Lenny Letter Essay


Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) at the June 7 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) is fast on the rise as a prominent and powerful feminist voice — and now she’s taking her message from the halls of Capitol Hill to the digital pages of Lenny Letter, the popular online newsletter created by “Girls” star Lena Dunham and her writing partner Jenni Konner.

The lawmaker isn’t pulling any punches in her first piece for the staunchly feminist publication, assailing the GOP health-care bill as “a hot mess” and “absolutely terrible for women.” The bill would slash coverage for benefits like maternity care and birth control, and make it impossible for women on Medicaid to obtain health care services at Planned Parenthood clinics, she wrote.

To drive the point home, she summoned another famous female icon:

“Confronted with this catastrophic health-care proposal, all of us have a choice. It’s a little like the choice Diana faces in Wonder Woman, which I saw a few weeks ago and loved. Do we steer clear of the troubles of the world? Or do we join the fight?” she wrote. “For me, the answer is easy: Join the fight. Make your voices heard. Because this is not a drill.”

[As a prosecutor, Kamala Harris’s doggedness was praised. As a senator, she’s deemed ‘hysterical.’]

Harris knows a little something about making her voice heard.  (Plus: she’s not afraid to swear.) After her male colleagues shushed and scolded her during recent high-profile Senate Intelligence Committee hearings — demanding that she show more “courtesy” as she questioned Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein about the Russia probe — she struck back with a pithy new catch-phrase, one she reaffirmed in the final lines of her Lenny essay.

“This is not a time for courtesy,” she wrote. “This is a time for courage.”

After Girls writer and executive producer Murray Miller was accused of sexual assault by actress Aurora Perrineau, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner issued a statement in support of their long-time co-worker, describing Perrineau’s accusation as “one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.” This prompted such outrage that Dunham and Konner issued a second statement apologizing for the first, and saying, “We regret this decision with every fiber of our being.”

Now, a writer for Dunham’s Lenny Letter is publicly walking away from the online publication, citing what she calls the writer-actress-producer-activist’s “well-known racism.” Author Zinzi Clemmons says that she has known Dunham since their college years, and that the two share overlapping social circles. During that time, Clemmons says she “avoided those people like the plague because of their racism,” adding, “I’d call their strain ‘hipster-racism,’ which typically uses sarcasm as a cover.” She cites her relationship with her editors as the reason she has stayed at Lenny until now, but says that Dunham’s reaction to the accusations made by Perrineau pushed her to leave the newsletter. “As a result of Lena Dunham’s statements, I have decided that I will no longer write for Lenny Letter. For all you writers who are outraged about what she did, I encourage you to do the same. Especially women of color.” You can read Clemmons’s full statement below via Twitter.

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