Lena Dunham is an insightful and impressive young woman. Her talent is unmistakable and her voice is distinct. For those reasons she should be around for a long time. Despite the fact that I am nowhere near the demographic of her target audience I was a big fan of her groundbreaking HBO comedy GIRLS.
And although GIRLS ended more than a year ago Lena has remained in the spotlight. Her eloquent and outspoken political stances and advocacy for the #MeToo movement have made her stand out amongst her peers because let’s face it, how many prominent political voices can you think of that are in their 20’s besides her? I’m sure they are out there but their profile is not as high as hers is.
And Lena will have to rely on that youth now to help her gain redemption for the incredible f*ck up that she just pulled. Lena and her creative partner Jenni Konner released a formal statement calling actress Aurora Perrineau a liar for accusing their friend and collaborator Murray Miller of raping her when she was 17 years old. Of course these women put it much more skillfully than that- they are top notch Hollywood writers after all.
Rather than just call Ms. Perrineau a liar, they state that 3% of all rape reports are false or “misreported” and- unfortunately- Ms. Perrineau’s charges of rape against their beloved friend just happens to fall in that 3%. They claim in their press release that they happen to have “insider knowledge of Murray’s situation” know Murray and they stand by him and his innocence.
Ladies, with all due respect GET THE F*CK OUT OF HERE. Every man accused of rape or harassment or assault or molestation is SOMEBODY’S beloved friend or son or brother or father or husband. They have inside knowledge of their situations too. What in the hell makes yours any more valuable- unless of course you were in the room while your 35 year old friend Murray was on top of the 17 year old actress having sex with her while she was unconscious. Ms. Perrineau reports that she woke up with Murray Miller on top of her. Now if her report says that when she looked behind Murray that Lena and Jenni were in the room watching then that is “inside knowledge” that actually means something. Anything short of that is worthless bullsh*t and even releasing that statement has done irreparable harm to the movement to conduct a mass purging of dark secrets of assault that have privately haunted women all over the country.
Since Lena and Jenni felt that they could vouch for their pal Murray, why doesn’t every guy who catches a case or some bad publicity just get his favorite duo of superstar women writers to come out and proclaim his innocence as well? Did it even occur to these ladies how class-driven their ill-conceived defense is? So in Lena’s world a guy who is not as well connected as Murray gets accused and he’s f*cked because he can’t get Emmy Award winners to issue public statements on his behalf.
I honestly cannot believe that they did something so stupid. Women calling other women liars about rape is the strongest mortar that keeps the wall of silence in tact. I’m unqualified to be in the #MeToo movement but even I know that. Making any kind of a public statement at all- especially one along these lines- reflects the kind of arrogance that so many trolls in the conservative media crow and cry about every damned day. So I can’t even tell them to go f*ck themselves over this issue because this time they are right. These ladies are in fact Hollywood elite and they do want to apply different rules to other people than to their own. Guilty as charged.
I understand that only a few hours after releasing this statement Lena is trying to walk it back but the horse has already left the barn. She hasn’t come up with any new information in the last few hours- she just doesn’t like the fierce backlash that she is getting and she so richly deserves. You don’t get to castigate people that you don’t like over accusations that you turn around and defend for people that you like- or try to draw false distinctions in a vain attempt to preserve your credibility. I’m calling bullsh*t and hope they are not too insulated in their bubble of privilege to learn this lesson. Consistency and contextual awareness is what is supposed to separate enlightened progressive intellectuals from retrograde conservative mouth-breathers. Maybe I need to reassess that paradigm after this messaging disaster- and the mindf*ck that we got from Senator Gillibrand on Friday. These foolish public statements undermine the spirit and the effectiveness of #MeToo.
If we don’t get anything else out of this discussion we need to get this: If we are going to set up rules of engagement that say “women don’t lie about rape or harassment” and “women are to be believed when they come out” etc. then you don’t get to toss those rules overboard and run to the defense of a man you happen to like. Frankly, those rules of engagement are foolish and dangerous in the first place but as a man I have always felt it better to hold my fire on the issue because I understand the larger value being served by creating an environment where women feel safe to come out because they will be believed and not attacked.
Rules that reflect a more mature culture and society would simply require people to do the following when sexual misconduct accusations come out:
1- be restrained in media and public proclamations;
2- be patient with any legal or administrative processes involved;
3- be supportive of women coming out; and
4- be honest and open about your feelings for or about the parties involved before you announce whatever position you are taking.
Of course shutting the hell up is always an option but I recognize that for some folks that is just beyond comprehension. But other than remaining silent, that short list covers all the bases of responsible conduct and accounts for the fact that we are all human beings and we have biases. If we don’t like somebody we reflexively rush to the narrative that hurts them the most. That is called confirmation bias and it is destroying our political discourse. Confirmation bias is killing any cultural cohesion that could hold us together as Americans in challenging times. Right now anything that happens becomes another opportunity to alienate us in that “us against them” bullsh*t that Donald Trump has used to fuel his rise to our highest office.
Lena and Jenni just played right into that without realizing the devastation it could do. I am a forcefully opinionated person and have always had to make a conscious effort to keep my tribal reflexes under control when assessing situations both large and small so I understand how they got caught up in this situation. I will share with these brilliant young women something that I adopted that helped me:
Always focus on WHAT is right, not on WHO is right.
That can help you stay consistent and keep you from being taken over by confirmation bias like the kid in Stranger Things got taken over by the Shadow Monster.
We’ve got a shadow monster of our own in real life- and this one wears a multi-colored comb-over, is bent on destruction and doesn’t need any help from our best and brightest voices. Do better than this, ladies. But I still really dig you.