On Thursday, director Ava DuVernay applauded the work of actress Aurora Perrineau. She tweeted that Perrineau “is a wonderful, focused actor. I hope other directors + producers remembers this about her – and not this mess. She is the opposite of how she was initially publicly painted by this ordeal. That must be said.”
The “mess” DuVernay referred to is the public abuse and mistreatment Perrineau faced after she dared to report the sexual assault she endured at the hands of Murray Miller, a writer and filmmaker. As is unfortunately the case with many Black women survivors of assault, Perrineau was made out to be a liar. Not only by the general public and Murray but by a supposed white feminist icon: Lena Dunham
Perrineau boasts several impressive acting credits, including several television shows and the upcoming DuVernay-directed miniseries Central Park 5. But few would know that given how her name has been misused in mainstream media. Perrineau’s career achievements have only been marred by those who wish to silence, condemn and abuse her for not only saying #MeToo, but for saying it about a white man in Hollywood.
This is only made worse by Dunham’s foolish need to insert herself in Perrineau’s story. On Wednesday, the Girls creator admitted to the world that she lied to discredit a Black woman who had accused her white colleague of sexual assault. In a letter published by the Hollywood Reporter, Dunham apologized to Perrineau for defending her white friend Miller and publicly stating last year that Perrineau’s case had been “misreported.” She cited “insider knowledge of Murray’s situation” and vowed to stand by the embattled writer.
This week, she revealed that was a lie. In the pretentious, self-serving letter, Dunham wrote: “I didn't have the ‘insider information’ I claimed but rather blind faith in a story that kept slipping and changing and revealed itself to mean nothing at all.” Along with the apology, the 32-year-old wrote that her attack on Perrineau made her “a better woman and a better feminist.”
Dunham’s display only proves what we have long known about white feminists, they will participate in and uphold patriarchy for the sake of their white men friends, colleagues and relatives. And, without even a thought, they will do so to the detriment of Black women. Perrineau’s life, and her story, do not exist to improve Dunham’s character, or anyone’s character for that matter. Maligning and devaluing Black women should never be a stepping stone for white women on their journeys to some supposed sense of self-awareness. Unfortunately, it has been exactly that for many white women. But we stand (and have stood) alongside scores of Black women who have said “no more,” who have refused to have their stories reduced to emotional work for self-centered white feminists.
Dunham has proven that the “softness, helplessness and modesty” applied to white women is — as Toni Morrison put it in What the Black Woman Thinks About Women’s Lib — simply a “willingness to let others do their labor and thinking.”
This isn’t the first time Dunham has wielded her white feminist power only to then offer a lackluster apology, though. From objectifying (and lying on) Odell Beckham Jr. and using Black and brown people for capitalistic purposes to making careless comments about abortion, Dunham has exhibited a lack of care for anything and anyone that does not serve her in some way, shape or form.
But as much as Dunham has used Perrineau’s story to shift attention (and power) to herself and her brand of feminism (which, for Black women, is no feminism at all), we cannot allow Dunham’s narrative to be the only story. Perrineau is a seasoned actress who is loved and valued by many. Her worth and value do not lie in her career achievement, though, but in her very being. The white feminism that attempted to strip Perrineau of that personhood must be condemned. It is dangerous. It is an abuse that functions in society like an untreatable virus.
Black Women’s Blueprint has cried with Black women survivors, marched with them, and advocated for policy that protects them. We have done this while Dunham and white feminists like her have undermined these efforts to uphold and protect white femininity and white supremacy — thus putting Black women in harm’s way. In her quest for self-glorification, Dunham has perpetuated the idea that survivors lie about sexual assault and abuse, which we know is not steeped in evidence (only 0.5 percent of rape allegations are false), but in a socialized desire to protect masculinity. Where Black women’s lives and safety are at risk, there we will be — ready and willing to cry and march and advocate.
To love Black women is to believe in our inherent worth and value. That belief must manifest itself in taking our abuse seriously and believing what we say. Not only that, it must manifest itself in advocacy and joining the fight for our safety — whether it be through policy, art, physical care, etc. A rejection of white feminism must be accompanied by a dedication to uplifting and empowering Black women’s voices and lives. That is what we wish to do for Aurora Perrineau.
Aurora, we stand with you. You are our sister. We believe you.
If you are a Black woman in the New York area who is experiencing domestic violence or know someone who is, please reach out to Black Women’s Blueprint at: 347-533-9102/3 or 646-647-5414.