Lena Dunham Thinks Sushi Is Cultural Appropriation

Lena Dunham

You won’t see Lena Dunham munching on a spicy tuna roll anytime soon. In a recent interview with Food & Wine, the writer and actress spoke about the ‘insensitive’ use of Asian food at her alma mater.

Recently at Oberlin College, where Dunham graduated in 2008, students protested the dining hall’s sushi as an example of cultural appropriation. Apparently, the sushi rice was over-cooked and the dish itself lacked cultural authenticity. Surprise, a college dining hall has sub par food. We wish our college dining hall had sushi at all, but that’s besides the point. Dunham stood by her fellow students and agreed that the dining hall could do better.

“There are now big conversations at Oberlin, where I went to college, about cultural appropriation and whether the dining hall sushi and banh mi disrespect certain cuisines. 
The press reported it as, ‘How crazy are Oberlin kids?’ But to me, it was actually, ‘Right on,’” she said.

While Dunham does think that bad sushi is cultural appropriation, the actress doesn’t find adopting Japenese nail trends or fashion to be equally as problematic. In a trip to Japan to film Girls’ most recent season, the actress posted some Instagram photos where she sported Japanese-style nail art and an outfit that clearly draws from Harajuku culture. We’re not saying that’s definitely cultural appropriation, but it seems a lot closer to the line than some poorly made sushi.

lena dunham nail art

Cute shoes though, Lena!

lena dunham

This isn’t Dunham’s first time speaking about Japanese culture. The actresses penned an essay in 2011 about visiting Japan with her mom, which was lauded as casually racist and orientalist. Dunham, 25-years-old at the time, played into a number of harmful stereotypes including the terribly racist idea that Asian men are not good lovers while simultaneously sexualizing Asian men. She wrote: 

“I know I said I could never imagine a Japanese affair, but I’ve changed my mind. Kazu, the art handler hanging my mom’s show, is gorgeous like the strong, sexy, dreadlocked Mongol in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (causing my sister to email the instruction: ‘Yeah, girl. crouch that tiger, hide that dragon. P.S. That’s a Chinese movie’).”

Dunham definitely speaks her mind and sometimes her jokes totally miss, but a lot of the time they totally land. She has always been unapologetic about having a very loose brain-to-mouth filter and says whatever she thinks, which unfortunately, is sometimes a bit problematic. We happen to think that sushi should probably the least of her concerns when it comes to cultural appropriation, but more California rolls for us, then.


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