On White Womanhood And Why It's So Dangerous For Men Of Color
Politics and Activism

On White Womanhood And Why It's So Dangerous For Men Of Color

How Lena Dunham's comments about Odell Beckham Jr. are an extension of a fraught relationship between white women and black men.

1819
E! News

Earlier this month, Lena Dunham received an enormous amount of backlash -- rightfully so -- for posting her interview with Amy Schumer. Dunham accused Odell Beckham Jr. of misogyny for not talking to her at the New York Met Ball.

In her mind, him being on his phone instead was dismissive and rude. All of this, according to Dunham, was happening because she's a woman who doesn’t physically ascribe to the beauty standards of the models in the room (never mind that Dunham is white, rich, straight, able-bodied, etc), some of which were sitting at the table with her, and with whom she assumed Beckham would rather be talking to.

Of course, she had no evidence of this. But according to her, what she felt in that moment was enough to tweet out to her nearly five million followers.

Shortly afterwards, Dunham apologized, for what she realized were really “narcissistic assumptions.” She went on to claim that she would “never intentionally contribute to a long and often violent history of the over-sexualization of black male bodies -- as well as false accusations by white women towards black men.” She went on to apologize to her fans and to OBJ himself.

Before apologizing, she claimed in a tweet that, “My story about him was clearly (to me) about my own insecurities as an average-bodied woman at a table of supermodels and athletes.” At some point, she also tagged her friend, Amy Schumer, with, “Glad the outrage machine roars on though, right @amyschumer?”

Schumer herself is no stranger to racist comments about black men. When Twitter user Paulo L dos Santos tweeted “Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, et. al. refuse 2C that misogyny among men of color, while hideously prevalent, is no more so than among white men.” Schumer responded by asking, “how would you know? Statistically who is hollerin at you in the street more pa?”

Both Schumer and Dunham (along with many other white feminist celebrities, some of which I have written about before) are all too representative of how white women are willing to make gross, blanket statements about not just black men (though in particular), but about any man of color. Schumer especially has had some very racist jokes made in her stand up shows about Latino men.

Their behavior and their justification for it is one of the core problems with mainstream white feminism. As part of their bravado and their supposed “confidence,” they take it upon themselves to “defend” their insecurities (just as Dunham has done) in a way that perpetuates racism. Because they don’t necessarily see color, and are only affected by sexism, they don’t see the race of the men they are being critical of.

Their insecurities end up manifesting themselves in a vacuum, where they think they can approach issues of body positivity and sexuality without acknowledging their positionality as white women first. In today’s world, their viciousness may tarnish a black man’s image, get him fired or land him in jail. But in earlier periods of this country’s bleak history -- such as the Jim Crow Era -- the ignorance and blatant racism of the likes of Dunham and Schumer would have gotten a black man lynched.

Their self-victimization, their racist deductive reasoning and the confidence with which they participate in said actions are crucial characteristics of white womanhood and how it was constructed, particularly from the years 1882-1930, after slavery had supposedly ended, but before the Civil Rights Era (a point at which many want to believe that racism came to an end). In fact, the construction of white womanhood as an inherently pure racial entity allowed white women to not only victimize themselves without repercussions, but to participate in the lynching of black men, which reached its peak in 1919 (today known as the “Red Summer”) as either spectators, or the supposed “victim” watching her “rapist” meet his fate.

When Dunham victimized herself as an “average-bodied” woman, she forgot to mention that she was an average-bodied white woman. When Schumer claimed it is statistically men of color “hollerin” at her, she had no idea that her thoughts were in line with the white women who, less than a century ago, felt that it was only black and brown men who were prone to misogyny against white women and who therefore deserved the gruesome deaths they were met with.

Maybe in today’s world, black men aren’t being lynched as a spectacle (even though they are jailed and brutalized disproportionately), but what people fail to realize is that white women, such as Dunham and Schumer, are only two examples of how white woman have harnessed and perpetuated racism, only to be saved by the same exclusive feminism they promote.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Health and Wellness

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month, A Reminder We Need Even More In Quarantine

You're going through something brand new — that's worth talking about.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This isn't new to 2020, but oh man, if we ever needed a reminder about the importance of mental health, now is the time. With different states all over the place in regard to stay-at-home orders, phased reopenings, and a "new normal," we're experiencing conflict, fear, changes, and unknowns that can easily trigger mental struggles we already have or spark feelings we've never had before. Yes, May is always Mental Health Awareness Month, but in quarantine, that need for positive mental health is taken to a whole new level.

Keep Reading... Show less
Netflix

Everyone is LOVING "Outer Banks," as you've probably heard. And if you haven't caught the hype for the show yet, these articles will definitely give you a taste of what you're missing.

If you already have seen and fallen in love with the teen heartthrob crew, you need to get on board with some of these theories for season two!

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

These 11 Face Masks On Etsy Support Small Businesses While Fighting The Spread Of Coronavirus

We're staying safe as states start lifting lockdown guidelines.

I, like most people who have had the luxury of being able to stay at home during this time, haven't spent much time outdoors at all. But when I do brave the great outdoors for a walk or to get to the grocery store, you won't find me without a mask.

My family and I were lucky enough to have family friends who were sewing some and had extras to give to us, but most of my friends and loved ones outside my immediate family have had to order some (or make a makeshift one out of scarves or bandanas).

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

13 Reasons We're Using Quarantine As The Ultimate Excuse For Online Shopping This Month

The one thing we haven't distanced from is our bank account.

Throughout quarantine, I've been FaceTiming most of my friends in a full turtleneck or the go-to cozy sweater I keep wrapped around the chair in my room. Either way, I always have tea in my hands to keep myself warm — till this past week.

For most of the country who hasn't had the luck of quarantining in 90-degree weather on their family's lake house or with a backyard pool, things began to change this month. Our favorite shows came out with summer seasons, the sun came out, and we started spending more time outside.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Sat Down (Virtually) With Morgan Wooten To Talk About Coronavirus's Impact On The Wellness Industry

Just because coronavirus has greatly impacted the wellness industry doesn't mean wellness stops.

Morgan Wooten

If you're anything like me, your weekly fitness classes are a huge part of your routine. They keep me fit, healthy, and sane. Honestly, these classes help my mental health stay in tip-top shape just as much as they help my physical health.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, gyms and fitness studios are facing temporary closure. Yes, this means my personal routine is thrown a curveball, but this also means the wellness industry is one of many that is looking at unemployment and hardship. Do I miss my Monday spin class? Of course. But do the wellness professionals whose worlds were flipped upside down have a lot more to overcome than a slight change of routine? Absolutely. Thankfully, if anyone can prove the ultimate flexibility, it's the wellness industry.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments