Lenny Letter — the email newsletter curated by Lena Dunham and her Girls producer Jenni Konner — released an interview between Dunham and Amy Schumer today. But reading it feels less like reading a Q&A and more like eavesdropping on a conversation between two frustrated friends — which, of course, is exactly the point.
Schumer’s had a rough few weeks thanks to Kurt Metzger, a longtime writer on Inside Amy Schumer whose constant, disgusting Facebook comments — though he called them jokes about social media mob mentality — about how rape victims should and shouldn’t act made headlines at the exact same time Schumer embarked on a book tour for her memoir, Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo.
Though Schumer initially tried to deflect when news outlets (and fans on Twitter) started asking her about her connection to Metzger, the topic proved impossible to ignore. As it turns out, it’s hard to shrug off one of your writers going on a sarcastic tirade about how rape victims who don’t want to go to the police are selfish and stupid.
Schumer eventually addressed the situation on Charlie Rose, stating that Metzger is “the problem, no question,” but that she’d rather talk about “actually getting the problem done."
She pretty much repeats this point without expanding on it much, in her Lenny Letter interview, which broaches the topic when Dunham says, “I don’t even want to make you talk about it, because it’s the fucking worst.”
In response, Schumer acknowledges that Metzger’s been making comments like this for years (because he has), and that they’re gross (because they are). She also says she hoped that her open commitment to making feminist comedy would have earned her more trust — or at least the benefit of the doubt — on this issue. But she then makes a call for perspective that’s pretty confusing:
But also, why are these women treating him like he raped someone? He’s not Bill Cosby; Kurt has never raped. What he was saying was horrific, and he was being a troll.
The reason this is confusing is perhaps best summed up by Dunham’s even more perplexing response:
The other thing that I get really crazy about is this new world in which women aren’t just supposed to be protected from actions, they’re supposed to be protected from language. Women are so strong. My ovary has basically exploded in my stomach twice, and I was pretty chill about it. You think I can’t listen to some short comedy loser say something dumb about rape?
Okay, a couple things, here.
Shitty rhetoric about rape begets shitty attitudes about rape. That matters!
On the one hand: Yes, women are used to hearing terrible things said about us, or directly to us, or just having to grin and bear it when sexism swerves our way. But the idea that “some short comedy loser say[ing] something dumb about rape” (as Dunham refers to Metzger) shouldn’t be a problem just because we’re “so strong” is completely beside the point.
Dunham knows exactly how much words can hurt. She even took a huge, pointed step back from Twitter last year thanks to the onslaught of bullshit she regularly encountered on the site, and good for her. But if she could understand the power of those words to wound, why can’t she see the harm in Metzger’s “language,” no matter whose friend he is?
It all comes back to Schumer’s question, though she no doubt meant it rhetorically: “Why are these women treating him like he raped someone?”
Maybe Metzger didn’t rape anyone. But his merciless comments about how it’s cowardly for rape victims not to report the crime — “they’re as BRAVE as they are sore!” — are flat out irresponsible when it’s well-documented that rape victims are often accused of lying, that hundreds of thousands rape kits are currently lying untested in police evidence lockers, that even reported rapes have an astonishingly low rate of conviction.
And shitty comments like Metzger’s matter. His poisonous attempts to make jokes feed into the idea that those who allege and/or report rape are being melodramatic or cowardly, which in turn feeds into the idea that rape doesn’t need to be taken seriously, which in turn feeds into the idea that hey, rape happens, just deal with it.
So no, Metzger isn’t Bill Cosby. But he definitely isn’t helping anything, either, and that should matter. Women might be strong enough to ignore him, or the kind of sexist garbage that gets thrown at Schumer and Dunham daily — but we shouldn’t have to be.
To read the full interview, subscribe to Lenny Letter here.