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Gabrielle Union To Lena Dunham: White Women Need To ‘Pass The Mic’ To Women Of Color

In a candid interview with Lena Dunham, actress and writer Gabrielle Union spoke up about the importance of creating space for black women in Hollywood ― and the role white women play in making it happen. In the interview, published in Lenny Letter on Friday, Dunham asked Union about constantly being confronted with both gender discrimination and discrimination based on her race ― or, the combination of oppressive forces also known as “misogynoir.”

In response, Union mentioned fellow actress Jennifer Lawrence, whose October 2015 Lenny Letter essay about the issue of gender pay discrimination in Hollywood sparked a national conversation about women’s equality. Lawrence’s essay, Union noted, failed to mention the important aspect of race in the conversation of pay equality.

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“It’s like, I wish I was in a place of a Jennifer Lawrence, where she’s talking about pay inequity with her white male peers,” Union said. “It’s like, ’Hey, Jennifer, pass the mic back, ‘cause the women of color behind you are making way less than you, who have ten, twenty, thirty years of a body of work, and we’re making pennies on the dollar of what you’re making.’”

Union and Dunham, who in November 2016 had their own discussion on race after Dunham’s widely critiqued Lenny Letter interview with Amy Schumer, talked about why that conversation was so important, and why those conversations between women of all backgrounds should continue to happen.

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“When I said my incredibly dumb shit, you were a friend,” Dunham told Union. “You were really straight with me, and you said, ‘Here are all the reasons why this was a problem.’” Dunham recalls the way the media wrote about the incident, and wishes the media didn’t “pit women against each other” when they sought to have important and difficult conversations. Headlines like “Gabrielle Union shuts Lena Dunham down” were, according to both women, counterproductive.

Union reminded Dunham of how much of a friend Dunham was to her through her “fertility issues, and … womb issues,” (the two have both discussed their reproductive health care issues publicly) and that that should set the foundation for future important conversations. “If we can have such personal conversations about our uteruses, where we’re sharing resources and information in a way that we can help each other, why isn’t our friendship big enough to have an honest conversation about race, culture, appropriation, privilege?” Union said. “I felt like if I can talk about my pussy with you, I can talk about race.”