Lena Dunham, Glenn Close Honored at Variety’s Power of Women NY Lunch

Lena Dunham opened her speech at Variety’s Power of Women luncheon with a not-so-shocking declaration. “It will surprise nobody in this room that I identity as a feminist,” Dunham said. “In fact, if it does surprise you, I suggest you take a look around the room and make sure that you’re not lost. You know what this luncheon is, right? The Men’s Rights Association meeting is down the street at P.F. Chang’s and I hear they started already so get moving.”

The punchline got a big laugh, before Dunham launched into a passionate endorsement of GEMS, a non-profit founded by activist Rachel Lloyd to help young women from low-income backgrounds who have been domestically sex trafficked and exploited. “When I was raped, I felt powerless,” said Dunham, describing her college campus experience. “I felt my value had been determined by someone else. It took years to recognize my personal worth was not tied to my assault. The voices telling me I deserved this were phantoms, liars.”

Variety’s biannual event, held both in Los Angeles and New York, recognizes women in the entertainment industry who use their platforms to champion important charitable causes. The other Power of Women honorees at Cipriani Midtown on Friday included Glenn Close (Bring Change 2 Mind), Whoopi Goldberg (Figure Skating in Harlem), Rachel Weisz (the Opportunity Network) and Kim Kardashian West (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles).

The lunch, presented by Lifetime, opened with Variety’s publisher Michelle Sobrino-Stearns and co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller. “The fact is, there aren’t enough good roles for women in front of the camera, behind the camera or in executive suites,” Eller said. “That must change.”

Close offered one of the most emotional moments of the lunch when she talked about how mental illness ran in her family, citing the examples of her younger sister Jessie (bipolar disorder) and nephew Callen (schizoaffective disorder), who both inspired her to start Bring Change 2 Mind in 2010 to end stigma. Close teared up as she described her mother, who died in February after suffering from a lifetime of depression, as well as her mother’s half brother (“who died by suicide”), her mother’s uncle (“who died of alcoholism”) and another uncle who was schizophrenic.

“As an actress, I’ve terrified men and I’ve certainly terrified children, but I’ve yet to terrify women,” Close said. “Contrary to cliché, there’s very little that frightens us.” But sometimes, she added, “we hide or suppress the truth to protect ourselves and families from shame.” She told mental illness sufferers they had no reason to feel that way: “Don’t be scared,” Close said. As her voice started to shake in the middle of the speech, she turned to Goldberg in the audience, and said that she needed their friend Robin Williams in the room to crack a joke to lighten the mood.

Rachel Weisz spoke about working with the Opportunity Network, which awards scholarships to kids who couldn’t otherwise afford college. “I believe education is a basic human right, one that should be independent of background and income,” she said. “Yet 10 percent of low-income kids graduate [from college] and fewer than 8 percent graduate with jobs. The Opportunity Network levels the playing field for kids they mentor.” She ended her speech by inviting some of the young scholars who benefited from the organization to join her onstage, and gave her award to them.

Kim Kardashian West said that volunteering to spend time at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was important to her, especially after her father Robert died in 2003, weeks after he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. “Having the best care is paramount,” Kardashian West said, as she noted CHLA tends to more than 107,000 kids and families a year. Kardashian West described visiting the hospital to spend time with the parents and staff, and she monitors the progress of the young patients she meets. “Never underestimate the power of a selfie,” Kardashian West said, who often posts the pictures she takes on her social media. “Here’s to strong women: May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them,” Kardashian West said, reading a motivational proverb.

Goldberg closed the ceremony by bringing a spotlight to her charity Figure Skating in Harlem, which provides sports and academic coaching to 250 girls in New York each year. “For me, I always get concerned when we forget what our job is,” said Goldberg, who brought along her “View” co-hosts Nicolle Wallace and Rosie Perez. “Our job is to try to make life a little better.” She said she felt inspired to help the charity because she loved to ice skate as a young girl growing up in New York, but she never saw any black figure skaters. “If you’re in power, look around and see what’s missing from your roster,” Goldberg said.

“I just want to say something about the other women,” Goldberg added of this year’s honorees. “They aren’t just powerful women. They are thoughtful women.”

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  1. Karen E says:

    Seriously, Dunham? How embarrassing Variety. Is this how you want to jump the shark?

  2. Fiona C says:

    Dunham intentionally accused the wrong person of rape. This was investigated thoroughly and confirmed. It’s revolting that this behavior is being honored. What a slap in the face of victims that report actual incidences, and not spin one to make it a better story for publication, all while ruining an innocent man’s reputation.

  3. johnnypie says:

    This article is a great example of how far gone journalism is in this day and age. Facts mean nothing, justice and clearing the name of the falsely accused mean less. All that matters is the liberal narative. The rape hysteria has reached a point where “it doesn’t matter if it really happened” as was stated in the possibly ficticious SC rape case. Lives are ruined and the liberal psychos go along on their merry way. Goebbels would be proud.

  4. Pat Loudoun says:

    Great job honoring a woman who sexually assaulted her baby sister and falsely accused someone of rape.

    Honestly, wth were you thinking?

  5. Very proud of these women, and the choices they made. Thank you so much. Especially, to Glenn Close. #endthestigma

  6. susashushan says:

    As a child sexual abuse survivor, and also as a survivor of adult rape, I find the glorification of this child predator to be further traumatization for me. Dunham is a self-admitted abuser, and has absolutely no credibility whatsoever as a rape survivor. Shame on those who promote this abuser.

  7. Elvez says:

    Or maybe not. The recently released, weeks-long Breitbart investigation found — as others had already discovered — that there was in fact a Republican at Oberlin named Barry during the year of Dunham’s alleged attack (2005); however, the news outlet also learned that he didn’t even remotely match the description Dunham provided. As Breitbart wrote, “This man is by all accounts (including his own) innocent.” This didn’t prevent him from being implicated, though.

    Not that this mattered to Dunham. Barry, who now is married with a family, requested for weeks that Dunham clear his name — to no avail; he also started a legal fund, retained a lawyer, and is considering a suit. But now Dunham’s publisher, Random House, has responded to the Breitbart investigation by admitting that “Barry” was just a pseudonym, has said that it will alter the memoir to reflect this fact, and is offering to pay the real Barry’s legal fees.

    And this striking admission has inspired further incredulity. The Washington Post, for instance, called the episode “appalling” and wrote, “How could Dunham and Random House do this? How could an author and a publisher — again, of a self-described memoir, not a work of fiction — describe a supposed rape by a person, give a (relatively rare) first name and enough identifying details that readers could easily track the person down, and not even mention that ‘Barry’ wasn’t this person’s real name?”

    Perhaps the answer is that Dunham’s “memoir” is more fiction than memories. In point of fact, Breitbart found that none of the details she provided about her alleged attacker rang true. And what details they are. Breitbart writes, “To be sure we get the point, on three occasions Dunham tells her readers that her attacker is a Republican or a conservative, and a prominent one at that — no less than the ‘campus’s resident conservative.’” And, supposedly, a hypocritical one. Dunham reports that the man had a violent sexual episode with a friend of hers named “Melody” and then took her to get the morning-after abortion pill. He was also described as having a “mustache that rode the line between ironic Williamsburg fashion and big buck hunter,” as wearing “purple cowboy boots,” as having a voice “that went Barry White low,” as having “hosted a radio show called Real Talk with Jimbo,” and as working in the library, among other very specific details about him and his time at Oberlin. In other words, the man sounds like a conservative stereotype disgorged by a liberal fiction writer — and he’s not the kind of fellow who’d melt into a crowd.

    Yet no one in the Oberlin crowd remembers this very flamboyant character, despite the institution being a small school of only 3,000 students. Breitbart scoured school news clippings and records and visited the campus, speaking to staff and former students, and came up empty. No one of any political persuasion who attended Oberlin during the relevant time period fit Dunham’s description of a mustachioed, purple-boot-wearing, radio-talk-show-hosting, bass-talking, library-working young man. In fact, Breitbart talked to radio stations and could not even identify a show called Real Talk with Jimbo. Put simply, Dunham’s attacker seems a ghost, and “Dunham’s rape story,” writes Breitbart, “didn’t just fall apart; it evaporated into pixie dust and blew away.” But perhaps this is no surprise coming from a woman who opened the chapter in her book titled “Barry” with the admission, “I’m an unreliable narrator.”

  8. Alethea says:

    The event should have been called “Power of false rape accusers, self-admitted child molesters, and abortionists.” Women’s empowerment has NOTING to do with self-satisfying, selfish, disgusting behavior from women like Dunham.

  9. adam says:

    Dunhan is a provsn liar and, by her own admission, a sex offender. I have no respect for her or anybody who would reward her. I believe that’s Glenn Close in the photo with her. I will be sure to steer clear of her work as well unless she issues a statement saying she was unaware of who Dunham is and unapologetically condemns her actions.

    • Alethea says:

      False claims of rape can ruin a man’s life forever, and child-on-child sexual abuse can also harm the victim for life. That Lena Dunham is continually uplifted and rewarded by women and rape organizations is disturbing to all true rape victims, and to those sexually molested by their older sisters.

  10. Chicago860 says:

    Variety certainly lives up to its name by reporting this. It’s certainly not entertainment, doesn’t cover a talented person, and helps promote the lying and deceit that is today’s media. That’s definitely variety.

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