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When do we intervene?

Jem has blogged with precision and care about how we deal with children who are associated with, or who commit abuse.

Plenty of people have had their say about Lena Dunham. This is a well written explanation of why so many people are worried, or offended by Dunham’s unreliable and unethical narratives.

Now, I’m deeply troubled by Dunham, and not just because of what she did when she was a child.

Reading Dunham’s accounts of herself I couldn’t avoid the feeling that Dunham is engaged in some kind of unpleasant, self-referencing kind of performance, an F Scott Fitzgerald meets the Kardashians reality show.

As a believer in redemption I don’t have a concern that someone might once have committed unspeakable crimes; the price I pay for being a socialist who is fundamentally an optimist about human beings is that I believe even the worst offenders might understand both the nature of their offences and that they have to take responsibility for becoming better people.

Lena Dunham, by contrast, appears to see her offences and sins as anecdotes that embellish her account of herself as weird, or unusual. In fact, as any reader of F Scott Fitzgerald will tell you, there is nothing unusual about privileged, morally inept and narcissistic would be artists spreading havoc in their wake as they pursue their interests and desires.

I don’t feel as if I have to take any position on what Lena Dunham did when she was seven; not do I need to take any position on the uncomfortable feelings I experience reading about her relationship with her sister. Given that all the facts I have come via Lena Dunham, it is possible that nothing actually happened, and that she is just another Billy BigTime lying about her past to embellish her rather ordinary attitudes and views in the present.

I will say two things that I feel I have to say. The first is that Lena Dunham has done women no favours. If, like me, you ploughed through all of the National Review assault on Lena Dunham by Kevin WIlliamson, it is clear that his main concern is to demonstrate that the character of a victim can be used to undermine a complaint of rape. In Dunham’s case, he wants to use her character, and behaviour towards to her sister, to undermine her account of an incident during which she may have been raped. I think it is possible to think, as I do, that Dunham is a vile creature unhinged by privilege and wealth, and still to believe her account of a consent violation sufficient to justify a charge of rape.

The second thing is that even though  I wouldn’t want to give Lena Dunham houseroom right now, that is not based on some principle that her past behaviour makes her anathema, but because her lack of insight into the impact of her behaviour makes her a dangerous person to be around.

My final point is the one that links back to the title. Dunham’s account of her upbringing, if it is true, begs the question about how and when we should intervene. There’s no doubt her parents were privileged but, if Dunham is to be believed utterly inept. If you were a social worker observing the Dunham family, would you have intervened? If not, why not?


2 comments on “When do we intervene?

  1. georgefinnegan
    November 3, 2014

    Ideally, I think I would have intervened. But more importantly, someone should be watching her now. This tendency to want children near her while she’s getting off may still be with her. I’m familiar with female pedophiles. They and society at large don’t think they do harm, but that’s a long way from the truth. The flippant attitude that she has about it is pretty troubling. I wouldn’t let her babysit my kids!


  2. Pingback: Doing better: Dunham and denial | Valery North - Writer

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This entry was posted on November 2, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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