Lena Dunham Did Not Use “The N-Word”, But She Apologized Anyway

Let’s start by saying: racism and the use of the n-word, as we delicately call it, are not acceptable. We have no business using the n-word, and we have no business hearing it. But comedian Lisa Lampanelli thinks she’s exempt from this moral standard, and makes no apologies for using it, so we’re not waiting around for an apology from her. We’re talking about how we don’t need one from Lena Dunham.

Once upon a time, Lisa Lampanelli took a photo with Lena Dunham. When she posted said photo, she used the n-word in the caption. Lena Dunham said nothing. Should she have said something? As a figure in the public eye, did she have the responsibility to say something? It wasn’t her photo, and she had no control over Lisa Lampanelli’s caption. She could have tweeted a “whoa, not cool!” about the situation, but ultimately, it wasn’t her job to do so. A blogger, Shayla D. Pierce, disagreed. Vehemently. And publicly.

Let’s back up. Have you guys ever seen Lisa Lampanelli do standup, or open her mouth? Being racy and foul-mouthed is just her thing. I’m not defending her, just stating fact. I imagine she can’t order a Subway sandwich without cracking a racist joke or making a homophobic comment. But she probably can’t imagine that, either. If you didn’t know, now you do.

Anyway, back to the story. Lena’s silence upset Shayla, who grew madder and madder, 140 characters at a time, until she shared a post about her personal experience with racism. It was a beautiful and sad and touching post. And it solicited the response from Lena that Shayla was looking for. But Shayla bullied Lena into apologizing on behalf of white society for something she had nothing to do with. While Shayla brought an unfortunate story to light, that everyone should read, she directed her anger at the wrong celebrity.

Picture of Lena Dunham Twitter Screenshot@lenadunham‘s first reply to @ShaylaDPierce. I want to make my opinion clear: Shayla’s piece IS beautifully written. It’s beautifully sad and touching and enlightening, all at once. But Shayla’s story has nothing to do with Lena Dunham – it has all to do with Lisa Lampanelli, and it rubs me the wrong way that she immediately went after Lena. It appears she felt that Lena had a responsibility to say something about the incident – which I disagree with. Imagine a world where we all spoke freely about everyone’s actions, more than we already do. Wouldn’t we get flack for mouthing off? Be told to keep our mouths shut and our ideas to ourselves? We wouldn’t be respected for sticking up for what’s right, we would be told to mind our own business.

Instead: imagine a world where we’re all responsible enough to just take responsibility. Oh, if only.

I’m not going to speak for Lena, but can I just say that silence DOES NOT equal unspoken agreement? Could we all agree that maybe Lena Dunham saw the photo, and figured “that crazy ol’ Lisa Lampanelli, running her mouth again”? Lena had little responsibility, if any, to respond to Lisa’s comment.

Shalya, you were being kind of a Twitter bully. It doesn’t sit well with me that after your exchange with Lena, you tweeted “now I <3 her again”. Also – you had Lena Dunham’s Twit-tention. She even read your article. If you were really trying to start a conversation about racism, why on EARTH did you end your exchange with “*hugsies*” ?

Featured image via Girl Talk HQ, Twitter image screengrabbed from my computer

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1199940321 Kaitlyn Whiteside

    Completely agree with everything here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502994201 Ksenia Vassilieva

    You’re wrong. Silence absolutely equals spoken agreement. I’m not gonna apply to this particular context because in this case it is a little overblown, but I also say that as a white woman that has never had to deal with getting racial slurs thrown at me and has never had to endure other people using a particularly hurtful slur in deference to the fact that it has a very very horrible history because it’s “funny” or because they like being “politically incorrect” (or whatever the reasoning for using the word even is).

    HOWEVER, the lesson to take away from this incident is NOT and should NOT be: silence does not imply agreement. Because it absolutely does. When someone is getting bullied in public, when someone is being harassed in public,

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502994201 Ksenia Vassilieva

    (that posted before I finished) – in those situations, the silence and inaction of the passerbys absolutely allows that harassment and bullying to continue. IF NO ONE SAYS THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG, THE WRONG ACTION WILL CONTINUE. It is honestly that simple.

    Now, again, to lead it back to this case, I don’t think that if Lena Dunham told Lisa Lampanelli to stop using that word that she would’ve listened, cause clearly Lisa Lampanelli is an asshole to the utmost degree. However, to say, because of this incident, that silence does not equal agreement is crazy. It always has. It signals a lack of courage to stand up to behaviour that is clearly inappropriate/wrong. It allows that behaviour to continue. It essentially shows the person perpetuating the behaviour that what they’re doing is fine, because

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502994201 Ksenia Vassilieva

    (these are getting posted in the wrong order whoops) NO ONE HAS TOLD THEM OTHERWISE. And that’s the problem. If no one points out that an action is wrong, it will continue. In that sense, you are complicit because you did not speak out against it when you could have.

    Honestly, using the “but silence does not imply agreement!” excuse is just a cover for being a coward. So is “I’m just minding my own business!” Yeah, no one wants to get involved when we see certain behaviour in public, but don’t pretend that your silence makes you innocent. It’s fine if you don’t want to say anything, because most people don’t, but don’t pretend you’re not a coward in your silence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=596910580 Samantha Murdock

    I think what Dunham did was a perfect example of “pick your battles.” She has now clearly stated that she disagrees with the use of that word – great. However, if she were to go on a rant about every single tweet that mentions her that is in some way offensive, our twitter feeds would literally be nothing but Dunham. I think that in this instance, while still entirely inappropriate, the word wasn’t necessarily meant to be some extremely derogatory slur – it was just misused in a casual fashion, which again, is totally unacceptable. But because of that, I think Dunham was justified in keeping mum on the topic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1228986153 Chris Summitt

    A moral standard? Really? You may use it in hate or as a joke some even use it as a term for their closest friends. It may not be very classy but When did it become immoral to say a word?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=88200230 Akilah Hughes

    Oh my God, HelloGiggles has broken my heart on the “race front” like 20 times in the past two weeks. Can’t we at least make it to April before we make posts with very alienating points of view on race? I know that your target demographic is probably not young black girls, but can we at least try to see where the other side is coming from?

    I love this site and have wanted to contribute for a long time. I read and comment regularly and have submitted posts in the past. I just think the majority of posts about Lena Dunham and a few others on this site are the absolute opposite of objective. Is she a talented writer? Sure. Does her show resonate with a lot of people? Absolutely. But does that mean the sun shines out of her butt and she always gets it right–and is therefore exempt from any criticism (while everyone else in the public eye is not)? On this site, it seems that way.

    However, I disagree with this post. I think if she was in an instagram photo with a friend and they captioned something like “LOVE MY FAGS,” Lena would have felt obligated to stand against the decision. It wouldn’t have had to come to this, people writing to her expressing their emotional pain about her choice. I don’t think Lena was bullied into anything. She has the ability to ignore the backlash, which she largely has in most cases (read: Donald Glover as an unlikeable character being in 2 episodes of Girls, her subsequently giving him HPV, and then moving past it as a way to appease those who are a little surprised that she doesn’t know anyone of color in New York City). If she feels moved to respond, it’s not due to bullying, and I think that’s the word that was the most off-putting in your piece. To be fair, that girl is not the first or only person to discuss Lena’s choice to ignore the actions of her friend. Apparently what she had to say touched Lena enough to elicit a response.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30202496 Elizabeth Ashley Crowder

    I got mad at my boyfriend once for letting some of his white hockey friends say derogatory things about black people in front of him without voicing even the slightest complaint. He didn’t agree with them but his silence was offensive to me and spoke volumes. I know for a fact he would have fought tooth and nail had anyone had the audacity to slander the Philadelphia Flyers. When you care enough about something, you speak up. End of story. While in this instance, I don’t think it was Lena’s responsibility to say anything about a picture someone else posted of her using that word, to say silence doesn’t equal agreement is arguable to say the very least.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=830444798 Elizabeth Peebles

    I can side with the arguement that, now as a more celebritied public figure, Lena should have spoken out angainst the phot caption of her and Lisa…but please, can we finally put to rest this obsurdity of nagging Lena Dunham because her show doen’t feature enough “people of color”. Girls is her creation based on her life experiences. Should we be angry at the scenery of her life? Would you perfer she added some artificial token character? Everyone and everything should always be P.C. Nothing can ever just be. Wouldn’t it be nice is everyone every where had a friend from every walk of life? Is that anyone’s reality?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=88200230 Akilah Hughes

      I just have a hard time believing that she didn’t meet any black people at Oberlin or in NYC. That is patently unbelievable to me. Even the whitest of white bread people I know in these places have at least 1 friend who isn’t a WASP or a JAP.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002169480748 Trish Mcfadden

    It had nothing to do with Lena Dunham, in my opinion. Honestly, I’m a bit sick of all this controversy over the word. I’m a young black woman, too, but people are going to say whatever they want to say, anyway. Does that make it right? No, but it certainly doesn’t condemn those who don’t say anything about it. The matter didn’t concern Lena, and if she wanted to say something about it, then she would have. But she didn’t, because she didn’t have to. I’m not going to hold her responsible for it, and no one else should have, either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1224450732 Shaneé Satchell

    I disagree with you when you say that Lean Dunham had no responsibility in addressing the situation. She may not have had a responsibility to us, as the public, to give us an explanation. But I certainly hope that since it seems she is a “friend” to this heartless comedian, that she said something to Lisa Lampa-Racist about what she did because friends don’t make other friends look bad in public. If she did or didn’t, we may never know. But as someone who has received negative feed back because she doesn’t have enough diversity on her show, that she writes, produces, directs, and stars in, she should have done more that just defended her self to a freelance writer in less than 140 characters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1112611120 Lisa Marie

    This is just another example of our typical American mentality. Instead of going after the root of a problem, or the originator or a racial slur, we attack the secondary, or symptomatic party. “Don’t go after the people importing the illegal drugs…arrest the guy smoking pot in his bathroom/ Don’t change the way we educate our kids into something more effective…just fire teachers who can’t get kids to score high on our ridiculous tests/ Don’t coerce Lisa Lampanelli into apologizing…force Lena Dunham to apologize for someone else’s comment because we know it’s far easier to bully her than someone like Lampanelli”. It all just seems cowardly and lazy to me, and not terribly effective if what you really want is change and not just soothed hurt feelings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003035414046 Kristal Acuña

    r u kitten me. this is an overreaction. If we can agree that being racy and foul-mouthed is Lisa Lampanelli’s, then why should we expect Lena to try and teach her what’s morally correct?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003035414046 Kristal Acuña

    r u kitten me. this is an overreaction. If we can agree that being racy and foul-mouthed is Lisa Lampanelli’s thing, then why should we expect Lena to try and teach her what’s morally correct?

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