Amandla Stenberg and Lena Wilson have set Film Twitter on fire.
Wilson, a lesbian film critic who writes reviews for the New York Times, revealed that the Bodies, Bodies, Bodies star had direct messaged her privately on Instagram, criticizing her review of the film and saying that “maybe if you had gotten ur eyes off my tits you coul’dve watched the movie.”
Wilson posted a screenshot of the DM along with the comments, “Do you think she Instagram DM’d Alison Wilmore, Justin Chang, and Anthony Lane like this or…” and “always weird when the homophobia is coming from inside the house, but this is something.”
Both Stenberg and Wilson have since clarified and commented on their actions, with Stenberg saying that they thought their DM to Wilson was “funny” and that she didn’t mean it to be an attack. She pointed out that she’s faced years of sexualization and objectification for her body while in Hollywood and that her character wearing a tank top in the movie shouldn’t have been a big deal.
“I thought it was hilarious. I thought because Lena is gay, I am also gay, I thought as gay people we would both find this comment funny,” Stenberg said on Instagram. “I was also curious to know what Lena would say to such a statement, but Lena decided to publish it and also says that I am homophobic for saying that.”
“The intention of why I said that, and this is my experience as an actress,” they continued. “It’s quite surprising. The amount of commentary I receive on my boobs is so extreme, and this has happened since I was a teenager.”
“I could literally be wearing a t-shirt and just because of the size of my boobs, there will be some sort of sexualization or commentary on my chest,” the 23-year-old then explained. “In this movie, I am wearing a tank top, and I know that when I’m wearing a tank top the result is there’s going to be some cleavage because I have boobs. So I knew that this comment was probably mostly directed towards me.”
“I do get tired of people talking about my chest. It seems to me in Hollywood it’s not normalized to have boobs that are above an A or a B cup. I’ve actually noticed this in my time as an actress. There seems to be a lot of unwarranted conversation around my chest, that just kind of baffles me.”
Wilson also expanded on her decision to tweet out the DMs in a TikTok video.
“I don’t want anything else to come of this, I am devastated to have received this message in the first place,” she said. “I was a genuine huge fan of hers, but I’m posting this because I don’t want this person who has more social power than me to think that it’s fucking OK to do something like this.”
She also tweeted out: “me: (spends one line of a 500-word review facetiously commenting on how A24 objectifies young women to sell content). random men on twitter dot com and also, apparently, amandla stenberg: Local Dyke Cannot Stop Talking About Boobies.”
Imagine for a moment that a cis, straight man had written the same review, and had called the movie a “95-minute advertisement for cleavage.”
And then, imagine that Stenberg had sent the exact same DMs. If that were the case, Stenberg would be praised as a feminist hero for standing up to the man who objectified her and sexualized her body in the review.
Wilson’s accusation of homophobia only works if she wasn’t actually looking at Stenberg’s cleavage. Wilson compared it to straight girls telling a lesbian, “I don’t want you in the locker room while I’m changing,” but that relies on Stenberg assuming Wilson was looking at her boobs and Wilson not actually doing it.
But that’s not what happened. Stenberg saw a review from a fellow queer woman that – as is often the case in reviews from straight men – unfairly focused on her body and her breasts. And she was tired of it.
Wilson said that it was “unfathomably weird to get [homophobic] bullying from a whole other lesbian,” but what it seems like is that Stenberg found it “unfathomably weird” to be objectified “from a whole other lesbian” and reached out privately via DMs.
Black queer women and people are often unfairly painted as being aggressive, rude, and violent, and Black communities are often stereotyped as being homophobic. By accusing Stenberg of being homophobic, Wilson is just feeding into those stereotypes.
Yes, Stenberg has more social clout than Wilson, but as a white cis woman, Wilson has a lot of privilege over Stenberg as well. And when a white person accuses a Black person of attacking them, it almost always ends up terribly for the Black person.
Furthermore, Wilson dug in and hyperbolized the situation, comparing Stenberg’s DM to calling Wilson a “dyke.” By painting it as a violent and aggressive attack, instead of a single DM, she’s furthering those stereotypes even more.
As a lesbian, I’ve seen this kind of anti-Blackness so many times before in queer spaces, and I’m more than tired of it. White lesbians need to use our privilege to lift up Black lesbians and queer people, not paint them as aggressive homophobes.
This wasn’t a case of homophobia. This wasn’t a case of a celebrity unfairly using her privilege. It was a Black queer person privately DMing a white lesbian to call her in for publicly talking about her boobs. And ultimately, it was a case of a white lesbian using her privilege to try to take a Black queer person down.