In Clarifying Her Comments About Lena Dunham, Tessa Thompson Showed Her More Grace Than She Deserved

Tessa Thompson  (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Tessa Thompson (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Actress Tessa Thompson is walking back her strong—but not at all inappropriate—remarks about Lena Dunham’s participation in the Time’s Up anti-sexual-harassment initiative.


On Twitter, early Tuesday morning, Thompson posted a short statement expressing regret for her “lack of finesse navigating social media.”

“Hard to discuss issues with nuance [on social media]. A response I made to comments on an Instagram post became fodder for a piece that I believe was designed to create conflict where there isn’t any. It’s perhaps more complex than that,” Thompson wrote.

The actress was referring to a comment she made on a now deleted Instagram post that featured celebrities and activists celebrating the Time’s Up initiative. Included in the photo was Dunham, whose presence angered and confused some commenters, who wanted to know why a woman who recently defended an accused rapist would be featured in a photo commemorating an anti-sexual-harassment initiative.

“I support this initiative and the fight for gender justice and am really glad that the movement is growing,” one user commented. “I however am perplexed by the inclusion of Lena Dunham, a woman who publicly accused a young sexual assault survivor of color, Aurora Perrineau, of lying about her assault.” As Nylon notes, the user then went on to note that Dunham still hasn’t apologized directly to Perrineau, despite the fact that the man Dunham had defended, longtime friend Murray Miller, lied.


“Would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this as it gravely discredits your efforts to include Lena without holding her accountable,” the user wrote to Thompson.

Thompson offered this response:

Lena was not anywhere present in our group during the countless hours of work for the last two months. We hosted an open house for the actresses for red carpet messaging and Lena presence was a surprise to us all. This is a time of reckoning. And for many, a re-education. So many women also have real work to do. I’m afraid it’s too nuanced a conversation to have on this platform. But I hear you, and know that your thoughts and words are not lost on me. It’s been discussed.


According to Thompson’s own account, the Girls creator was more like the chick who doesn’t do a lick of work for the group project, but shows up on the day of the presentation with her hair pressed, asking if there’s anything she can do to help.

This would be trash enough, but remember, this “group project”—in this case, demonstrative and impactful feminism—is a big part of Dunham’s brand.


Thompson’s comments supported what many have suspected about Dunham’s public persona versus her private work. Still, the Creed actress seemed to have a change of heart after multiple outlets covered her remarks.

“I, in no way, want to diminish Lena Dunham and her work, her voice, and her importance. We have spoken and she knows my heart,” Thompson wrote in her Tuesday-morning statement. “I feel a responsibility to women that have sometimes felt ignored, dismissed, and underrepresented. They are my beacons.”


Thompson added that she regretted that her words “were misinterpreted” and distracted from the size and inclusivity of the Time’s Up campaign.

It’s understandable that Thompson would feel torn up about distracting from the Time’s Up initiative, which provides a legal defense fund for women across industries who have been the victims of sexual harassment and which she has been at the forefront of promoting. To borrow overused but accurate parlance, Thompson has been “doing the work,” and burying that work under comments she made about Dunham surely isn’t what she intended.


Still, Dunham’s feminism has been toxic for people of color, and particularly women of color, and it’s fair and worthwhile to point that out. Following her support of Miller and her nonapology to Perrineau, writer Zinzi Clemmons, who has worked with Dunham and known her for years, minced no words when she said that it was time for women of color to “divest” from the faux feminist.


“She cannot have our words if she cannot respect us,” Clemmons wrote.

The grace and work Thompson has shown are commendable. If only Dunham could do the same.

Staff writer, The Root.



“Would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this as it gravely discredits your efforts to include Lena without holding her accountable,”

See now I’m confused. Instead of putting the responsibility on Dunham, this person just shirks it to Thompson.

Why is up it to Thompson to clarify anything? Why can’t people question why Dunham was there to begin with and why she continually co-opts others work? Why does anyone need Thompson to speak on anything?

This is the problem I have. Why not ask the Becky herself instead of having Thompson carry the burden of explaining? What the hell everyone? Am I the only who sees it this way?