemmons announced on social media Sunday that she would no longer write for Lena Dunham’s online publication, after the Girls creator along with showrunner Jenni Konner issued a joint statement denying sexual assault allegations against Girls writer Murray Miller.
In the statement, which Clemmons published on Twitter, the author calls out Dunham for her “well-known racism,” writing to women of color: “[Dunham] cannot have our words if she cannot respect us.”
“I know exactly who Lena Dunham is — who she was before she was famous — and have for years,” Clemmons wrote in the statement, noting that she and Dunham “ran in the same circles in college.” Clemmons described Dunham and their acquaintances as “wealthy, with parents who are influential in the art world,” adding “they had a lot of power and seemed to get off on simultaneously wielding and denying it.”
“Back in college, I avoided those people like the plague because of their well-known racism,” Clemmons wrote about Lena and her circle of friends. “I’d call their strain ‘hipster racism,’ which typically uses sarcasm as a cover, and in the end, it looks a lot like gaslighting — ‘It’s just a joke. Why are you overreacting?’ is a common response to these kinds of statements.”
Clemmons added that she had been “overcome with emotion” after reading the account of Murray’s accuser, noting that one of her best friends “was victimized in almost the exact same way by someone in Lena’s circle.”
“My friend was going through a hard time then, and we decided not to report it or take it further because we didn’t want to expose her to more trauma, which would surely come from facing these people,” Clemmons wrote. “We were powerless against them,” she added.
Though Clemmons said there were “many incredible women who work for Lenny,” the writer said she would not apologize to them for her decision.
“Their boss betrayed them by her actions, and it was wrong for her to make them choose between their authors and supporting their boss. They deserve so much better,” Clemmons wrote. “Let’s hold Lena accountable, and to me that means sacrificing some comfort and a little bit of cash, in this moment.”
Clemmons’ statement comes after Dunham and Konner issued a statement Friday to the Hollywood Reporter denying the sexual assault charges against Miller, who was accused of raping actress Aurora Perrineau in 2012 when she was 17 years old. In Dunham and Konner’s statement, the two wrote that they “stood by” Miller, claiming that their “insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year.”
After their statement was met with swift backlash, Dunham issued a second response on Saturday, in which they apologized and said they regretted their decision to issue the first statement “with every fiber of our being.”
“I now understand that it was absolutely the wrong time to come forward with such a statement and I am so sorry,” the second statement reads. “Every woman who comes forward deserves to be heard, fully and completely, and our relationship with the accused should not be part of the calculation anyone makes when examining her case.”
Dunham is no stranger when it comes to making public apologies for her comments — particularly when it involves the casual racism that Clemmons decried in her letter. The Girls creator — whose show was heavily criticized for its lack of diversity — was forced to apologize in September 2016 after complaining that Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t pay attention to her at the Met Gala, which was interpreted as perpetuating stereotypes regarding the sexualization of black men.
Dunham has also been called out for casually racist posts on social media. In August 2012, Dunham was criticized after posting an Instagram photo of herself wearing a scarf in a manner resembling a hijab, writing: “I had a real goth/fundamentalist attitude when I woke up from my nap.”
A 2011 tweet by Dunham that resurfaced in 2016, similarly, sparked outrage for its casual racism.
“An uncool thought to have: ‘Is that guy walking behind me a rapist?’” Dunham wrote in the tweet, which has since been deleted. “Never mind, he’s Asian.”