Lena Dunham has been accused of “hipster racism” in a barbed parting shot by a black writer who has quit her newsletter, Lenny Letter, following a weekend of controversy for the beleaguered Girls creator.
Zinzi Clemmons said in a social media post that Dunham and her friends at Brown University in the mid-2000s were notorious among their contemporaries for “their well-known racism,” adding, “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?’” Clemmons wrote.
Clemmons—author of What We Lose—quit after Dunham defended a writer on her show Girls named Murray Miller, who was accused by the actress Aurora Perrineau of raping her in 2012, when she was 17 years old.
Dunham’s defense of Miller was made apparently without talking to Perrineau, who has filed a police report alleging that Miller raped her in his bed after a party at the Standard Hotel.
Perrineau claimed that after a night of drinking, she went to Murray’s room with several other people and, “At some point, I woke up in Murray’s bed naked. He was on top of me having sexual intercourse with me. At no time did I consent to any sexual contact with Murray.”
Dunham’s defense of Miller appeared to rest on the fact that she knew him really well and he was, like, a really good guy, and wouldn’t do something like that.
In an extraordinarily ill-conceived statement issued with her Girls co-writer Jenni Korner, Dunham said, “Our 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.”
As social media exploded with outrage (Harvey Weinstein accuser Asia Argento posted: “You wrote me an email of support a few weeks ago and now you defend a rapist? WTF @lenadunham?”), Dunham sought to backpedal, issuing another statement apologizing for the first (the apology joins a long list of Dunham regrets, including a “sorry” for comparing Bill Cosby’s criminal behavior to the Holocaust).
It wasn’t good enough for Clemmons, however, who resigned from her post at Lenny Letter. And, not only did Clemmons accuse Dunham of “hipster racism” and make clear that she was appalled by Dunham voicing her support for Miller following his accusation of sexual assault by an actress of color, she also alleged a friend of hers had endured a similar experience at the hands of one of Dunham’s friends.
She said she had been “overcome by emotion” since reading Perrineau’s account because “of its similarity to an incident” that allegedly happened to one of her best friends in college.
“One of my best friends was victimized in almost the exact same way by someone in Lena’s circle,” Clemmons wrote. “It was never addressed, and he continues to move in those circles and has a powerful job. 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. I grew up middle class, with no family connections in the writing or art worlds, and my friend was from a similar background. We were powerless against them.”
In her allegations of racism, Clemmons writes that one woman in Dunham’s group was “known to use the N word in conversation in order to be provocative, and if she was ever called on it, she would say, ‘It’s just a joke.’ I was often in the same room with her, but I never spoke to her, only watched her from far in anxiety and horror.”
Clemmons concluded, “It is time for women of color—black women in particular—to divest from Lena Dunham.”
Dunham has yet to respond to Clemmons’ comments.