Another cringe-y moment with Dunham. (Image Credit: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons)
Whenever Lena Dunham starts trending on Facebook or Twitter, it’s become this thing where I suddenly morph into Angry Tyra. You know, the gif of Tyra angrily shouting at a contestant who was voted off the show and clearly gave no f*cks about it. “I was rooting for you. We all were."
That’s how I feel about Dunham. It’s okay if you’re not with me here. But every time she’s in the news for screwing up, I feel let down. Not because I don’t think that she’s guilty of peak white feminism (oh, she is), but because I genuinely think she wants to do better and she has the platform to do magnificent things.
I stopped being a Girls fan after Season Two, because like many other people of color, it was obvious that it wasn’t my story, and the lack of faces like my own concreted that belief. But I still never gave up on Dunham because it’s easy to be a rich kid who does nothing. But she’s doing stuff. Lots of stuff. So much so that people legit feel threatened by her success. (But please don’t conflate all the criticism she receives with people simply feeling threatened by her success, because those are two VERY different camps.)
Still, I know that she tries and when she does, the outcome is beautiful. Woman Of The Hour is actually a pretty fantastic podcast, which is now forever tainted by this one gaffe. While this last episode was clearly tumultuous and upsetting, in a previous episode she interviewed Geneva Reed-Veal. The episode left me clutching bawled-up tissues in my fist as I listened to the agonizing story of a woman who willingly goes down a rabbit hole, searching for answers in her daughter’s (Sandra Bland) death. What Reed-Veal ultimately finds is that, sadly, her daughter wasn’t the first, and from the looks of it, she won’t be the last … not unless we all do something to stop this madness.
How could a statement such as wishing an abortion on one’s self also fall under failing to recognize one’s privilege? Well for starters, it’s incredibly insensitive to anyone who’s ever had an abortion.
I applauded Dunham for that episode. Because if our allies don’t stand up and give a platform to fighting police brutality, who will? This work is a hard path to walk alone, and I can name the celebrities who have actively engaged this topic on my fingers and toes. That episode was really well done, and I even tweeted so much to say so.
The whole “I wish I had an abortion” thing reminds me vaguely of the ignorance of people who regularly tell me they wish they were black. Except there are absolutely zero perks to having an abortion. None what-so-ever. With blackness, you get tons of oppression and all the other bad things of coming from an enslaved minority group. However, you also get dope music, style, culture, strength, and all the other good things that could happen to a single group of people. In the words of the great Lupe Fiasco,
Another sign that God love you
Cause on the low
Bein po' make you humble”
Those who say they wish to be black are never actually thinking about the hard dose of oppression and the constant struggle that would come with their newly earned melanin, should they wake up one day to find their wish magically granted.
Now might be a fine time to mention that I haven’t had an abortion either, and I would never say anything so thoughtless. I will feel extremely lucky if I can get through this life without having terminated a pregnancy. But nothing is guaranteed, because the things is, if we are fertile and of child-bearing age, there is still plenty of time for abortions. Because no one guarantees that a baby will grow to full term inside you without birth defects. What if your or my baby develops a brain while in utero? Guess what girly, we’re probably getting those abortions.
And people will still judge us. Those who can’t even imagine the pain and turmoil we are feeling will rush to judge us and our decisions. And it will suck to high heavens. Doing activism work will be the furthest from your or my mind. And no, I wouldn’t wish that on either you or me.
So class, since we’ve talked about “white feminism” all semester, let’s review what we’ve learned about white feminism. White feminism is feminism which lacks intersectionality. Failing to recognize one’s own privilege can definitely fall under the “white feminism” umbrella.
How could a statement such as wishing an abortion on one’s self also fall under failing to recognize one’s privilege? Well for starters, it’s incredibly insensitive to anyone who’s ever had an abortion. People are affected by abortion in different ways, from what I’ve witnessed of friends and loved ones, and it’s mostly just important to listen to their stories and learn from them. You can still fight the fight that way. It doesn’t make your voice any less powerful.
If you’ve managed to get through this life without having had to seek the services of a good abortion provider, it says a lot about you, but mostly it says that you are privileged. Abortions don’t happen to the lazy, forgetful, and reckless, unlike what some would like to believe. Abortions happen to those without education and access to proper contraceptives, and those whose birth control fails them.
Abortions also happen during pregnancies when things take a turn for the tragic. They happen to abuse victims and rape survivors. If you manage to get to your third decade without an abortion, you’re incredibly lucky. But there’s also a good chance that you’ve had access to education and contraceptives. Which means you’ve also had pretty decent health care, because the pill isn’t exactly widely available to the masses.
Wishing abortion upon yourself for the sake of fighting the good fight tells the world that you don’t actually understand how hard the battle absolutely is. I do hope Dunham's learned from this episode because I’m tired of being disappointed by white feminists who wish to fight side by side with all of us.