On Monday, May 22, it was reported that an explosion went off at a Manchester, U.K. arena where Ariana Grande was performing, killing at least 19 people and wounding many others. While it's currently unclear who was responsible for the attack — there are reports surfacing that ISIS supporters are celebrating the attacks — one thing is very clear: The reactions to the Ariana Grande concert attack show how little women and girls are valued.
While any terrorist attack that claims innocent people's lives is obviously horrific, the tragedy of the Manchester attack was compounded by the fact that Ariana Grande's fan base is predominantly young and female, a fact that was pointed out by many mothers and daughters who are fans of her music and have attended her concerts.
This fact also did not escape self-styled pundits on Twitter, the go-to venue for sober and thoughtful commentary on global issues. Many Twitter users (who were, it must be noted, largely white and male) used the attack as an opportunity to either make jokes about Grande and her fans or belittle the extent of the attacks. Some burgeoning critics even used it as an opportunity to dip their toe in the pool of music criticism.
Others who weren't making cruel jokes at the expense of Ariana Grande fans were still minimizing the tragedy:
While any tragedy brings trolls out from under their bridges to make jokes, it's worth noting just how specific and targeted the attack appeared to be. As many Twitter users have pointed out, the goal of terrorism is to get as much carnage as possible aired on television, which is possibly why the attack appeared to have targeted young women and girls.
Unlike most terrorist attacks at concerts, such as the Bataclan attacks, which claimed the lines of 137 attendees, many of whom were Parisians in their 20s and 30s, Ariana Grande's fan base skews quite young — and the flippant and dismissive responses to the tragedy highlight just how little regard many people have for their lives.
Of course, it's not exactly surprising that attacks on young women would not be taken seriously, especially in light of our current political climate. From the election of a president who freely jokes about abusing women to a judge giving a slap on the wrist to an accused rapist on the grounds that a sexual assault allegation would ruin his — not the victim's — life, our culture is rife with multitudinous examples of women's bodies being treated as at best expendable or at worst the objects of violence. Sometimes, this violence is metaphorical, as is the case when we hear pop singers bragging about committing acts of sexual coercion, or bars offering a "Pill Cosby" cocktail inspired by the comedian committing sexual assault; sometimes, it is literal, as we have seen to chilling effect tonight.
Pop music can be incredibly liberating for young women. It's often a rite of passage for them, a way to get in touch with their burgeoning sexuality or initiate themselves into teenage culture. For many, a concert is the one place where they can go to feel safe and carefree. The tragedy of the Manchester arena attacks proves that the spaces where young women can actually go to feel safe and welcome to explore the newfound aspects of their identity are few and far between.
We don't know yet who was behind the Manchester attacks. But when rape culture is taken to its logical extreme — when misogyny is so all-consuming that it drives someone to detonate a bomb in on an arena filled with literal children — we can grieve and be surprised by the extent of the loss of life, but we shouldn't be surprised that misogyny had a death toll Monday night. Given our culture, that is no surprise at all.