Next time anyone asks you who you're seeing, if there's anyone special in your life, if there's anything "new to report," you can kindly refer them to Ariana Grande.
The 21-year-old pop star posted an open letter to Instagram and Twitter on Sunday, reportedly in response to a recent interview with the Sun. But it's really the culmination of months and months of relentless media digging into her love life — and the response was worth the wait.
Grande reportedly told the Sun, "I'm tired of needing to be linked to a guy, I'm not Big Sean's ex, I'm not Niall's new possible girl. I'm Ariana Grande." In her new note, she makes herself clear in no uncertain terms:
"What I meant when I said what I said about not being Sean's ex is that I am tired of living in a world where women are mostly referred to as a man's past, present or future PROPERTY / POSSESSION. I... do not. belong. to anyone. but myself. and neither do you."
"I have so much more to talk about": Grande's unabashedly feminist open letter comes in response to countless interviews in which she's been grilled about her love life. When asked about her "status" by Mario Lopez, she answered, "I love... my album that's coming out in seven days." Asked about her dating life on the Today Show, she demurred and said simply, "I'm happy." When pressed by Ryan Seacrest, she pleaded, "Why are you doing this to me?"
The point, as Grande writes, is not just that her dating life should be private. It's that who she's dating (or not dating) shouldn't be important to discuss, especially considering her recent professional accomplishments.
"I have come to the realization that I have SO. MUCH. MORE. to talk about. I'm currently making the best music I've ever made in my life," she writes. It's a reasonable request — that in professional interviews, she gets to discuss all of her professional success. It's a demand echoed in the #AskHerMore campaign, which calls out the red carpet reporters for focusing on female celebrities' bodies, fashion, parenting and diets when they're really there to talk about their careers.
"The double standard and misogyny are still ever present": The relentless inquiry into Grande's love life reflects the wider societal obsession with women's love lives — who they're dating, when they're going to settle down, if they've met the One, when their fiances will finally pop the question.
That scrutiny, Grande points out, reflects a gendered double standard for how women are judged. Men's romantic and sexual exploits are viewed as just that — exploits. But when a woman wants to play the field, date for fun, enjoy casual sex or otherwise chart her own romantic path, the world raises an eyebrow, or worse.
"If a woman has a lot of sex (or any sex for that matter)... she's a 'slut.' If a man has sex... HE'S. A. STUD. a BOSSSSS. a KING," writes Grande. None other than fellow pop star Taylor Swift has called out the same double standard, telling Glamour UK, "I'm not allowed to date for excitement, or fun, or new experiences or learning lessons. I'm only allowed to date if it's for a lasting, multiple-year relationship. Otherwise I'm a, quote, 'serial dater'. Or, quote, 'boy crazy.'"
That judgment, faced by celebrities but also by regular women, especially those in their twenties who aren't following society's classic courtship script, is not only exhausting. It sends a damaging message to women that no matter how great their contributions to society and no matter how fulfilled their lives are, their greatest accomplishment is to be settled in a traditional relationship with a man.
As Grande writes in her badass note:
"I can't wait to live in a world where people are not valued by who they're dating / married to / attached to, having sex with (or not) / seen with... but by their value as an individual."
Amen, Ariana. Amen.