Lena Dunham speaks to a crowd at a Hillary Clinton campaign office in January. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty The Lenny Interview: Lena Dunham interviewed Hillary Clinton in September 2015. Photo: Lenny Letters/ Youtube
After actively campaigning for Hillary Clinton during the US election, actress Lena Dunham has penned an essay, urging people not to agonise, but organise, saying now is not the time for minorities to understand the mindset of Donald Trump voters.
The creator and star of the HBO series Girls, who labelled a Trump victory “unconscionable” during the “Emergency Election Edition” of her podcast Women of the Hour last week, has taken to her corresponding site, Lenny Letter, to reflect on her year and a half of campaigning and to lament Clinton’s loss, before delivering a striking call to action.
“As horrifying as I found Donald Trump’s rhetoric, as hideous as I found his racism and xenophobia, as threatening to basic decency as I found his demagogue persona, I never truly believed he could win,” Dunham penned.
Reflecting on the campaign’s culmination of her experience and built friendships, Dunham pointed out that being a staunch supporter of Clinton subjected her and others to vitriol and threats online.
“We wanted a female president. We wanted guaranteed control over our own bodies. We wanted equal pay. That made us nasty. That made us targets,” she wrote.
“Now, more than ever, our power is in numbers and in our refusal to accept the idea that our leaders intrinsically know what’s best for us, better than the people we meet every day.”
She continues by detailing the “worrying” behaviour she witnessed in the days after the election including, “watching a little girl cry, wondering if her mother would be deported” and listening to an African-American reporter ask “how to explain to his sons, ‘You tell them, over and over again, not to be a bully or a bigot, to respect women, to be kind, that’s how you get ahead. And now a bully is the president. How do you explain that?”‘
“In this new reality, we have all been radicalised. It’s no longer a word for those living on the fringes. It’s a word for everyone who walks in pain with the results of this election, who feels their identity being crushed under the weight of the half of the country who voted for a man who denounces and denies the basic rights of women, the queer community, immigrants, Muslims, people of colour and the differently abled. We’ve been radicalised and therefore we’ve been deputised to do our parts.
“What that means will become clearer over the coming months, and we will all have to use the tools we have to speak for ourselves, but moreover speak for the voiceless, the people who can’t demand change for fear of very real and violent losses. Those who are gagged by the system Donald Trump proposes.” Like so many of you I have been gutted, breath taken in the worst way, by the results of this week’s election- a sadness like a death or a separation, crushing and fresh every hour. But in the words of the immortal Flo Kennedy we most organize, not agonise. My thoughts up now on @lennyletter- link in bio. AND: if you wonder why comments are disabled on this post? I refuse to take any more verbal abuse, threats of violence, taunts, jabs at my body, my family, my humanity. I refuse not just for me but for all of us. Across many intersections, we are done. There is no space left- the caverns of begrudging acceptance have been emptied and filled with fight. Just like she would want. Just like all the those who have fought for us would demand.A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on Nov 11, 2016 at 8:59am PST
Dunham borrowed the concept of “don’t agonise, organise” from championed African-American activist, feminist and lawyer, Florynce Kennedy, proving the fight for change is just as important now as it has been over previous decades. Using similar quotes from various influential women throughout the essay, including Clinton herself, Dunham noted the power of millennials rejecting Trump and where she sees the movement moving forward.
“Our generation says no, as do first-time voters, to what this man and his presidency represent. We reject, wholesale, his brand — any brand — of hatred and bigotry. We are the generation with the strongest and most vast understanding of identity politics yet. We recognise intersections and contradictions and want to make room for them in people and in government. Our hearts are open, but our resolve is strong. We want to create a different kind of America than has ever existed. America will not be great until it fulfils its promise of liberty and justice for all.”
After thanking Clinton for her campaign and 30 years of political service, Dunham concluded the letter with a strong call to action, saying that the work isn’t complete, “it is only the beginning”.
“Thank you, Hillary, for bravely taking every shot and standing tall, for weathering assaults from every direction, for telling us that no, this wasn’t politics as we know it. Thank you for showing our daughters something beautiful to aspire to. Thank you for reminding us what we are capable of when we are focused and ferocious. Thank you for 30 years of that. Thank you for not abandoning us now,” she wrote.
“We will stun ourselves with what we are capable of. We will laugh with surprise like kids who finally threw a punch back at the schoolyard bully. We will watch our friends in awe as they step forward and demand more, as they recognise and wield their politicised identities. We will not be governed by fear. We will show our children a different way. We will go home like shooting stars.”
Dunham also took to Instagram after being criticised for her comments on plans to leave America if Trump claimed victory.
She wrote: “And for those demanding I move to Canada based on something I said when this man seem like a steak salesman with a long shot at the presidency: stay busy revelling in your new regime. I will go many places during my lifetime, surrounded by kindreds on a mission to spread justice and light.” And for those demanding I move to Canada based on something I said when this man seemed like a steak salesman with a long shot at the presidency: stay busy reveling in your new regime. I will go many places during my lifetime, surrounded by kindreds on a mission to spread justice and light. I can’t wait for all of of this, and for the change to come, as we use what we’ve been given to protect those who can’t protect themselves. What are you living for?A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on Nov 11, 2016 at 9:03am PST
Her words echo other celebrities that have spoken out against the election result. Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence wrote an impassioned essay calling supporters not be be afraid but to “be loud” and Amy Schumer lambasted Trump supporters, labelling them “kicking and screaming babies.”