Whether you love her or hate her, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard a lot about Lena Dunham. The creator, writer, and star of Girls has never been one to shy away from voicing her opinion. While she is a self-proclaimed feminist and very vocally liberal, she tends to catch flack from people on both ends of the political spectrum for some of her more ~controversial~ statements.
Some find her hypocritical, claiming to be an activist while pretty consistently doing problematic things. Others just straight-up hate everything for which she stands. One thing is for sure; it’s hard to go more than a month without hearing a Lena-related controversy — especially these days.
17. When Her Memoir Debuted
This was definitely one of the most disturbing controversies Lena Dunham found herself caught up in. After the publication of her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, there were certain stories and scenes that left readers unsettled. In particular, she described experiences with childhood sexuality that involved her younger sibling, Grace.
In the passage, she writes about bribing her younger sibling to kiss her and looking at Grace’s private parts. She even describes the acts as, “basically anything a sexual predator would do.” Many people called this a description of child abuse/molestation, while others chalk it up to childhood curiosity. Either way, Dunham spoke out, calling the accusations: “really f*cking upsetting and disgusting.”
16. When she accused someone of lying about sexual assault
This is probably the most recent, and definitely one of the most upsetting stories about Lena Dunham. As a vocal advocate for sexual assault survivors and someone who is known as a prominent feminist, many people were shocked and disappointed by Lena’s response to a sexual assault allegation when her friend was the accused. Essentially, she accused the woman of lying. Actress Aurora Perrineau accused Girls writer Murray Miller of assaulting her when she was 17. Lena’s response? A lengthy letter describing why the girl must have been lying, and defending of Murray Miller. She and the Girls co-showrunner, Jenni Konner released a statement saying, “While our first instinct is to listen to every woman’s story, our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.” People were less than pleased, to say the least. She did eventually apologize for speaking out (not for what she said) but she was called a faux-feminist by sexual assault survivor advocates everywhere.
15. When she “wished” she had an abortion
In another absolutely absurd and easily-preventable controversy, Lena Dunham was quoted saying some pretty off-color things about abortion. During an episode of her podcast Women of the Hour, she was talking about the stigma of having an abortion. Lena discussed that even as someone who greatly supports reproductive rights, she found that even she sometimes stigmatized abortion subconsciously.
Her solution for removing her own stigma? Saying: “I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.” …WHAT?! Seeing that abortion is such a sensitive issue, and can be traumatic for many people who do have to experience it — it maybe wasn’t the best move to say that.
14. When She Compared Trump to Dylan Roof
This was a Lena Dunham moment that could have easily been prevented with like, eight seconds of forethought. Basically, she was critiquing the President for being racist, as many people do. She was specifically referring to Trump’s actions in light of the NFL “take a knee” controversy, saying that he was “racist with untreated mental illness.” She then added, “So under [different] circumstances, he’s Dylan Roof.” Many people who support President Trump felt that the comparison was baseless and unnecessary, and blasted Lena for being insensitive. Roof shot and killed nine black churchgoers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. On the other side, liberals called the statement ableist — saying that she should’ve left mental illness out of it.
13. When she made comments about Odell Beckham Jr.
In news that really didn’t shock anyone, Lena Dunham was recently called out for being racist. She has time and time again been criticized for promoting white feminism and often makes offensive comments about people of color. In this case, she claimed that Odell Beckham Jr. refused to speak to her at the Met Gala. She said: “The vibe was very much like, ‘Do I want to f*ck it? Is it wearing a … yep, it’s wearing a tuxedo. I’m going to go back to my cell phone,” insinuating that he was “rejecting” her. Many felt that Lena was merely assuming Beckham Jr. was sexualizing her, and being racially insensitive towards the wide receiver.
12. When she conflated domestic violence and tabloid gossip
This “what-were-you-thinking” moment is not the first time Lena Dunham has put her foot in her mouth. Basically, this was a classic case of not thinking nearly enough before saying something. In an interview with Recode, she was discussing how toxic the internet can be, stating: “if I read it, it’s like going back to a husband who beat me in the face — it just doesn’t make any sense.” Many found the comparison insulting, trivializing, and upsetting, especially for victims of domestic violence.
11. When she joked about the Holocaust
Although Lena Dunham is herself Jewish, many people found this comment to be extremely offensive. Essentially, this all happened when all the news broke about Bill Cosby‘s various rape allegations began coming to light. Women were sharing their stories, and the climate surrounding all of the news was very heated. During an interview, Dunham was asked about her friend and coworker ’s “obsession” the Bill Cosby situation. Dunham replied, “it’s kind of like ‘saying someone’s obsessed with the Holcaust.'” She later wrote in an Instagram post that it, “wasn’t her best analogy.”
10. When She Posted a Racist Tweet
Because Lena Dunham has been caught so many times for saying problematic things, many people took it upon themselves to look into her social media past for more gems. For example, in 2011, she tweeted, “An uncool thought to have: ‘is that guy walking in the dark behind me a rapist? Never mind, he’s Asian.'” The worst part about this is that even she calls it an “uncool thought.” Many people said the statement was way MORE than just “uncool.” She immediately caught heat for perpetuating the stereotype that Asian men are somehow passive or inherently different from other men in certain ways.
9. When she made jokes about hijabs
In a very Lena Dunham-esque moment, the writer/actress was accused of insulting yet another culture. When she posted an Instagram photo of herself wearing a scarf, she decided to turn it into a joke about hijabs. Essentially, she wore a giant black scarf, wrapped it around her head and captioned it “’I had a real goth/fundamentalist attitude when I woke up from my nap.” Yikes? Immediately, internet users responded, calling her out for being racist and insensitive towards the cultural implications of the hijab.
8. When she appeared on American Horror Story
In the Ryan Murphy FX show, Lena Dunham took on the role of Valerie Solanas, a feminist who was obsessed with Andy Warhol and wanted to kill him. Her character is not an entirely sympathetic one, but there was one line in particular that rubbed viewers the wrong way. At one point, she essentially says that women don’t rape women, only men do. Again, she didn’t write the episode, but the fact that this line even existed upset a lot of viewers. It’s pretty common knowledge that women can be rapists as well, and many men and women are survivors of sexual assault from a female perpetrator.
7. When she spurred Animal shelter controversy
This Lena Dunham controversy is definitely the most bizarre and also fairly mysterious — which just makes it all the more intriguing. If you follow Lena on any social media, you’ve probably been bombarded by pictures and posts about her adopted puppy, Lamby. However, she recently decided that after months of deliberation, she could no longer take care of her beloved pet due to its behavioral issues. Dunham claimed that Lamby was severely traumatized by being in a shelter. However, the shelter where Lamby was adopted claimed that he showed no signs of behavioral issues while he was in their care. One of Lamby’s trainers, however, spoke out and said sometimes, it can take months before signs of abuse in animals begin to appear. Basically, the people wanted to know if or why Lena was lying about her dog. We need answers.
6. All the times Girls lacked diversity
This criticism of Lena Dunham is pretty straightforward. For a show that was so progressive, feminist, and forward-thinking, Girls has a shocking lack of diversity. First of all, the four main characters are — you guessed it — rich white girls living in Brooklyn. The show discusses feminism but fails to address the fact that the four friends have a SERIOUS amount of privilege. Additionally, the first recurring character of color was played by Donald Glover, but the whole point of his character was simply that he was “the black boyfriend.” Yikes.
5. When she Joked about moving to Canada
Although it was a popular joke at the time, many people criticized Lena Dunham for her comment about Trump winning the election. Essentially, she vowed that if Hillary lost the election to Trump, she would flee the country and move to Canada. As someone who promotes feminism, which involves addressing your own privilege and fighting the good fight, many felt that Lana was not doing that and failing to recognize that many marginalized people were put in way more danger from the election and didn’t have the means to flee the country. Basically, they felt that escaping the country and leaving others to fend for themselves was pretty insensitive.
4. When she outed her sibling
In this instance, Lena Dunham was yet again under fire for a situation involving her sibling, Grace. In an interview with New York Times Magazine, both Grace and Lena talked about their relationship and growing up together. In particular, they talked about Grace’s experience coming out as queer to their family members. Rather, Lena’s experience coming out for Grace to their parents without Grace’s permission. While the two remain close, many people think that Lena was totally out of line, and has a habit of oversharing personal information, even other people’s.
3. When she made offensive comments about India
In an interview with V Magazine, Lena Dunham, for some reason, thought it would be a good idea to go on a rant about how much she disliked her stay in India. You can probably see where problems would arise. She said, “I hated India. I know you’re not allowed to hate India. But I did. I wasn’t happy. And I felt crazy. I’m a hypochondriac… We do a really good job in this country of basically sealing off sick people and sealing off toilets and sealing off everything that lets us know we’re animals. And in India, not only do they not do that, there’s no interest in doing that.” So, comparing Indian people to animals, and essentially calling the whole country dirty. Not a great move.
2. When she was called a “hipster racist”
Just after Lena Dunham backed al alleged sexual abuser, she found herself in hot water again. You see, it wasn’t lost on those following the case that there was a racial component at play in this incident: the accuser was biracial and the accused was white — and Lena decided to side with the white man. Then, Zinzi Clemmons, a writer Lena worked with on Lenny Letter, decided to quit her post and said Lena’s “well-known racism” was to blame. She encouraged other women of color to quit writing for the publication as well saying, “she cannot have our words if she cannot respect us.”
1. Hanging with Terry Richardson
If you didn’t already know this, Terry Richardson has universally been deemed a total creep. As a popular fashion photographer, it finally came to light that Richardson had allegedly sexually harassed and abused countless models. People very quickly stopped working with him, but Dunham worked with him in her spread at V Magazine, which raised a lot of criticism from people questioning her feminist politics. Additionally, Dunham had previously made comments about boycotting artists like R. Kelly, who had been accused of sexual abuse, which definitely complicated the situation.