Why Tessa Thompson Should Have Let Her First Word On Lena Dunham Be Her Last

January 9, 2018  |  

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I don’t know what I can say about Lena Dunham that I haven’t said already, except that she is in the midst of another, rightfully earned dragging. This time for her “involvement” with Hollywood’s newfound #TimesUp campaign against sexual assault. And as usual, her controversy centers around issues of race and feminism.

You may recall that the last time we wrote about Lena Dunham it was for her treatment of actress Aurora Perrineau.

When Perrineau came forward accusing Murray Miller of raping her, Dunham nearly broke her neck to come out and essentially call Perrineau a liar.

In a statement she sent to the Hollywood Reporter, Dunham wrote:

“During the windfall of deeply necessary accusations over the last few months in Hollywood, we have been thrilled to see so many women’s voices heard and dark experiences in this industry justified. It’s a hugely important time of change and, like every feminist in Hollywood and beyond, we celebrate. But during every time of change there are also incidences of the culture, in its enthusiasm and zeal, taking down the wrong targets. We believe, having worked closely with him for more than half a decade, that this is the case with Murray Miller. While our first instinct is to listen to every woman’s story, our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year. It is a true shame to add to that number, as outside of Hollywood women still struggle to be believed. We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.”

It was not lost on any of us that Dunham made this particular statement when a Black woman, (Perrineau is the daughter of Best Man actor Harold Perrineau), was the one making an accusation. And since Dunham’s statement didn’t make any mention of her being in the room to witness Perrineau’s consent and Miller’s compliance, it’s particularly deplorable that she would state that she believes the actress “misreported” her assault, simply because she and Miller have a working relationship. As someone who identifies and promotes herself as a feminist, devoted to feminist causes, it was hypocritical and deplorable.

Later, Dunham issued an apology, like she always does when she does something racially insensitive. But at this point, these apologies after the fact are just not enough. They reflect not only the truly problematic nature of her thoughts but also her lack of growth, despite years of being called out and even educated when it comes to her blind spots.

So, given Dunham’s response to fellow actress Perrineau and the telling of her truth, folks were a bit shocked to see Dunham standing with the actresses who worked to create the #TimesUp movement.



You don’t get to publically deny and denounce someone’s story of sexual assault in Hollywood and then stand next to the women who are attempting to eradicate sexual assault in Hollywood. That’s just not how it works.
And when people started inquiring about Lena’s presence in the picture, actress Tessa Thompson, who posted the same image on her Instagram page, offered this response in a since-deleted comment on Instagram.

“Lena was not anywhere present in our group during the countless hours of work for the last two months. We hosted an open house for the actresses for red carpet messaging and Lena presence was a surprise to us all. This is a time of reckoning. And for many, a re-education. So many women also have real work to do. I’m afraid it’s too nuanced a conversation to have on this platform. But I hear you, and know that your thoughts and words are not lost on me. It’s been discussed.”

I thought it was the perfect response. She acknowledged that Dunham has not been there. And she recognized that the concerns about her presence, given the ramifications of her real-world actions, were valid.

Later, Dunham offered an explanation as to why she was ghost during the planning period.

“I was honored to be invited to the meeting by a close friend and to observe the work that these amazing women have been doing the past few months. For highly personal reasons, I’ve been unable to join previous efforts but being asked to be a part of this celebratory moment was truly beautiful. I’ve worked with Tessa and respect her artistry and admire her consistent candor.”

Given the fact that news of her recent breakup from musician Jack Antonoff, after five years of dating, has been made public, we can assume that this has at least something to do with her absence.

Breakups hurt. And I can understand why she might not have been present for the two months of planning that went into the movement. Sometimes you need a break. But what she shouldn’t have done was show up for the photo opp, invitation or not.

Not only do her recent comments about Perrineau disqualify her from taking part of this moment, her complete lack of contribution makes her appearance particularly unacceptable. We learned in elementary school that taking credit for work you didn’t do is morally wrong. And posing for a picture with women who did the work, sends the message that you too were somehow involved.

But despite all of this, Tessa Thompson later clarified her comments.


I can understand that she doesn’t want her comments on Dunham to be counterproductive, interpreted as divisive or a distraction from the movement altogether. Still, she told no lies. If Lena wasn’t there doing the work, I don’t see a problem in saying Lena wasn’t there doing the work. If her comments of the past represent something antithetical to the movement itself, then I don’t even think it would have been too much of a stretch to ask her to step aside as the picture was taken. It shows a true dedication to not only the cause but particularly the Black and other minority survivors whose stories were often shrouded in the magnitude of the movement.

I honestly wish Thompson hadn’t deleted her comment or issued any type of clarification on the matter. In the spirit of Zinzi Clemmons and all of the people, outside of the industry, who have had enough of Lena’s antics, it’s time her particular brand of feminism: self-centered, short-sighted, incredibly White and often fraudulent –be called out.

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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