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I Am a Liberal and I Do Not Approve of Lena Dunham's Actions

11/07/2014 08:31 EST | Updated 01/07/2015 05:59 EST
Mike Marsland via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31: Lena Dunham launches her book 'Not That Kind Of Girl' at the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall on October 31, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)

This week, allegations have emerged from National News correspondent Kevin Williamson, that Girls actress and creator Lena Dunham sexually abused her sister, Grace, who is six years her junior. The claim is that because Williamson has right-winged views, he is a part of the exploitative media that embellishes stories. As someone who frequently finds herself face-palming at media and political figures on the right, I am actually quite shocked that the "liberal left" is ignoring the abusive patterns exhibited by Dunham in her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, from which Williamson extracted his allegations. When it is mentioned by liberal publications, it's always in reference to the right-winged articles' accusations to seemingly offset the reliability of the source that brought it up instead of just reading the content with an open mind.

Examining her very words unveils very destructive, manipulative, and sometimes sadistic behaviours that are, in my opinion, alarming. The controversial sexual abuse she may or may not have inflicted on her sister is what's making the headlines, not the blatant control issues she has and a lack of boundaries she exhibits with her sister. While it is important to analyze the exploratory acts Dunham discusses in her memoir, it is as equally important to look at how this could affect a young woman during the first decade of her life.

From the memoir:

"As she grew, I took to bribing her time and affection: one dollar in quarters if I could do her makeup like a "motorcycle chick." Three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds. Whatever she wanted to watch on TV if she would just "relax on me." Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl, I was trying." (Emphasis mine.)

What is it that sexual predators do? They groom their potential prey so that they can reap satisfaction from their vulnerabilities, as she continues to demonstrate shortly after:

"Maybe, I thought, she would be more willing to accept kisses if I wore the face mask my grandmother had for when she did her dialysis. (The answer was no.) What I really wanted, beyond affection, was to feel that she needed me, that she was helpless without her big sister leading her through the world." (Emphasis mine.)

The next part is one of the most disturbing passages describing to what length Lena derived pleasure from the pain Grace was about to experience in order to take advantage of her vulnerable state:

"I took perverse pleasure in delivering bad news to her--the death of our grandfather, a fire across the street--hoping that her fear would drive her into my arms, would make her trust me." (Emphasis mine.)

Manipulative behaviour is also the name of the game when trying to sculpt someone into what you want them to be in order to give you what you want:

"She was afraid to sleep alone and would begin asking me around 5:00 P.M. every day whether she could sleep with me. I put on a big show of saying no, taking pleasure in watching her beg and sulk, but eventually I always relented. Her sticky, muscly little body thrashed beside me every night as I read Anne Sexton, watched reruns of SNL, sometimes even as I slipped my hand into my underwear to figure some stuff out." (Emphasis mine.)

Admittedly, she does have control over her need to disclose because she held back some details about her relationship with her current boyfriend:

She has written about her current boyfriend, she revealed in the book, but after having surveyed the words, "I realized they are mine. He is mine to protect."

Early in September, both Lena and Grace were interviewed. The conversation between the sisters seems to expose more of the power dynamic that exists when one person tries to domineer in a relationship:

Though Grace wasn't quite ready to tell their parents, Dunham was unable to contain herself and came out to them for her.

"What I didn't say in the book is how it messed up our relationship for like two years."

As Grace remembered it, Dunham couldn't last two days keeping the news to herself. (Emphasis mine.)

And...

Grace rolled her eyes. "Without getting into specifics," she said, "most of our fights have revolved around my feeling like Lena took her approach to her own personal life and made my personal life her property."

"Basically, it's like I can't keep any of my own secrets," Dunham said. "And I consider Grace to be an extension of me, and therefore I couldn't handle the fact that she's a very private person with her own value system and her own aesthetic and that we do different things." (Emphasis mine.)

If Grace is such a private person, why did Dunham insist on exposing such delicate topics in her memoir about her? Could it be the continuous cycle of not respecting her sister's wishes, boundaries, or life? Do any of these sound familiar? Grace seems to support her sister by sharing her cryptic thoughts on Twitter but it appears as if she doesn't want people to assume her experiences; notably, she has not disputed the allegations which could be because she's a private person who has been thrown into the limelight or she does not want to publicly harm her sister with her opinions on her childhood. That should be respected, no matter what the reason.

While the sexual abuse allegations through Lena's literary confessions are certainly grounds for detailed analysis while giving readers a chance to evaluate what they believe are age-appropriate behaviours and examining the cultures or atmospheres that foster these views, we cannot ignore that these types of mind games alone are abusive and detrimental to a child's upbringing.

All behaviours Dunham was brutally honest about, while sometimes sensationalizing to her disadvantage (that society would deem inappropriate if she were not a white woman), bothered me to hear as a younger sister who looked up to her own supportive sister. I could not imagine her relishing in my pain when a relative died, silently or openly, in order to attract affection during my distress. Isn't that the definition of taking advantage of someone?

Aside from the potentially sexual or boundary-breaking behaviours exhibited by Lena which I've never experienced with my sister, I couldn't imagine having my sister betray me as a child for personal gain. It shouldn't matter who first reported the disturbing content of this memoir although it's unfortunately being used to discredit the merit behind the findings. We should be reading into content without assigning race, wealth, or gender because if this were a male or anyone of a visible minority, Lena would be experiencing far more backlash than she has already.

It's unfortunate for the leftist movement because Lena defied social norms through her show Girls and was a strong figure in the body acceptance movement along with Planned Parenthood (sorry, Williamson) -- she was someone to look up to. While her messages have not changed in her advocacy she's discrediting the very words she wrote by calling herself an "unreliable narrator" which can question the legitimacy of any beneficial work to the causes she stands for. If this is the position she sticks with then perhaps writing a tell-all was not the wisest decision for her legacy.

The focus should not about left or right but more about wrong or right. I am a Liberal and I do not approve of Lena Dunham's actions.

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