Aretha Franklin’s funeral hosted family, fans and celebrities from all walks of life. Several stars took the stage to sing to the Queen of Soul one last time, including Gladys Knight, Faith Hill, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande.
Although Ariana Grande’s rendition of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” was well-received, it is what followed that made headlines. After performing her tribute to the late singer, Grande received a very unwelcome touch from Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, who presided over Franklin’s funerary services. The incident, which was captured on video, shows the pastor’s hand sitting right on top of Grande’s chest. Many would consider this groping — because it was.
The irony is that as he pulls this stunt, Ellis says, “Girl, let me give you all your respect.” Or lack thereof. Grande’s shocked face and extremely awkward position were eerily familiar — and relatable — to many women.
A 2018 survey found that 81% of women have experienced sexual harassment of various kinds, including verbal, cyber and physical.
Whether it’s that male friend who “accidentally” brushes your backside or your boss who thinks it’s acceptable to kiss you — sexual harassment is still a huge issue in America.
A pop star getting groped on live TV at the funeral of a woman who literally wrote a song titled “Respect” is extremely distasteful and is a slap in the face to women everywhere. The #MeToo movement brought sexual harassment onto the national and international sociopolitical stages as women worldwide shared their experiences via social media.
As a result, men in various industries, including entertainment and media, have lost their jobs. In more recent news, Les Moonves resigned from his position as CBS chief executive Sunday evening after sexual misconduct allegations against him came out.
Sadly, this sense of entitlement to women’s bodies isn’t something that only affects secular men. Religious authorities such as priests, imams and rabbis aren’t innocent either. Many use and abuse their spiritual leadership to exploit their victims and ensure their silence.
Not only did Ellis grope Grande on national television, his “apology” truly showed that he hasn’t seen the error of his ways. “Maybe I crossed the border. Maybe I was too friendly or familiar, but again, I apologize,” he told the AP. Maybe?
Many viewers stood with the 25-year-old singer and took to social media, shaming the bishop. Sadly, some resorted to blaming Grande’s revealing outfit for the preacher’s behavior. We can sit and argue about whether Grande’s outfit was appropriate for the setting. That doesn’t change the fact that the preacher had no right to put his hands on her — period. Many folks still don’t understand that clothes do not — and will never — give consent.
It is a deeply ingrained cultural belief that this kind of behavior can be avoided by simply behaving or dressing a certain way. That has been debunked by several studies. This mentality is what leads to victim-blaming, slut-shaming and ultimately failing to hold the perpetrators accountable.
On the bright side, this incident proved that we are beginning to reap some of the benefits of a post-#MeToo world in which people aren’t afraid to call out an influential man for his inappropriate touching and lack of respect.
Sue Patton-Bey is a senior journalism and Arabic major from Oxford.