Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham – ‘Girls’ I’m all too familiar with
By Leslie O’Neil
Everyone now knows about the brouhaha regarding celebrity feminist and cultural commentator Caitlin Moran’s tweet regarding Lena Dunham’s “groundbreaking” television show Girls.
If you are unfamiliar with the show, it’s like every other “groundbreaking” television show about women– they are white, live in New York and are wealthy. They have problems that Every Woman In Their Age Group has. No ethnic minority women exist as main characters or indeed as supporting characters other than the most crude of stereotypes. Black men are hot sex partners, scary looking hip teens who turn out to be nice, or grandfatherly old men.
Caitlin Moran’s frankly crass tweet pissed me off, but it didn’t surprise me. Feminism has always excluded black women. I remember when I started going to feminist groups 15 years ago that my issues and struggles weren’t important to them. (When I think about it, they were the most cartoony feminists I’d ever seen. Seriously, it was all lumberjack shirts, Ani DiFranco albums and cats. There was also the requisite feminist man there with his vegan food and sensitive ponytail.)
The group was mainly navel gazing and figuring out how to protest against the “Peach Blossoms,” our university veterans group that turned up at sporting events dressed in silly drag. Our group felt that the Peach Blossoms, with their OTT make up, comedy boobs and plungers full of beer were offensive to women because the group was mainly made up of men. Well, duh, most veterans are men but there were a few biologically female Peach Blossoms as well. I left the group after that. I started thinking that feminism should be renamed “White Women’s Problems.”
Let me be clear: Of course I believe in the ideals of feminism– what’s not to believe in? Body autonomy? Absolutely! From the Hottentot Venus, to the brutal rapes and abuse of black women during slavery and in the Jim Crow era and even now with the highly sexualised image of black women in the media, all black women should care about have autonomy over their own bodies. Equality? Well, yeah– I’m black aren’t I? I know how it feels to be marginalised because of what I look like. That very statement is why I can’t be doing with white feminism.
White women just don’t get it. I’m sorry white ladies, but I don’t give a good goddamn about pink Lego, Barbie or anything like it. I don’t like how everything for girls is becoming overly “princessy”, (shameless blog plug here!), but I knew from the time I was a little girl that being a princess was not open to brown girls like me. To this day, I’m not one for fairytales because no one looked like me and I could not relate to them. I was thrilled when The Princess and The Frog was released and I took my big grown self and my two sons to see the wonderful Tiana.
White feminists are great at taking up certain causes that affect women of colour such as forced marriages, the treatment of women in some Middle Eastern and Asian countries, FGM and the like. How often do you hear them speak out about the fact that black women in the UK and USA have higher rates of maternal and infant mortality; low birth weights and premature births than white women? By virtue of being black, despite my excellent health and middle-class lifestyle, I was automatically classed as a higher-risk during pregnancy than white women. (Don’t get me started on the “special” questions women of colour get asked during their 8 week pregnancy assessment!) What about the fact that black women are going to be the most disadvantaged group when it comes to the drastic cuts this government is making? After all, white feminists, you are in a better position than most to make some real noise about this.
I’m all too familiar with the Lena Dunhams and the Caitlin Morans of the world because I am in contact with them every single day. I work in the media and from the time I was about 20 years old, my social circle has been almost exclusively white. I went from having nothing but black friends when I was in elementary and high school to having one or two black friends when I was in university and after I moved to the UK. I don’t know why this is and to an extent, it bothers me. It’s hard trying to relate your experiences to people who don’t have a clue and don’t really care.
White women like Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham don’t really like black women all that much. They will scream bloody murder if you bring this up and say “Ohmygod I can’t BELIEVE you would say that to me of all people! We’re friends! I dated that Nigerian guy and like totally loved him! I listen to Bob Marley! I lived in (insert gentrified ethnic area here) for EVER. Your hair is so much better than mine, I can’t understand why black women don’t all wear their hair in naturals/I wish I could do as much with my hair with all the weaves and stuff! I eat curry goat/ collard greens! You’re racist for even saying this!”
Well Miss White Lady, I can and did say this to you. First of all, yes we are friends, but I am sick of being the Safe Negro that you can parade around to your other white friends. I know you do this because you have said to me ‘you’re not like other black people’ and I’m the only black person you talk to or hang out with. You also use me as your passport to diversity. Please stop asking me about soul music; you and I both go to indie gigs. Your taste in black men doesn’t mean you are not a racist. It means you like that particular black man. I eat cauliflower if it has cheese on it; it can go straight to Hell any other time.
You may have lived in Edgy Ethnicland but it’s not like you really interacted with anyone who also lived there. Your neighbours may have been diverse, but it’s not like you got to really know them; you only bragged about living next door to sooo many different races and cultures. Besides, didn’t you move to Lilywhiteshire because of “the schools” and you wanted the best for your children. (Ethnic people never want the best for their children, I suppose.) Oh and stop making big deal of locking your car door when you visit ethnic areas and stop walking down the street like Freddy is going to get you. Black people don’t give a shit about you. We are used to you; most of us feel very uncomfortable when we visit all-white areas.
Get your hands out of my goddamned hair and go pick up a fucking history book. By the way, loads of black women have naturally long and straight hair. It’s not all weaves or wigs.
The reason this type of white woman can literally not give a shit is because they are wrapped in privilege. They flinch when you mention that white women have benefited more from equality programmes people of colour. They come up with bullshit excuses like “well, Lena Dunham is only writing what she know. How could she write about a black character?” Hmm, if she can’t write a decent black character because she is white, then maybe she has no fucking business being a writer. James Patterson, the popular crime fiction writer managed to write a nuanced, flawed but brilliant black character in Alex Cross.
White women, I’m not here to be your Bagger Vance, or your racial conscience. If you are upset that I want no part of your movement, that I will call you on your privilege or that despite your claims to the contrary, your racism, then I could not literally give a shit.