Trigger Warning: This article includes mentions of suicide and drug and physical abuse.
Many women in the music industry have their trauma looked at under a microscope to be critiqued. Back in 2016, singer/songwriter Kehlani Parrish laid in a hospital bed with IVs attached to her arm. Parrish, only 20 years old at the time, had been the main topic of gossip. It had been rumored that Parrish was cheating on NBA star Kyrie Irving, her boyfriend at the time. She was making a name for herself, but not in any way that she had wanted. After these rumors ran wild, Parrish attempted suicide, which landed her in psychiatric care. Attempting suicide, or having suicidal thoughts, can be traumatic enough, but this all happened with a spotlight on her.
While some people were quick to wish Parrish well and send love her way, others began to criticize her further. One of those people was artist Chris Brown, who went on Twitter to say: “There is no attempting suicide.” He went on to insinuate that Parrish faked her suicide attempt for attention. Not only did Brown’s words invalidate Parrish’s suicide attempt, but they also invalidate any of her fans who may have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts.
Ariana Grande is another singer who has had her traumas viewed while in the limelight. In 2018, rapper, and ex-boyfriend of Grande, Mac Miller, tragically passed away due to an overdose. Miller, who was only 26 when he died, left fans shocked, confused, and very emotional. Fans mourned in various ways; some fans sent their condolences to Miller’s loved ones, but others’ responses weren’t as sentimental. Some fans were looking for someone to place blame on and found the opportunity in Grande. Blaming Grande for Miller’s death was ethically distasteful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Grande had nothing to do with her ex’s death; Miller had a substance abuse problem while they were dating and long before that. Some had speculated that Grande’s whirlwind romance with Saturday Night Live star, Pete Davidson, was what led Miller to overdose, but, before passing away, Miller had nothing but positive words for them. Blaming Grande for Miller’s death right away also took away from fans and loved ones being truly able to process and mourn his passing. It took attention away from the beautiful life and the tragic loss of the rapper and misplaced grief as blame.
Recently, another female artist’s trauma has been up for debate. Rapper Megan Pete, known as Megan Thee Stallion, has been front and center of entertainment news lines for nearly six months. Back in July of 2020, Pete was shot in the foot multiple times, after an argument with rapper Tory Lanez, but she originally withheld the cause. When the story first broke about her injury, she said it was from glass, but she later admitted that she lied in order to protect Lanez, a former friend of Pete’s. Eventually, following speculation, Pete came forward and said Lanez shot her multiple times in the foot. After she had told her traumatizing story, she, like other female artists mentioned, was criticized. Fans were hesitant to believe her, and many of those who did decided to play devil’s advocate as well, questioning why Lanez would have shot her in the first place. There were also memes and jokes of Pete being shared soon after news of the shooting had spread, showing a lack of sympathy for the rapper. People not only were asking her to relive her trauma in order to “hear the full story,” but, the more she did reveal, the more people showed that they would not believe anything she had to say, nor would they take her seriously. Reactions made it clear why she did not want to reveal her trauma at first.
These three women and their traumatic stories are just a few examples of how our society has desensitized ourselves to women’s issues, especially those within popular culture. In all of these cases, women were told to prove themselves and, when they tried, were called liars and manipulators for revealing the truth. Women in the music industry communicate their issues and traumas only for society to completely dismiss them or minimalize them, and even gaslight them in some cases. They are forced to talk about their problems, then made to believe their issues are small, and told to immediately move on from their difficult situations. Women in the music industry are a direct reflection of how society views women. They aren’t listened to and, in the rare instances that they are, they are treated as though their experiences are not as serious as they claim to be.
However, women in the industry have shown resilience even through their hardest times. While they have constantly been exploited, they have also used their past to show that trauma does not have to define you. They have used their trauma to not only put a voice in front of issues, but also as an inspiration to their artwork. Parrish, for example, has been a voice for depression, anxiety, and suicide prevention. Parrish also came out with a song a few months after she was in the hospital called “24/7,” which is about struggling with depression but still “finding your light.” Pete had her debut SNL performance in which she voiced that we need to “protect Black women.” She also came out with an album in November of 2020, Good News, and got nominated for four Grammy awards. Grande has multiple songs that are speculated to be about the late Miller. When Grande’s concert in Manchester was devastatingly bombed, instead of taking a break, she had a benefit concert just a month later to support families of fans who were killed or injured in the attack. All of these women have shown strength, hope, and resilience, above all. They have reflected the women in society in this way, as well, as women continue to take conflict after conflict, yet persevere through it all.
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