By Kelsey Duchesne
Producer, director, and writer Jenni Konner has experienced blatant sexism throughout her time in the entertainment industry, and will no longer stay silent. The co-founder of Lenny Letter wrote an essay this week describing an awkward and inappropriate conversation she had with an unnamed director and her colleague and business partner, Lena Dunham.
While filming on location, Konner and Dunham ran into a director who was filming a show nearby. The director felt it necessary to start asking Lena Dunham blatantly inappropriate questions, masking them as business and industry related.
“The director asked Lena to have dinner alone the following night with an actress on the show he works on. Not because he thought they should meet, but because he wanted Lena to persuade the actress to ‘show her tits, or at least some vag’ on TV,” Konner wrote. “Surely Lena could make a compelling argument. After all, he continued, “You would show anything. Even your asshole.”
Even. Your. Asshole.
It seems that the director doesn’t understand the difference between Lena Dunham being comfortable with being naked on screen, and the unnamed actress who is simply not comfortable. There is no right or wrong actor in this scenario-- it’s a matter of preference, and the director insinuating that Dunham should attempt to coerce this woman into getting naked is violating and wrong. Lena Dunham was not persuaded by a forceful director to get naked on camera, and the director not understanding this clear line is baffling.
There is also the blaring issue of the rude and aggressive way the director spoke to Dunham, as explained by Konner.
“This is something a man felt compelled to say to a Golden Globe–winning actor, showrunner, and best-selling author who just happens to be female. So it’s easy to speculate what might be said to women working with him, under him, dependent on his approval,” Konner wrote. “Despite Lena’s obvious discomfort, he then went on to critique and crudely evaluate the bodies of all the women on his show.”
When some crew members (who Konner describes as being “the most loving and sensitive men”) suggest this director inebriation, Konner brilliantly sums up the double standard in that excuse.
“When women get drunk, they are asking for it. When men get drunk, they don’t mean it." Well said.
Konner's attention and assertiveness in sharing this troubling conversation is inspiring. She titled the article “Our Voice Is Our Superpower”, and she’s right. As women, it is not our job to make excuses or to ignore violating, inappropriate, and blatantly sexist questions imposed on us. The questioners intentions are irrelevant, because if we don’t speak up, accountability and reflection cannot follow.