LeftRight

Tag : twitter


Lena Dunham

A couple of days ago, Amanda Hess at Slate published a piece on artists who collaborate with “creeps.” The immediate targets of her analysis were Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, both of whom have recently added creep collaborations to their respective bodies of work. Gaga did that duet with R.Kelly — which really takes the cake in terms of creep collaborations, to be fair to everyone else I’m about to mention — and one of the parade of Beyoncé videos from last week was directed by a Mr. Terry Richardson. In passing, Hess happened to mention that Lena Dunham, the unwilling patron saint of Internet fighting, had recently gone on a tear about how Gaga should not have collaborated with R. Kelly:

“There’s still a sense that being down with the predatory behavior of guys makes you chill, a girl with a sense of humor, a girl who can hang,” Lena Dunham wrote this week of the public endorsement of Kelly, after his long history of sexual assault accusations resurfaced. That’s easy for Dunham to say—it’s unlikely that any collaboration was ever in the cards for those two. (For the record, I have also made the difficult decision to decline to work with Kelly.) Dunham has, however, been photographed by Richardson; he is a hipster staple and also her friend.

Dunham took exception to this and took to Twitter to complain. Tweeting at Hess and another woman who’d linked to Hess, she said the following, which I’ve collated and punctuated but which starts here:

I respectfully want to note that trying to point out cracks in my feminist politics isn’t super constructive. As a young woman in this business, you are placed in immeasurable numbers of situations that test you. Feminism is never a matter of convenience, not for me and I hope not for anyone I admire.

That being said, aspects of this article really spoke to me and I’m so glad the conversation is happening.

I will cop that this confused me from the outset. One thing I am never going to understand about all these new feminism-adjacent pop cultural people and properties is why it’s wrong to analyze their politics in the context of the flag they are, themselves, flying. It would be one thing if Hess’ piece excommunicated Dunham from feminism, because that would be hyperbolic and silly. I am, as I have said, mostly tired of discussions about whether this or that person is a “feminist” per se.

But pointing out that Dunham is criticizing collaborations with creeps from a less than 100% pure political place isn’t out of line in the least, particularly in a piece that, like Hess’, goes on to argue that creeps will find work as long as they’re bankable:

… [I]f you’re a star who refuses to work with a creep, you risk bringing criticism onto yourself from industry executives, other artists, and their fans, while potentially missing out on a lot of money and maybe even compromising your career.

I understand this line of argument, and certainly sympathize with people who show up to work and find that their handlers have deeply, deeply misjudged their personal principles. But when you are at the Beyoncé level of your career, it’s possible that the people these industry executives want you to work with are more desperate to work with you than you with them. And “possible” is being diplomatic about it. Terry Richardson doing a video with Beyoncé is a boon for him, not her. Other cases are murkier, maybe. I’m not sure who got the boost out of the Gaga/R. Kelly performance; if anything, I think it was R. Kelly because it was, as Jim DeRogatis put it the other day, a legitimizing step. Put in that context, it seems pretty damned obvious that Gaga’s handlers could have turned this stuff down. But they didn’t. And that has to be recognized as a kind of choice.

When we get to Dunham being shot by Terry Richardson, a whole other layer of weirdness starts to come in. It does feel like a bit of a definitive knock on Dunham, so much so that apparently Michelle Malkin decided to fling irony to the wind and start tweeting asshole things at Dunham about it, because as we know, there is no greater standard-bearer for feminism today than Michelle Malkin. (Not linking. Malkin tried to follow me on Twitter about this and I blocked her because that’s quite enough space in my personal consciousness for her today.)

Well, as Facebook might say, It’s Complicated. Hess doesn’t talk about this so much in her piece, but there is an aspect in clubby cultural industries (like the one I’m in, for the record) where it’s not so much that you’re friends with everyone as that it becomes sometimes personally awkward to extricate yourself from situations you’d happily shut down on social media. Though, I think you can overstate what all might have gone on here. Hess says that Dunham and Richardson are friends, and she links for support to an Observer profile of Audrey Gelman. What the profile says is that Gelman, who appears in Girls periodically as Charlie’s other ex-girlfriend, Audrey, is close friends with Dunham. And that until recently, Gelman was dating Terry Richardson.

Well, I don’t know about you, but my close friends have often dated, sometimes for years, people I personally hated. So unless someone comes up with some statement Dunham has actually made where she has avowed that Richardson is her “friend,” or some kind of physical evidence like friendship bracelets they were seen weaving for each other on a bench in Central Park, there’s no real proof they are bosom buddies. That said, I guess Dunham had been getting blowback about the Richardson thing and she decided she needed to add some things on Twitter. To wit:

Someone implied my statement about R Kelly was invalid because I’ve had my photograph taken by Terry Richardson. I responded asking that my feminism not be picked apart because of one PR experience. You don’t learn to say no overnight. Any man who takes advantage of any woman sickens me. That’s all and that’s always. No debate. I am not immune to pressures.

Learning every day. Have a beautiful holiday. I know I need it.

“One PR experience” strikes me as a strange and overly diplomatic description. The shoot in question happened with V Magazine earlier this year, around the time Season 2 of Girls premiered. This means that it happened when Dunham was a pretty good get for a magazine like that. Magazine photo shoots are, of course, negotiated with a lot of interests in mind. But one of them, in the timing and context of Lena Dunham’s specific career, had to have been whether Dunham wanted to do the shoot. And since the shoot happened, we know that she did. Identifying her particular reasons — which does amount to mind-reading from my perspective — doesn’t matter as much as knowing that it wasn’t as simple as “one PR experience.”

I want, of course, to give the benefit of the doubt to people who make compromises in their careers. We have all had deeply creepy encounters with people who hold some kind of economic power over our lives, I think. We all know that the choices can be bad ones. But that doesn’t mean there is no choice. In fact, I think it means we have to recognize that the choices are all bad where creep collaboration is concerned, to get everyone to a place of ostracizing the creeps whenever possible. You’re gonna piss someone off and compromise no matter what direction you go. But there is a way in which you’re choosing who you want to make angry. What you do with that observation is, of course, up to you.

By Michelle Dean


The woman who convinced the Bank of England to make Jane Austen the new face of the £10 note has received rape and death threats from Twitter users.

Feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez received around 50 abusive tweets an hour for a 12-hour period after she successfully campaigned for the British writer to feature on the bank note.

MPs and celebrities have now begun a campaign urging Twitter to develop a button to allow users to report abuse. More than 22,700 people had signed up as of lunchtime on Sunday.

tweet perez

Ms Criado-Perez said: “It’s sadly not unusual to get this kind of abuse but I’ve never seen it get as intense or aggressive as this.

“It’s infuriating that the price you pay for standing up for women is 24 hours of rape threats. We are showing that by standing together we can make a real difference.

“We made the Bank of England change its mind, we can do the same with Twitter.”

Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, described the abuse as “not only disgusting, but criminal”.

“A quick look at Twitter this morning shows that women are not prepared to stand by and take this kind of abuse,” she said.

“Twitter needs to get its house in order, and fast.”

High-profile journalists including Caitlin Moran and Suzanne Moore have joined Ms Creasy in signing up to the petition.

Ms Criado-Perez’s campaign for Austen to appear on the new bank note attracted more than 35,000 signatures after the Bank of England revealed it was planning to replace Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill on new £5 notes – meaning there would be no women other than the Queen on sterling bank notes.

A Twitter spokesman said: “The ability to report individual tweets for abuse is currently available on Twitter for iPhone and we plan to bring this functionality to other platforms, including Android and the web.

“We don’t comment on individual accounts. However, we have rules which people agree to abide by when they sign up to Twitter. We will suspend accounts that once reported to us, are found to be in breach of our rules.

“We encourage users to report an account for violation of the Twitter rules by using one of our report forms.”

Tony Wang, the general manager of Twitter UK, later tweeted that the company is testing ways to simplify the reporting of abuse.

“We encourage users to report an account for violation of the Twitter rules by using one of our report forms,” he said.

“Also, we’re testing ways to simplify reporting, e.g. within a Tweet by using the ‘Report Tweet’ button in our iPhone app and on mobile web.

“We will suspend accounts that, once reported to us, are found to be in breach of our rules.”