We all cringed. By “we,” I mean every woman who’s ever endured a time when a hug from a casual acquaintance ventured into the boyfriend zone—and that would be all of us.
Ariana Grande had just finished singing at Aretha Franklin’s funeral when Bishop Gropey McFeelsy reached around to “hug” her. But in fact, his hug turned into a side-boob grab. It was gross and it was obvious; as was her attempt at a graceful side step. As was his move to pull her in tighter. She was kind of cornered and had nowhere to go. But what made this one different from the “hugs” endured by every other woman ever was that this particular exchange was aired, in front of God and everybody and all. sorts. of photographers.
It’s like a diagrammed study of sexual harassment.
While most women I know (and most women you know) have encountered some degree of unwanted touch like this, chances are, it has not been quite so well documented. Now, it’s like we can all pull up this picture and say, “Look. This, right here, is what it’s like to be a woman in America.” Our parts are literally up for grabs.
Even in front of witnesses.
Thing is, even with this quite excellent object lesson to use as a case study, it’s not like we can use it to map a way out of that embrace. It’s not like we can show it to our daughters and say, “Here’s the path you take, when this happens. Here’s where to duck, where to step, how to lean/jump/dance your way out of that vice grip.” If anything, this picture proves that often, there is just nowhere to go.
As the women of the internet lost their minds over all the grabby photos, of course multiple media outlets contacted the Bishop for a statement. His statement went something like this:
“I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her. Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize. I hug all the female artists and the male artists. Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love.”
First of all, every single headline I’ve seen about this begins with some variation of this phrase: “Bishop Offers Apology.” It leads with his title, giving him immediate authority and making it about him. It also implies that his words were, in fact, some kind of apology which every woman knows, it was not. In some cases, the articles don’t reference Ariana Grande in the headline at all. The omission of her name is ironic, given the fact that while he was groping her, he was also making fun of her name.
If we were to fix that headline, maybe it would go something like: “Ariana Grande Endures Predictable Response from Powerful Misogynistic Ass.” I like that better, don’t you?Now, let’s fix his apology.
For starters, he begins with “I don’t know.” Right off the bat, this implies zero sense of accountability. We go from “I don’t know” in the first sentence to “MAYBE” in the second. He says maybe twice. Then he assures the world that he is an equal opportunity grabber, because we are “all about the love.” So if she didn’t like it, she must not be about the love, I guess.
This is a classic non-apology that, at best, denies accountability and, at worst, deflects any sort of wrong-doing back onto whoever might be “maybe” offended by this whole fiasco. In other words, “I’m sorry if you are upset but …”
If Bishop Ellis were to take another stab at an apology, he might want to try something like this next time:
“I admit that I am a product of a woefully patriarchal culture, in which women’s bodies are treated as objects. I confess that, all my life, my male privilege has allowed me to move through the world oblivious of women’s need for personal space and autonomy. And that, furthermore, my position in the church grants me access to women and authority over women, so that I might be used to women deferring and submitting to me in ways that I don’t even notice anymore. To the point that I can grope a woman in broad daylight, in full view of a live television audience, and feel I’m within my rights to do so.
To the point that even my first attempt at an apology was a laughable defense, for the most part, of the very patriarchy that has given me such a dangerous lack of boundaries.
Moving forward, I vow to be more cognizant of women’s space and autonomy; of my own size and stature; and of the power and authority I represent by virtue of my religious title. I now recognize that this image is fraught with complications, and must be held in balance with my faith, my humanity, and a deep humility that—henceforth—I will better try to model after the Christ I claim to follow. I also realize that many boys and young men look up to me as a role model, and so I will not only work hard to respect women’s bodies, I will use my pulpit and my privilege to be a voice for women’s equality, in the church and elsewhere.”
SOMETHING LIKE THAT, BISHOP, WOULD BE JUST FINE.
Bill Clinton said this week that he doesn’t think he owes Monica Lewinsky and apology. Louis C.K. is trying to slink back onto the stage. Who else, fellas? It’s like they think if they just lay low for spell, the #MeToo thunder might go away.
It’s not going away. If men can’t learn to keep their hands to themselves, they’d better at least learn to craft a decent apology.