Lena Durham, best known as the creator, writer and star of the HBO series Girls and considered to be one of Hollywood’s biggest feminists, caused a media frenzy and internet firestorm for comments illustrating her internal conversation with herself pertaining to NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. during the MET gala in May. She seated next to him during the event. During a recent conversation with another Hollywood feminist Amy Schumer, she said the following:
I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, ‘That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.’ It wasn’t mean — he just seemed confused. The vibe was very much like, ‘Do I want to f— it? Is it wearing a … yep, it’s wearing a tuxedo. I’m going to go back to my cell phone.’ It was like we were forced to be together, and he literally was scrolling Instagram rather than have to look at a woman in a bow tie. I was like, ‘This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Getting Rejected by Athletes.’
And it gets better, folks.
After her chat was broadcast all over the news, social media had to say something. Durham would apologize…Well, not really:
I owe Odell Beckham Jr an apology. Despite my moments of bravado, I struggle at industry events (and in life) with the sense that I don’t rep a certain standard of beauty and so when I show up to the Met Ball surrounded by models and swan-like actresses it’s hard not to feel like a sack of flaming garbage. This felt especially intense with a handsome athlete as my dinner companion and a bunch of women I was sure he’d rather be seated with. But I went ahead and projected these insecurities and made totally narcissistic assumptions about what he was thinking, then presented those assumptions as facts. I feel terrible about it. Because after listening to lots of valid criticism, I see how unfair it is to ascribe misogynistic thoughts to someone I don’t know AT ALL. Like, we have never met, I have no idea the kind of day he’s having or what his truth is. But most importantly, I 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. I’m so sorry, particularly to OBJ, who has every right to be on his cell phone. The fact is I don’t know about his state of mind (I don’t know a lot of things) and I shouldn’t have acted like I did. Much love and thanks, Lena.
Okay, let’s examine this train wreck piece by piece.
First, Durham opened with bashing her appearance. (She wore a tuxedo at the time.) Then, she projected that onto Beckham assuming that she didn’t look like the kind of woman he would want. Obviously, she had some kind of momentary attraction to Beckham which is harmless. But instead, she made it seem like it was all about him and what he thought about her.
Second, Durham made Beckham sound like a complete condescending idiot by – one again – making assumptions as to what he’s thinking about her after he supposedly took a brief glimpse at her, “That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.’ It wasn’t mean — he just seemed confused.”. Of course, the possibility can’t be because Beckham simply wasn’t interested in her. He probably didn’t even know who she was. Maybe he was shy. Who knows what was going on in his mind? Apparently, she thinks she does.
Third, Durham painted Beckham as kind of a sexual deviant. “Do I want to f— it?” If you’re reminded of the black rapist stereotype and how it lead to hundreds of lynchings, you’re not alone. But most of what’s said so far appears to be projection. She may really want him more than he wants her. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the context in which it was said reduced Beckham to a racist caricature.
Fourth, Durham’s portrayal of Beckham not wanting her has the earmarks of the constant push for make white women the standard for beauty. She wasn’t noticed by a black man. So, she got disappointed.
Fifth, Durham’s apology was anything but. She proceeds to blame Beckham for her thoughts while self-depreciating herself. “Despite my moments of bravado, I struggle at industry events (and in life) with the sense that I don’t rep a certain standard of beauty and so when I show up to the Met Ball surrounded by models and swan-like actresses it’s hard not to feel like a sack of flaming garbage. This felt especially intense with a handsome athlete as my dinner companion and a bunch of women I was sure he’d rather be seated with. But I went ahead and projected these insecurities and made totally narcissistic assumptions about what he was thinking, then presented those assumptions as facts.” In other words, she made herself the victim of a black man for her own thoughts, because he wasn’t into her.
Already, people have declared Durham’s latest volume of disturbance (She confessed to molesting her own sister when they were little.) as an example of white feminism. Hell, some claim she is white feminism. Some claim that the term itself is recent, but the racist campaign to uplift white women as the epitome of beauty, elegance and purity and protect them from the onslaught of black males who, according to the stereotype, hunger for white vaginae has existed for at least 100 years. Nothing’s new.