Claire Black: Dunham apology does no-one any favours

Lena Dunham. Picture: Getty
Lena Dunham. Picture: Getty
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WHO would want to be Lena Dunham? Yes, by the age of 28 you’d have created and would star in a popular TV show, have a coterie of famous friends, bagged a couple of million quid for your memoir and you’d be considered the “voice of a generation”. But then there’s all the rest.

You’d be hated for your political views. Envied for your success. Pilloried for your body shape, your privilege, your hair, your fashion sensibility. And now, in a new low – even for the rabid US press – you’d be accused of child abuse.

I have not read Dunham’s book. I’m not even sure if I will read Not That Kind Of Girl, because like Girls, Dunham’s book isn’t really for me. I’m too old, too easily embarrassed. Dunham’s thing is putting it all out there – saying the unsayable, showing the unshowable. Given the strictures on women trying to fit into contemporary femininity, it seems like a vital role.

But now it’s all gone a bit awry. A couple of right-wing websites have got themselves into a serious lather about a few passages in the memoir in which she describes sexual experimentation with her sister. Dunham wrote about being a seven-year-old fascinated with vaginas (having one herself) and so she had a good look and a bit of a prod at her one-year-old sister’s. This touching was not violent, nor was it sexual. Having read the passage, the description of it isn’t sexual either. She also described later bribing her sister with sweets to kiss her. “Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl, I was trying.”


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I understand this will be too much information for many people. I also understand that Dunham’s drollery is not to everyone’s taste. She is challenging, uncomfortable, a bit squirmy sometimes. But to leap to the conclusion that she has revealed herself as a child molester is ludicrous. It’s ludicrous because it misrepresents what many children do as they discover their own bodies through play and experimentation. It’s also ludicrous because Dunham’s sister, the “victim”, remains extremely close to her sister, has sanctioned everything that has been written in the memoir and has come to her defence. What, are we to ignore her?

At first Dunham came out fighting, describing the accusation as “disgusting”. But then things started to seem a bit shakier. She released a statement to Time apologising for comic use of the term “sexual predator” and for potentially triggering victims of abuse. I feel sorry if this has happened, but Dunham’s apology depresses me; it’s as though she has been shamed into accepting that some things really are unsayable. And although people might not like the joke, or what Dunham did, silencing her won’t do anyone any favours, not all the others now panicking about their own perfectly ordinary childhood experiences, nor those who really have experienced abuse.

Eau dear, what can the matter be?

I AM a Francophile. I love red wine and bread, erratic driving and cheese that is so ripe it has to be served with spoons rather than cut with a knife. Never mind Edith Piaf, Jeanne Moreau and Colette. So news just in that the French finance ministry has launched an investigation into why women consumers are charged more than their male counterparts for apparently identical items fills me with beaucoup de plaisir. We all know it’s true with toiletries – an extra three quid because the razor is pink or aquamarine rather than silver or navy blue, with rounded edges rather than sharp ones, an extra quid for shaving foam because it comes in feminised packaging and smells of eau de prettiness rather than eau de manliness. But it transpires that it’s not only with smelly stuff that this caper is taking place. Campaigners have discovered that women are routinely charged more for other products too – such as rucksacks and stationery, dry cleaning and haircuts. Are you surprised? Nope, me neither. I’ve never known any man who pays what women routinely pay to have their hair cut. And given that most earn so much less than men, this really is adding insult to injury. Frenchies, as ever, I salute you and I await your findings with eager interest. Vive la revolution.

Slebs filling their boots

I KNOW slebs have got to make a living. But sometimes it’s too much to take. I give you Jennifer Aniston punting water. Seriously? And even the untouchable, unimpeachable George Clooney hawking coffee. I know those nuptials must’ve cost an arm and a leg, but please. If it’s not Brooklyn Beckham punting raincoats it’s Snoop Dogg designing a range for Happy Socks. Why would purveyors of fine socks turn to an insurance advertising rapper for design inspiration? I don’t get it. Just like I don’t get why Brush Buddies would make a toothbrush that plays Justin Bieber as you clean your teeth. I’m all for oral hygiene but sometimes a price is too high to pay.


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