Saturday, December 31, 2016

The 'Hit' That Ariana Didn't Want - Or Deserve

Last week, a young fan said to Ariana Grande’s boyfriend, Mac Miller, “Ariana is sexy as hell, man. I see you, I see you hitting that!!!" Ariana’s response was rightly indignant: "Hitting that? The f***?? This may not seem like a big deal to some of you but I felt sick and objectified. I was also sitting right there when he said it."

Can we all agree that the fan was totally out of line, not just for saying that in front of her but for saying that at all? It’s a cold objectification of a human being whose value is reduced to her' tappability'.  Ariana desires to be seen as a strong, independent woman whose value comes from an inherent dignity, not her sexual desirability. I don’t blame her for wanting this.  All women deserve to be treated with value, worth and dignity because they are human beings.

Can we also all agree there is some sad irony here? Ariana makes her living in an industry that has normalized the use of ‘hit’ or ‘tap’ to refer to sex – and in so doing, our cultural troubadours have made it acceptable to refer to women as objects whose value is found in how eagerly men wish to ‘tap’ them. Here’s just a small sample easily found with a google lyric search – and I will let her boyfriend, Mac Miller, lead the way. I apologize for the language, is what it is.

  • “Man that b**** so cold, man that b**** so cold, I'ma take my time, I'ma hit that slow.” (God Is Fair, Sexy, Nasty, by Mac Miller)
  • “Rap star, I’m a mother******* rap star, bad broads, and they laugh at the back of the black car. That’s on the MX, her a** fat in spandex, I tap that then vanish, the Mac’s back god***** it.” (Fast Life,” by Hardo, featuring Mac Miller)
  • I hit that, I hit that, I can’t even lie, I drilled that *****.” (I Hit That, by Gucci Mane)
  • “Boyz lemme see you hit that." (Hit That, by MIA)
  • “You come on over here and play with me, let me be your dirty fantasy. Yeah, I kinda like that, I wanna tap that, you can bet I'm gonna get you." (Tap That, by Megan McCauley)
  • Let a n**** tap that, come on and let a ***** tap that. Stop playin and let a ***** tap that, I know you wanna let a ***** tap that.” (Tap That, by French Montana)
  • “I bring her home with me if she has back and make her run water when I tap dat.” (Tap Dat, by Nines)
  • Tonight the t.v will be watching us (girl whoo!). Just call it sex olympics girl, let the games begin (ooo girl i been waiting). I been waiting to tap(ready to tap) that thang.” (Sex Olympics, by R.Kelly)

Or Rachele Royale’s “Tap Dat” (the video makes her point clear). Or Like Vultures’ “I’d Tap That,” which ends with, “Let's f***, b****.” Or MC Eiht’s “Tap That Azz.” Or “Tap That” by Chinx Drugz and Stack Bundles. Or “Tapping That Thing” by Hammie Nixon.  Or August Alsina’s “Let Me Hit That.” As for Ariana’s songs “Bang Bang” and “Get On Your Knees,” I won’t post lyrics or a link.  They make every other song I listed above look tame – except perhaps Mac Miller’s “Lucky A** B****,” which makes all the rest look like Sunday School songs. 

* * * * *

I’m not saying Ariana asked for it or deserved it. She did not. There is nothing - nothing - that excuses the behavior of that fan.

I’m simply asking what I think is a sensible question: What do we expect will happen when fans are fed a steady diet of this kind of language and outlook on people and sex? The artists I quoted - and there are plenty more  -  have decided that this is acceptable public discourse. I’m not sure why they (or us) are shocked when their fans echo the words of their heroes. And at some point, the ideas that fill people will spill out of them through their words and deeds. I assume this obnoxious fan is confused: he listened to his musical hero describe women and sex a particular way; he joined in the ‘locker room banter’ when he finally met the guy. What could be the harm in that?

Well, plenty, obviously. It’s a terrible way to view and talk about people – and it doesn’t matter if it is sung as entertainment or said to someone’s face. It's a dehumanizing and demeaning way to view and talk about people. The more I’ve thought about this, the more it just makes me sad.

I am sad that our entertainment increasingly promotes vice of virtue, lust over love, and degradation over honor.

I am sad for Mac Miller, that he has been convinced that masculinity is best displayed by mysogonistic and demeaning language about women.

I am sad for the fan who made that comment, that he has grown up in a moral climate that has convinced him it is okay to think of women this way and speak like he did in front of them.

I am sad for Ariana. The industry that pays her so well also promotes artists who sow the seeds of her denigration; she and so many other women are increasingly subjected to callous objectification, reduced to being a mere sexual notch in some man’s belt.  I'm sad that her sincere pursuit of self-empowerment is attracting the kind of men who apparently surround her. After reading a draft of this post, a friend sent me this message: 
"When I was just 20-21ish I fell for the same lie that Ariana has. You believe you are being strong, self confident, sexually empowered, by showing off your body and sleeping around. By objectifying yourself. I have never in my life felt so devalued or used. I can only imagine it is even more confusing when you are being paid a lot of money and have a ton of fans for doing it.  I certainly don't speak for all women but as one who has been there/done that."
* * * * *

I hope no woman ever again experiences what Ariana did, but I fear it’s only going to get worse unless we change the type of messages that fill us. 

Ideas have consequences. 

If we don’t like the consequences, we would do well to protect victims from those consequences even as we also commit to changing the ideas that are fueling that which we so rightly condemn.

No comments:

Post a Comment