A girlfriend is not a cure

Behind every man is a woman to blame for his problems: On Ariana Grande and Mac Miller.

The swarms of anger directed at Ariana Grande after her ex's tragic death are a new form of an old sexism (Photo collage: Adam Peck)
The swarms of anger directed at Ariana Grande after her ex's tragic death are a new form of an old sexism (Photo collage: Adam Peck)

Mac Miller had been dead for only a few hours when a pack of grieving internet trolls aimed their rage over the 26-year-old’s passing at Miller’s ex-girlfriend, Ariana Grande.

Harassers rushed Grande’s Instagram, drowning it with comments blaming Grande for Miller’s death. (Typical line: “THIS IS YOUR FAULT!!“) Miller, who’d wrestled publicly with substance abuse for years, had died of a suspected drug overdose. He and Grande, once romantically linked, had broken up earlier in the year, and Grande has since gotten engaged to Pete Davidson, so — according to the non-logic of these vitriolic commenters — any and every bad thing that had happened in Miller’s life, including its tragic end, is Grande’s fault and Grande’s fault alone.

Grande posted a captionless photo of Miller and temporarily shut down her Instagram comments. After an hour, she opened them again, and abuse kept rolling in, both on Instagram and Twitter.

Grande has had to deal with this before: When Miller was arrested for a DUI in May, some Miller fans chalked up Miller totalling his car while driving under the influence not to Miller’s addiction or decision-making but to the broken state of his heart after Grande “dumped him for another dude.” Miller, who had “poured his heart out” to Grande in his music, was owed…well, it’s not clear what. Grande’s forever devotion? She was never allowed to break up with him because he wrote a song about her?


Or, as Grande put it in her eloquent, clear-eyed response on Twitter, “how absurd that you minimize female self-respect and self-worth by saying someone should stay in a toxic relationship… I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be.”

Addiction is a disease that can fell even the strongest man, but somehow it is supposed to be something that a woman can just will out of existence through the magical power of loving him enough. Even the positive stories that have come out in the wake of Miller’s death describing Grande as a “stabilizing force” through Miller’s sobriety just reinforce that narrative, well-intentioned though they may be.

It is extremely cruel that our culture deifies the roles that women occupy in relationships — every time a male politician says that his wife is the “real” boss of the house or that “being a mother is the most important job in the world,” an angel vomits in her mouth a little bit — and then provides zero support, compensation, or infrastructure to demonstrate that those roles are actually valued or respected. So it is a girlfriend’s job, and hers alone, to do — what, exactly? Compensate for the abysmal state of addiction treatment in the U.S.? Be a one-woman 12-step program? 


Are women helpless or are women secretly superheroes, the only ones with the power to protect what apparently matters most: the men in their lives? It’s particularly cruel to demand women safeguard the health of men, considering the troubling state of women’s health care in this country. Even though women can’t be trusted to be responsible for their own health, they are expected to be responsible for everyone else’s health. Doctors misdiagnose, ignore, and dismiss women’s pain at exponentially higher rates than that of male patients. Legislators deny women control over their bodies every day. But it’s still the girlfriend who is also the police who is also the parole officer who is also the justice system who is also the mental health care professional.

Women are too hysterical to reason, too emotional to believe, too frivolous to matter. Until they aren’t.

You can reach the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357).