Campus reacts to pastor’s groping at Aretha Franklin’s funeral

Maddie Davis and Freddy Del Rosario

Amid the recent allegations the #MeToo movement has help empowered women to make public, specifically in the Hollywood setting, there comes yet another public incident, on a nationally televised event.

Ariana Grande performed at Aretha Franklin’s funeral earlier this month to celebrate the deceased singer, but her performance was dimmed by the behavior of pastor Charles H. Ellis III.

Ellis is a pastor of the Grace Temple megachurch in the city of Detroit and was the officiant for the funeral.

Fans, loved ones, music giants and politicians congregated in the celebration of Aretha Franklin’s life on Sept. 1, Grande just being one of the several performers at the funeral at the Greater Grace Temple.

The funeral, televised live internationally, shows the pastor allegedly groping the artist. After Grande had just finished singing Franklin’s hit “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” the pastor called her up to make some remarks. At first, Ellis made friendly and joked about Grande’s last name relating to a Taco Bell menu item. He then motioned for Grande to come closer to him so he could, ‘show her some respect,’ as he placed his hand on her waist, quickly climbing his hand up until it landed on her right breast. Grande was seen as uncomfortable and trying to get away from Ellis on multiple occasions during this brief interaction.

The claim falls under the “alleged” category because the pastor has come forward, denying any malicious intent when he had embraced Grande.

Ellis has since apologized saying he didn’t intentionally touch her breast, stating he may have crossed the border by being too friendly and familiar with the singer. He said he had to keep the program lively as it was a very long procession and memorial, relating to the jokes about her last name.

Because of the “maybes” in his remarks, Ellis is now being criticized for his apology on all platforms of social media.

Though Grande has yet to comment on the event, the public outcry has itself maintained the relevancy of this issue afloat.

Her fans and supporters on Twitter are sharing #RespectArianna to spread the news of this incident, to gain more support against the pastor.

“It has happened to almost every girl or woman I know,” said Lisbeth Nunez, a Wilkes University sophomore. “Friendliness doesn’t have to involve groping, does it?”

Similarly, Ymari Williams, a senior at Wilkes, had her own take about the pastor’s behavior at the funeral, criticizing Ellis for his actions and beliefs.

“The fact that he, a pastor, felt comfortable enough to hold her like that shows how deeply rooted it is in him that that’s ok.”

Ellis stated that he was consistently affectionate all night to both male and female artists after their performances. He said the church is about love and that’s all he was trying to show through his interactions with the musical acts, especially Grande.

The pastor’s apology was not the only part of the Grande Ellis groping incident that was ridiculed on social media.

Ariana Grande herself was criticized for what people believed to be her inappropriately short dress. Those against Grande’s choice of outfit felt her dress was too short to wear in a funeral setting.

Others on social media responded that people are wrongly caring more about her outfit than the fact that a pastor was touching Grande inappropriately on stage in front of viewers.

Similarly, Dr. Andrew Wilczak, an associate professor in the sociology department, sees a problem in blaming Grande for the groping because of her short dress.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” said Wilczak. “It’s this repeating rape culture line, that believes ‘if she didn’t want to be groped she shouldn’t have dressed like that.’ No, this pastor shouldn’t have been grabbing her like that.”

Wilczak focuses a majority of his classes on women’s and gender studies issues of all kinds and continued to shed his expert opinion and analysis on why men are able to get away with groping and using women, even as they are being televised all over the country.

“Men like [the pastor]… still view women as their property or as objects to be used,” said Wilczak. That is how he believes men, specifically the pastor, get away with groping women.

“This constant objectifying of women,” is why Wilczak believes, that these incidents like what happened to Grande are still happening.

He believes the justification that women are not seen as human, and instead are seen as being men’s objects, are why men are able to feel empowered to behave like Ellis, and many others have.