Brow Beat

After Social Media Backlash, Lena Dunham Apologizes for Her Comments About Odell Beckham Jr.

Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer at a book signing for Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl in 2014.

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Saturday, one day after Lena Dunham’s conversation with Amy Schumer was published in Dunham’s newsletter Lenny, the director, actress, and writer has issued an apology for comments she made about New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. At issue was a passage describing their encounter at the Met Gala:

I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, “That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.” It wasn’t mean—he just seemed confused.

The vibe was very much like, “Do I want to fuck it? Is it wearing a … yep, it’s wearing a tuxedo. I’m going to go back to my cell phone.” It was like we were forced to be together, and he literally was scrolling Instagram rather than have to look at a woman in a bow tie. I was like, “This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Getting Rejected by Athletes.”

Although Slate’s L.V. Anderson wrote that “Dunham has tapped into a real phenomenon—men who really don’t know what to make of women who don’t sexually interest them,” Dunham faced an overwhelming social media backlash from critics who resented her use of Beckham Jr. as a prop and the way her story fed into a long history of hypersexualizing black men.

After initially attributing the backlash to the “outrage machine,” Dunham and Schumer talked via Twitter direct messages with black filmmaker Xavier Burgin, which Dunham thanked him for via Twitter:

The fact that she spoke to a black man about the issue drew its own criticisms, most notably from writer Eve Ewing, who pointed out that Dunham and Schumer were willing to listen to Burgin after ignoring black women offering the same criticisms:

On Saturday, Dunham apologized via her Instagram, posting a picture of Tracey Emin’s 1999 neon sculpture Sorry Flowers Die:

It was accompanied by a lengthy apology:

I owe Odell Beckham Jr an apology. Despite my moments of bravado, I struggle at industry events (and in life) with the sense that I don’t rep a certain standard of beauty and so when I show up to the Met Ball surrounded by models and swan-like actresses it’s hard not to feel like a sack of flaming garbage. This felt especially intense with a handsome athlete as my dinner companion and a bunch of women I was sure he’d rather be seated with. But I went ahead and projected these insecurities and made totally narcissistic assumptions about what he was thinking, then presented those assumptions as facts. I feel terrible about it. Because after listening to lots of valid criticism, I see how unfair it is to ascribe misogynistic thoughts to someone I don’t know AT ALL. Like, we have never met, I have no idea the kind of day he’s having or what his truth is. But most importantly, I would never intentionally contribute to a long and often violent history of the over-sexualization of black male bodies—as well as false accusations by white women towards black men. I’m so sorry, particularly to OBJ, who has every right to be on his cell phone. The fact is, I don’t know (I don’t know a lot of things) and I shouldn’t have acted like I did. Much love and thanks, Lena

Schumer has yet to comment at length and deleted several tweets posted Friday, which she attributed to the opening band at her show tweeting from her account. Strangely enough, the original version of Dunham’s story also included a swipe at the Met Gala: Dunham described the experience as being “a crazy countdown to when we could escape,” to which Schumer replied, “I left so early.” This exchange, along with Dunham’s description of “attempt[ing] to grind my ass on Michael B. Jordan” was quickly excised from the interview. Schumer is already on record as hating the annual salute to money, and Dunham immediately reiterated her desire to “dance myself onto” Michael B. Jordan, which leaves one possible explanation for the edit: While Dunham regrets insulting black people, the person whose wrath she really fears is Anna Wintour.