If Ariana Grande Is A ‘Homewrecker, Is Harry Styles ‘The Other Man’?: Gender Disparity In Cancel Culture
by Georgina Burt
From pop stars to Hollywood icons, a recent wave of celebrity cancellations has put a glaring spotlight on the gender disparity within woke culture, in which women are disproportionately targeted.
Where men among the likes of Kanye West or Chris Brown seemingly possess an "uncancellable" status, prominent women like Doja Cat, Ariana Grande, and Cardi B have become the most recent additions to a long line of women who bear the brunt of this selective cancel culture.
A telling example of this gender imbalance is the recent allegations surrounding Ariana Grande's alleged affair with Wicked co-star, Ethan Slater.
As reports suggest Slater left his wife and infant child to pursue a relationship with the A-list singer, the internet's response has been anything but measured, instead taking a toxic turn with an influx of sexist comments branding Grande as a 'homewrecker'.
Slater’s wife, Lilly Jay, added to the disparaging discourse by dishing out the ultimate put-down, claiming that the singer isn’t a “girl’s girl” in an interview with Page Six (Page Six, July 2023).
While Lilly Jay expresses personal turmoil and feelings that her family is “collateral damage” from Grande's actions, she inadvertently exonerates her husband of any responsibility in the affair, thus perpetuating the paradigm of unequal treatment meted out to women in selective cancel culture.
Undeniably, though we sympathise with Lilly Jay, the use of term ‘homewrecker’ has caught like wildfire online to describe Grande, underscoring biases at play in the cancel culture landscape.
Regardless of whether Grande is deserving of this label or not, its implication carries a vicious undertone of misogyny, holding her solely responsible for breaking up the family.
However, it is essential to acknowledge the undeniable truth that Slater made the choice to walk away from his wife and child; he bears equal, if not more, responsibility in the dissolution of his family.
Instead, the label 'homewrecker' simplifies a complex situation, perpetuating harmful ideologies that unfairly burden women with the blame for men's decisions and actions.
In comparison to this, it is essential to examine how similar allegations against male figures are portrayed in the media and online. Take, for instance, the alleged affair between Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde during the filming of Don't Worry Darling, which some speculate caused the breakdown of Wilde's family with actor Jason Sudeikis and their two children. How do we compare the backlash against Ariana Grande to that of Harry Styles in these instances?
Headlines like ‘Ariana Grande under the spotlight for being 'homewrecker' again’ (Geo News, July 2023) and ‘Jason Sudeikis feels Olivia Wilde has “broken his heart” by dating Harry Styles’ (Geo News, Jan 2021) permeate the digital landscape, revealing the insidious sexism which underlies many media narratives.
Despite the parallels of this affair to the Grande-Slater rumours, how do we justify the disproportionate blame assorted to both Grande and Wilde in these latently sexist headlines by Geo News?
Why is Grande branded a ‘homewrecker’ yet Styles not held accountable? Alternatively, why is Wilde a ‘heart-breaker’ for leaving her family, yet Slater entirely omitted?
The headlines produced by news outlets such as this are just one example of many in the online world contributing to the perpetuation of these shameful gender biases.
In continuation, how does this Grande-Styles comparison play into the broader, social and historical context of selective cancel culture?
The 2022 Depp vs Heard defamation trial, for example, sent the internet into a frenzy.
While the internet ridiculed Heard’s painful accounts of domestic abuse, it is imperative to recognise that this trial was not a platform to ascertain whether Johnny Depp had subjected Heard to abuse or not – that fact had already been proven in the 2020 Depp v News Group Newspapers Ltd trial, in which Depp was found guilty for 12 allegations of assault on Amber Heard.
The subsequent trial which riled the internet was actually a defamation trial determining Heard’s right to publicly discuss the abuses she had suffered. However, regardless of the 2020 verdict affirming Depp’s abuses towards Heard, or speculation of ‘mutual abuse’, as we all can recall, the cancel culture hammer came down twice as hard on Heard’s reputation, while Depp seemingly got away with just a slap on the wrist.
In a similar vein, we have seen instances such as this across the decades. How do we justify the cancellation of Janet Jackson after Justin Timberlake accidentally exposed her breast at the 2004 Superbowl half-time show? Or the vilification and ridicule Britney Spears suffered in the early 2000’s?
Where Kanye West’s erratic behaviour often garners attention for his 'artistry' and 'eccentricity', Britney’s personal struggles were paraded in the media, leading to the loss of custody of her children and ultimately her placement under a conservatorship.
Evidently, the concept of being 'cancelled' is far from novel; women have been subject to the courts of public scrutiny since the beginning of time. From historical figures like Anne Boleyn or Eve from the Bible, to modern icons like Taylor Swift and Greta Thunberg, the pages of history are abound with examples of a selective cancel culture which seemingly holds women to a higher moral standard than men.
Ultimately, this systemic bias has been entrenched in our societal fabric for generations, demanding our attention and reflection as we navigate the complexities of accountability, gender, and reputation in the modern world.
Edited by Emily Duff