Artist pens open letter to Lena Dunham on why she won’t work with her

Last week I told you about the backlash that occurred when Lena Dunham and other well-meaning but clueless celebrities signed their names to a letter that abolitionist groups sent to Amnesty International in hopes of getting the organization to reverse its proposed policy on sex work. (Said policy would promote the human rights of sex workers by seeking to decriminalize the industry around the world.) Now one prominent ally has added her voice to the chorus after the people running Dunham’s new newsletter tried to hire her to work on it.

In an open letter posted to her Tumblr, writer and artist Molly Crabapple explains why she turned down the opportunity to do illustrations for Dunham’s new email newsletter project “Lenny,” which already boasts such big names on its masthead as Jessica Grose (Slate, Jezebel), Laia Garcia (Rookie), and Doreen St. Félix (Pitchfork, The Hairpin, BuzzFeed). She writes:

Dear Lenny,

Thank you for getting in touch and the kind words on my work.

However, I can’t be involved in any project helmed by Lena Dunham as long as she supports that petition condemning Amnesty International’s decriminalization of sex work.

Crabapple goes on to explain how the sex industry’s various problems are only exacerbated by criminalization. She also outlines how the Swedish model endorsed by the letter’s signers—whereby sex workers are decriminalized but their clients and managers can still be arrested—is still fairly harmful when it comes to its net effect on human rights:

Undoubtedly, Ms. Dunham believes the petition she signed only calls for the criminalization of clients and managers, not workers. However, this model, called the Swedish Model. is far from benign. It thwarts any attempts by sex workers to control their own working conditions. It leads to stigma, impoverishment, sex workers being evicted from their homes, and sex workers charged with “pimping” when they choose to work together for security. Most importantly, it involves often corrupt, violent police in the lives of women they have a history of enacting violence upon.

This article by Molly Smith for the New Republic does a great job explaining the problems with the Swedish model. Ms. Smith is a sex worker in her own right, as well as an activist and writer.

She also outlines why Dunham is being singled out among the actresses who signed the petition. To wit: Because she has a major reputation for being outspoken on feminist issues:

Many famous, renowned actresses signed the anti-Amnesty petition. However, Ms. Dunham is more than an actress. She’s a proud, prominent young feminist. Indeed, to many people, she is one of feminism’s most visible faces. Yet she is taking a political stand that harms and endangers other women around the world.

Given the scrutiny she’s facing from Crabapple, the SW community, and even her own sister, will Dunham realize she made a mistake and remove her name from the letter? She does seem to be open to criticism in many instances, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

Go here to see some the excellent work Lenny will be missing out on.

[Demographic of One | Photo via Salon]