I genuinely wish I didn’t have to be typing these words right now.
The fact that anyone still needs to remind the world that objectifying a woman is wrong in 2016 is outrageous, but as long as this problem persists, the least we can do is to continue to shed light on the underlying issues of misogyny and the real-life situations it breeds.
The fetishizing of celebrities is nothing new, and to be fair it’s not strictly relegated to female celebrities. Male and female celebrities alike are placed on a pedestal ripe with sexual objectification, but in a patriarchal landscape, it’s women who face the brunt of this systemic objectification.
Ariana Grande is most likely more familiar with this system than we’ll ever know. As part of the child star machine, Grande has been set up for the reception of this type of behavior since the beginning of her career, and it’s heartbreaking.
In a recent tweet, Ariana detailed the story of an evening out with her boyfriend Mac Miller, in which they were approached by one of Mac's enthusiastic fans while attempting to get some dinner, an encounter that ended with Ariana being flippantly objectified.
This isn’t some vague think piece about the general misogyny present in the culture of entertainment and the darkest depths of a patriarchal society. This is a spotlight shined on a real-life example, and it has to stop.
Hip-hop has been poked at for its objectification of women since the beginning of its popularity, so the fact that a hip-hop fan publicly objectified a woman is far from surprising, but that shouldn’t make it any less severe.
Ariana Grande is a beautiful woman, it’s no doubt one of the reasons she’s reached the heights she has. Saying that feels gross, but it would be a gross misrepresentation of the world she operates in to ignore that as a factor in her success.
Her boyfriend, Mac Miller, spent the majority of his last release praising female nature. The album was, after all, titled The Divine Feminine, an ode to the heavenly nature of the female spirit.
For Mac, respect and true appreciation for women has come with age, and much like the journey of many a growing man, there’s been a massive unlearning required to undo the years of misogynistic programming inherent in growing up male in America.
I would like to think that the comments made and views expressed by the young man that approached Ariana and Mac are the rare spoutings of an immature and uneducated hip-hop fan, which they most likely are, but the truth is that young men's views on women have been conditioned since birth. While that doesn't remove his culpability, it does, however, share that culpability with a society that has raised him and millions of others like him to think this is an acceptable way to speak about, and in front of, a grown woman.
The most unfortunate part of this entire ordeal can be seen in one of the responses Grande received from a fellow female, who accused Ariana of objectifying herself in her music, a tired argument that Ariana gracefully handled, and a point that I would’ve made myself had she not so elegantly done so right away.
As a man, I’ll likely never know the levels of fear and inadequacy that Grande spoke of in her tweet. I’ll never know what it’s like to have a healthy distrust of anyone being kind to me in public or in private. As human beings, and as men specifically, we have to continue to teach others that regardless of the situation, the objectification of a woman is never justified. The entire reason I’m writing this article, the same reason you’re reading it, is because we were birthed by women.
And even if that weren’t true, even if women weren’t literally the basis of all human life, they’re still people—human beings that deserve love and respect. Why is that so hard to understand?
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.