Pop superstar Ariana Grande has mediated a remarkably cool-headed discussion about sexual harassment and objectification on Twitter this week, proving that the social media platform can occasionally rise above the bubbling fecal puddle of its loudest user base.
On Tuesday, Grande tweeted that she was getting takeout with boyfriend Mac Miller when a “young boy” followed Miller to the car to tell him how big a fan he was. Grande wrote that, sitting in the passenger seat, “I thought all of this was cute and exciting until he said ‘ariana is sexy as hell man i see you, i see you hitting that!!!’ *pause* Hitting that? the fuck??”
The encounter made Grande feel “sick and objectified,” she wrote; since it happened, she’s been “really quiet and hurt.” It may seem trivial to some, she continued, but these too frequent reminders that women are viewed as achievements or belongings for which to congratulate fellow men “contribute to women’s sense of fear and inadequacy.”
“I am not a piece of meat that a man gets to utilize for his pleasure,” Grande wrote. “I’m an adult human being in a relationship with a man who treats me with love and respect. … I felt like speaking out about this one experience tonight because I know very well that most women know the sensation of being spoken about in an uncomfortable way publicly or taken advantage of publicly by a man.”
Because Grande has sung sexy songs and worn sexy clothes, some people told the singer on Twitter that she has no right to complain when men speak of having sex with (“hitting”) her (“that”). “How could you not expect people to talk about you like that?” one man asked. Others suggested that she makes her money by making people want to have sex with her, so any ensuing insults to her dignity are her fault and her profit. One Breitbart writer told Grande to “check your privilege” because many people don’t have the advantage of being spoken of like they’re Staples Easy ButtonsTM.
But deep in the replies, there are some instances of open-minded discussion. Grande has been up in her mentions carefully explaining that “women (and men) can express themselves however they’d like !!! even loving sex!! this is not an invitation to be disrespected” while assuring her readers that she’s trying to help people understand an important distinction, not start a fight. When one man asked Grande why Miller didn’t give the boy a verbal shakedown, another user told him that everyone responds differently to stressful situations. “I respect that,” the man replied. Progress!
Now that the Breitbart and Pepe fanatics have gotten hold of Grande’s story, the singer has been targeted by a predictable flood of insults, accusations of being a bad “role model” for little girls, and mean-spirited belittling of what was clearly a disturbing moment for her. In response, she’s calmly reiterating her points with little emoji hearts for emphasis. It takes no small amount of courage to post about the emotional toll of everyday sexual objectification, knowing that some portion of your 43 million followers will drag you for it. But the strength and patience Grande has shown by engaging with Twitter trolls instead of laying a heavy finger on the mute button should qualify her for sainthood.