Being a celeb doesn't make victim shaming okay

Being famous doesn't qualify you to take sides in the rash of sexual assault allegations emerging in the entertainment world

22 November 2017 - 06:56 By Andile Ndlovu
PARDON ME Lenny Letter founders Jenni Konner, left, and Lena Dunham pose at the Daily Front Row's Fashion Media Awards in New York Picture: Zack DeZon/Getty Images
PARDON ME Lenny Letter founders Jenni Konner, left, and Lena Dunham pose at the Daily Front Row's Fashion Media Awards in New York Picture: Zack DeZon/Getty Images

When is it ever okay to excuse bigotry and ignorance? Because over the past week or so, it seems that we are comfortable either pardoning or attacking others on the basis of age and race - and even their previous indiscretions.

The two latest culprits of rape victim shaming and discrediting are TV actress and producer Lena Dunham, 31, and Olympics star Gabby Douglas, who turns 22 next month.

The former (no stranger to controversy, thanks to her contradictory stances on feminism and race and the relationship between the two) sparked renewed anger when she and Lenny Letter (her weekly online feminist newsletter or blog) co-founder Jenni Konner came out to defend friend and Girls writer and producer Murray Miller against allegations by actress Aurora Perrineau that he raped her five years ago, when she was only 17.

For the record, Murray has denied the allegations - á la film producer Harvey Weinstein, award-winning actors Jeffrey Tambor and Kevin Spacey, US President Donald Trump and US Senate candidate Roy Moore, etc.

Instead, as if she had been begged to do so, Dunham enthusiastically poked her nose in and questioned the actress's accusations, saying in a statement: "Insider knowledge of Murray's situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year."

Now, she may have felt like she needed to come out with a statement, seeing the allegations pertained to a friend and co-worker, but being the narcissistic pest she has always been, she took things further than necessary.

I don't believe there is anything wrong about being concerned about allegations about a friend. But there is everything wrong about discrediting a less powerful victim when neither party has been proven guilty or otherwise.

But Dunham doesn't practise what she preaches - and that's the most consistent thing about her. She is a spoiled and bratty white woman who has gotten away with multiple pardons because she is privileged enough to influence others' career trajectories.

She is the same woman who once told us that, of all things that women lie about, being raped isn't one of them.

That ought to have been a high point in her Twitter career - a poignant, heartbreaking, forthright and brave tweet. But she had to undo it, like she has all else.

Then there is Douglas. "I didn't correctly word my reply & i am deeply sorry for coming off like i don't stand alongside my teammates. regardless of what you wear, abuse under any circumstance is never acceptable. i am WITH you. #metoo [sic],'' was her statement on Twitter after a backlash to her stance suggesting that women should dress more appropriately so as to not entice predatory men.

The man in this instance, former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, is accused of sexual abuse by Aly Raisman - a teammate of Douglas.

Initially, Douglas replied to Raisman's call to action against abusers and sex pests by saying: "It is our responsibility as women to dress modestly and be classy. dressing in a provocative, sexual way entices the wrong crowd."

Nassar was recently found guilty on charges pertaining to child pornography. So he is another pig.

The response to the two cases has been, as with most things on social media, conditional, and conditional outrage is as problematic as the two women.

Dunham is "cancelled" because she is a repeat offender and Douglas is momentarily benched for misguided utterances.

Rubbish. If Douglas could come out at 16 and talk about being bullied and feeling "othered" by her white teammates, who referred to her as a "slave" during preparations for the London Olympics, surely she knows about isolation and victimisation, and can tell between right or wrong.

We're sending completely the wrong message to those even younger than her when we tell her she can have a free pass this one time.

It's not about political correctness or feminism. It is about decency - respecting women's and children's bodies and individuality over any socially formulated imposition.

It's sad to say, but at this rate I am far less inclined to believe a man's version over that of his accuser. That's the lowly depth we have sunk to.

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