I like Lena Dunham. Rather, I’ve always liked what she stood for.
I’ve never watched her TV show, and I don’t often visit Lenny, her web site, but I am aware of her stance on feminist issues, self-love, etc. For instance, she insists that she will not allow Hollywood’s unrealistic and unhealthy ideals to dictate how she looks, what roles she plays or how she lives her life. Bravo, I say.
But this latest kerfluffle that she’s caused – unnecessarily I might add – over poor Odell Beckham Jr. is pure and simple asshattery of the first water.
It began with this interview with Amy Schumer:
I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, “That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.” It wasn’t mean — he just seemed confused.
The vibe was very much like, “Do I want to fuck it? Is it wearing a … yep, it’s wearing a tuxedo. I’m going to go back to my cell phone.” It was like we were forced to be together, and he literally was scrolling Instagram rather than have to look at a woman in a bow tie. I was like, “This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Getting Rejected by Athletes.”
So, lemme get this straight. Someone’s sitting next to you, not pandering, not asking questions, not flattering, essentially quietly minding their own business, and you assume that means they don’t want to sleep you? You may have assumed correctly, but for you to publically announce your supposition a la how dare he not want my big, white ass? That goes beyond white privilege, boo boo. That’s just plain old, garden variety, elephantine ego.
I see it in the workplace all the time. A woman doesn’t respond to a man’s rude, supposed to be funny sexist remark, and then he goes around the office calling her a bitch or complaining that she has no sense of humor. Or, a younger person or a minority says something in a meeting, and someone more senior rolls his or her eyes and passes around knowing looks – the equivalent of a patronizing pat on the head, like, nice try kid.
This time the narrative was completely made up – Dunham was pissed because she felt she was being ignored. But regardless of scenario or location, the idea is the same: You’re not behaving how I want you to. How dare you, and I’m going to punish you for it by blackening your name and character. Really?
This sort of thing happens way too often, not just in Hollywood, but in any social situation where diverse people interact. So, to Dunham I offer three numbers.
Number one, grow up and stop being silly. Have more care with someone’s name and how you throw it around. In some circles a person’s reputation is as good as currency. Treat it as though it has value; you want the same respect. Number two, this kind of flip, careless behavior can be dangerous, and when there are sexual connotations it’s not a joking matter. When a white woman’s dream of rape can put a black man in prison for nearly three decades, and someone getting the wrong idea can land a person in the hospital or under a pile of dirt, we beg you, Lena, to watch what you say. And number three, please get your ego in check, lady. The world, and all of the professional athletes in it, do not exist to pander to your outsized inner monologues.
Beckham was asked much later what he thought of the whole thing, and apparently he knew nothing about it. Like – nothing. It seemed to have completely pass him by:
‘It’s life. There are so many things that go on, you catch some of them, you don’t catch some of them, you just — I don’t know man, I don’t have much to say about that. I have to learn more about the situation.’
But my beef is, why did Dunham think she could throw him under the bus like that anyway? I see that kind of bad behavior in the workplace a lot. If you’re a person of color or you’re a woman, or heaven help you, both, somehow what you want and feel becomes second to what others want and feel. It’s like Beckham Jr. had no right to keep his own company in her presence. Like he was supposed to be punished for not paying her the attention she felt she was due. Get over yourself, girl.
I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of foolishness so many times throughout my career. Somehow, I’m held responsible for someone else’s feelings. Someone gets mad at me for some alleged crime or slight – usually me not taking their crap lying down or daring to make myself and my contributions known – and goes to my boss to complain. Instead of asking what did you do to provoke her or reviewing both sides of the situation with some semblance of objectivity – with some consideration for my consistently professional, courteous and collaborative behavior – I always end being chastised for not behaving correctly.
I’m always the one required to turn the other cheek or be the bigger person. Hello, double standard. That baffles me. In that last scenario, I didn’t start the trouble – and neither did Beckham – and I didn’t run whining about some petty infraction, yet I’m to be punished for some grown ass person’s “hurt” feelings? Try again, Buddha.
At the end of the day, we need to watch out for inflated feelings of privilege, ours and others. Notice I didn’t say white privilege. Not because that doesn’t play a role in the kind of behavior Dunham displayed, but because this isn’t just a white thing. Embrace diversity of thought, y’all. We’re all – man or woman, black or white, young or old – allowed to keep our own counsel, or not, where appropriate.
Dunham seems to agree since she apologized. But if you ever feel as though someone isn’t behaving the way you think they should, check yourself first. It may be your behavior that needs work.