By Ben Pensant
Of all the heart-wrenching pieces written in the heart-wrenching aftermath of the heart-wrenching US election, by far the most heart-wrenching was the heart-wrenching essay penned by professional feminist Lena Dunham, which was so heart-wrenching I almost stopped reading its heart-wrenching content after the first heart-wrenching paragraph.
Posted days after Donald Trump traumatised rich liberals by winning the support of the people who clean their houses, feed their children and buy their drugs, ‘Don’t Agonize, Organise’ pulled no punches in its dissection of modern America.
It appeared on Dunham’s website Lenny, which sends out weekly emails (‘Lenny Letters’) to subscribers, covering a diverse range of topics from the gender pay gap to how, like, awesome Hillary Clinton is. The aim of Lenny is to provide a safe ‘snark-free’ space for women to get information on ‘how to vote, eat, dress, fuck and live better’. Why she didn’t go the whole hog and offer advice to women on how to tell the difference between their arse and their elbow isn’t clear, but it’s good to know Lena respects her sisters so much she thinks they need a New York trust-fund socialite to tell them how to make decisions they’re perfectly capable of making themselves.
Indeed, it’s frightening to think that before Lena became famous there were hordes of dumb women voting Republican, picking their own clothes, having sex how and with who they like and – worst of all -casually eating sushi without considering how offensive this is to the 0.1% of the population who give two fucks about cultural appropriation.
But her diatribe wasn’t just an indictment of the orange fascist who pussy-grabbed his way to the White House by lying, insulting minorities and speaking directly to communities whose inhabitants Lena and co. view as toothless, bigoted imbeciles. It was also a moving account of the pain inflicted upon educated artists by those toothless, bigoted imbeciles. In particular educated artists with their own TV shows about spoilt millennials who wouldn’t know a day’s graft if it bled all over their designer thrift-store cardie.
It began in classic Dunham fashion – the very first sentence featured the word ‘MY’ in capitals – leaving no doubt as to who this essay was about. And on it went, its content both damning and self-congratulatory, as she applauded her generation for having ‘the strongest and most vast understanding of identity politics yet’ while apparently unaware her generation’s obsession with identity might just have contributed to the popularity of a staunchly anti-PC demagogue.
By the end this identity devotee happily admitted she had no interest in knowing why people with identities different to hers voted for Trump, preferring to leave it to ‘the strategists’ and ‘the men in offices’ at Democrat HQ. The ones who confidently predicted they would win and ran a highly effective campaign which managed to throw away Democrat-held states that Barack Obama would’ve had to get arrested for cow-molesting while whistling the theme tune to Bonanza to lose.
Because when it comes to identity it’s the white working-class who Lena has decided are to blame for destroying Western civilization. And the working-class blacks, Asians and Hispanics who voted for Trump are even worse, because nowt annoys regressives more than minorities upsetting the narrative by not doing what they’re told.
So Lena instead spent the whole article focusing on her favourite subject – Lena Dunham – describing the physical and mental effects of Trump’s victory as she recalled how her and a friend simultaneously broke out in hives upon hearing some news they didn’t like.
After crying all over the edgy yet micro-unaggressive ‘baby blue sweater with a not-so-subtle pussy motif’ she had worn especially, she and her boyfriend cried at the Javits Center, cried in a diner, cried on the way home and cried in the shower. After which I like to think her beau – who found the Florida result so traumatising he had trouble breathing – did his best to show solidarity with Lena by crying, reading some Angela Carter and sitting down every time he went for a piss.
Throughout there was much talk of ‘white male privilege’, a phrase that invariably emanates from the mouths of people who are considerably more privileged than any white male I know. And, of course, no little soul-searching about where the Democrats went wrong. And when I say ‘no little’ I mean ‘none at all’ as the only people who ‘went wrong’ in Lena’s cosmopolitan eyes are the dumb voters who had the temerity to reject a crooked, proven liar in favour of another crooked, proven liar who could at least be arsed to visit their towns.
And just in case anyone doubts the hatred these dumb voters have for decent liberals like Lena, check out the campaign of abuse they subjected her to: ‘My phone was hacked and I was sent pictures of aborted foetuses…I was called a fat whore and told I should be killed in front of everyone who knew me’. Vile stuff indeed, but before anyone suggests the type of people who do such things would do them no matter which party they supported, think again. For Lena is in no doubt that issuing death threats and calling someone ‘a fat whore and a retard’ is a characteristic of white men threatened by Lena’s class and intelligence and nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that some people are just horrible regardless of their political views.
‘We wanted a female president. We wanted guaranteed control of our bodies. We wanted equal pay. That made us nasty. That made us targets’. Ignoring the fact that it’s actually Lena’s authoritarian streak and unpleasant personality that makes her ‘nasty’ this once again played into her favourite theme – that all criticism of Hillary Clinton is based on misogyny. It couldn’t possibly be anything to do with her dishonesty, her warmongering, her establishment allegiances, her contempt for blue-collar communities, her second career earning millions making speeches for Wall Street or her involvement in numerous unresolved scandals from private email servers and fatal attacks on US embassies to Saudi Arabia’s funding of the Clinton Foundation and the various allegations that she intimidated women who accused her husband of sexual assault. None of which had as much influence on voters as the fact that she has tits and a fanny.
Indeed, the idea that racist, sexist voters would be knowledgeable enough to consider the above claims is ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous, in fact, as Trump supporters suggesting liberals dislike him because he’s ginger. As opposed to the fact that he’s petulant, has no experience of politics, a history of losing money and a knack for appealing to people who make funny hand salutes at rallies. And rest assured, as soon as a Trump voter makes such a claim I’ll be the first to point out how ridiculous it is.
Equally, Lena rejects the idea that her beloved identity politics may have played a part in turning people off the Democrats in favour of a man who actively opposes political correctness. As fellow self-satisfied pseudo-feminist Lindy West put it in The Guardian; ‘Blaming PC for Donald Trump is like blaming the civil rights movement for Jim Crow’. Which would be absurd, Lindy. Almost as absurd as blaming a lack of ‘black safety’ and ‘black upward mobility’ on a white novelist’s confession that he doesn’t have many black friends.
But Lena could barely contain her sadness that thanks to Trump’s victory we will never see the end of the monolithic beast she’s spent years fighting: The Patriarchy, that white male entity responsible for the gender pay gap, campus rape culture and those horrendously micro-aggressive T-shirts for little boys with Einstein’s fucking face on the front.
‘But we kept going, thinking these were the dying moans of the dragon known as the patriarchy being stabbed again and again in the stomach’. It’s heart-breaking to know we were that close to destroying misogyny for good and no woman would have suffered ever again if only a mega-rich establishment female had became President.
Indeed, this was confirmed by Clinton herself in her tearful concession speech when she bemoaned the fact that she never quite broke through that final ‘glass ceiling’. It’s telling that people who spend their lives bemoaning how awful life is for Western women also seem to believe this awfulness would have disappeared overnight if Hillary won.
Hence Lena reserved most of her scorn for the women who sold out their educated betters by thinking for themselves and voting for Trump. ‘It’s painful to see white women, so unable to see the unity of female identity, so unable to look past their violent privilege, and so inoculated with hate for themselves, showed up to the polls for Trump’, she lamented, clarifying her idea of ‘unity’ is dismissing millions of people she doesn’t know as privileged, self-loathing traitors. Despite the fact that the vast majority of them are considerably less privileged than Lena, a woman who is only famous because of her not-inconsiderable privilege.
Privilege which Lena exploits to the full by being not only illiberal but proud of it. Yet she offsets this by still being less illiberal than Trump voters, who she compares to ‘abusers’. Witness her brave call for words to be banned earlier this year: ‘I literally want to make a list of words you can’t use when describing a female candidate’ she blasted, reserving particular anger for gendered insults such as ‘shrill’, ‘inaccessible’, ‘plastic’ and ‘difficult’.
A problematic suggestion from a writer but that just goes to show how correct she is. Because as Lena has pointed out repeatedly, Clinton’s unpopularity has nothing to do with her policies and personality but everything to do with what isn’t between her legs. And if she can shut down debate along the way by attacking freedom of speech then all the better.
It doesn’t matter that it’s not inherently sexist to criticise a female politician. Or that holding women to a lower standard because they’re not men is far more offensive than the word ‘frumpy’. Or that the gendered insults she wants to see banned are about as gendered and insulting as holding a door open for an old lady.
(Me calling Lena ‘an obnoxious little madam’ – now that’s a gendered insult)
No, what matters is staying on the right side of identity politics, something Lena found out when she publicly criticised a footballer (Odell Beckham Jr) who she recently sat next to at a function and decided – without talking to or knowing anything about him – that he thought she was ‘a marshmallow’, ‘a child’ and ‘a dog’. But don’t worry, it wasn’t Odell’s fault, bless him; he’s simply not as as educated as her: ‘It wasn’t mean, he just seemed confused’ she sighed, showing her affinity for normal folk outside of her wealthy, artistic bubble is as strong as ever.
Happily, after receiving much condemnation on Twitter Lena apologised, though this had little to do with the fact that she’d been massively judgemental about someone just because he played football and didn’t go to Oberlin. No, it had more to do with her shame at accidentally mocking a black man by letting her mouth go without first checking her privilege.
And she still found time to blame it on Hollywood and how being forced to attend events populated by stick-thin actresses literally leaves her with no choice but to decide that a man who’d rather play on his phone than make conversation must be a raving misogynist who can’t bear to look at her. Because there couldn’t possibly be any other reason why someone wouldn’t want to talk to Lena Dunham. I mean, why on earth would a professional sportsman who’s trained and worked hard to excel in his field not want to speak to a woman who not only thinks he’s an idiot but is also so down to earth she applauded a campaign to ban sushi from her college on the grounds of cultural appropriation?
Still, she’s always willing to learn, as demonstrated when she admitted she was wrong to make huge assumptions about an individual she doesn’t know. A period of self-reflection which lasted until Trump won the election, after which she was back to her judgemental best, making huge assumptions about 50 million individuals she doesn’t know. Now that’s what I call growth.
All of which was apparent in her Lenny essay, which predictably made no attempt whatsoever to understand that despite Trump’s more worrying traits – his admiration for Putin, his plans to censor the press, his views on abortion – many people voted for him in spite of this because they liked his talk of restoring jobs and pride back into working-class communities.
All of which is alien to Dunham as, like many on the modern left, she has no interest in empathy. Indeed, of late she’s been too busy ‘mumbling incoherently’ in the shower and bemoaning the fact she’s been ‘heartbroken by the system for the first time aged 30’ to empathise with anyone. All of which enhances the sneaky suspicion tha Lena’s parents didn’t say ‘no’ to her very often.
And judging by her father Carroll’s recent animated film about how terrible white men are, I get the impression when Lena was a bairn he had slightly more important things to worry about than raising a well-adjusted daughter. Such as abstraction, figuration and how to make a small fortune flogging quirky child-like paintings of ladies’ fannies.
Still, Pee Wee Herman could become POTUS and it wouldn’t impact Lena culturally or economically in the slightest. So let’s hope she sticks to lecturing bigoted men and self-hating women, safe in the knowledge that whatever happens she’ll still be rich and they’ll still be stupid.
Though it may please Lena’s enormous ego to know that even though the result didn’t go as expected she still impacted on the election in her own special way. Indeed, polls suggest there’s a strong case that Trump may not be President now if she hadn’t said she’d leave the country if he won.
Now THAT’s worth crying about.