Last Friday, singer Ariana Grande made headlines when a senior pastor of a Detroit megachurch praised her performance at Aretha Franklin’s funeral by putting his arm around her and groping her chest. Viewers of the service immediately picked up on Grande’s discomfort.
It was a move many found disturbing; #RespectAriana was trending within hours, and rightfully so. Pastor Ellis crossed a very clear boundary, one which should not go unnoticed. No matter how subtle or sly an assault may seem to be, all assaulters should be held accountable in the same manner, for the sake of the victims.
This isn’t the first time that spiritual leaders have used the premise of love, compassion and God as justification for sexual misconduct. The Roman Catholic Church is currently undergoing intense scrutiny from media outlets for years of covered up sexual assault cases. Countless men and women have faced sexual assault in the name of faith while movements such as #SilenceIsNotSpiritual have popped up to combat the institutional flaws that led to it.
But society is beginning to notice the many unfortunate ways in which women — and men — are made to feel like objects. Regarding the half-hearted apology Ellis later issued, I can’t help but think of how normalized sexual assault is.
“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast,” Ellis said in his apology. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
This language too often normalizes an offender’s inappropriate actions and passes them off as “just” a compliment. The offender takes no responsibility. The offender makes the victim feel like there is something wrong with them often insisting that the victim is too sensitive. In this case, Ellis, as the offender, didn’t take genuine responsibility for his actions and his words lacked the vital essence of an apology. By saying he only meant to be friendly, Ellis deflects his wrongdoing onto Ariana and those who saw his actions for what they truly were — assault.
No incident of sexual assault should be undermined or played off as a joke. No matter how minor the act may appear to be, every victim of sexual assault deserves to be heard and defended by the community around them. Other victims have already begun to speak up about their experiences in response to Grande’s assault. While Ariana Grande has yet to comment on last Friday’s events, it is clear that those who support the reparation of a broken system that dismisses sexual harassment should stand behind her in solidarity.
From the words of Grande herself in a 2016 tweet, “Women’s choice. our bodies, our clothing, our music, our personalities….. sexy, flirty, fun. it is not. an open. invitation [sic].”
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
Email Aleksandra Goldberg at [email protected]