Society glorifies celebrities in toxic relationships, especially the idea that women are responsible for the well-being of the men they date.
Women do not exist to be a source of endless emotional labor for men. Yet, the majority of our youth are worshipping celebrity relationships that emulate unhealthy habits which perpetuate the coddling of men and the exceeding responsibilities assigned to women.
A high-profile example of the immense pressure women face in relationships is Ariana Grande’s public romance with Mac Miller. Grande found herself at the end of social media backlash for ending her two-year relationship with the late Miller. At the time, the rapper was in the midst of his own addiction and many Miller fans blamed Grande for the rapper’s declining mental health.
On Twitter, Grande responded to the accusations and negative comments: “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…shaming/blaming women for a man’s inability to keep his shit together is a major problem. Let’s please stop doing that.”
Society pressures women into staying in toxic relationships for the sake of healing men at the expense of their own health. A survey conducted by the National Resources Center on Domestic Violence stated nearly 60 percent of young women stay in abusive relationships. A woman who stays with her man through his troubled years is romanticized—she is seen as loyal. This so-called loyalty seems to be expected of women—this idea that she proved her worth by not abandoning him while he was making something of himself.
The unequal expectations amongst the sexes is amplified by the media. As many things go, our view of society is skewed by what the media chooses to highlight and deem worthy of discussion. Celebrity couples have long been glorified and praised to be the desired relationship. Putting these couples on pedestals and idealizing them has created a sense of fantasy in real relationships, a dangerous concept that plays with the human psyche. This fascination and obsession with celebrity couples is not only dangerous, it also leads to the more pressing issue of normalizing unhealthy relationships.
Many women find themselves in relationships that place them in the role of a caretaker. Partners should not be held to the same standard as a nurturing mother would be to her child. Men must have accountability for their toxic behaviors and not rely on their partners to sacrifice her peace for his, and in turn, women should be allowed to walk away from toxic relationships without being met with animosity or physical harm.
In 2009, Rihanna and Chris Brown publicly split after it was revealed Brown had been abusive. A picture of Rihanna with bruises across her face was leaked by various media outlets. This photo sparked the conversation of seemingly perfect relationships that turn out to be toxic and unhealthy. After the scandal, Rihanna did an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC in which she explained the incident was more than a personal issue, but a warning sign that her relationship is broadcasted to the world and will affect the way young girls view relationships.
Rihanna said she decided not to stay with him. “When I realized that my selfish decision for love could result into some young girl getting killed, I could not be easy with that part,” she said in the interview.
Many girls idolized her relationship with Brown and because of this, if she chose to stay with him, she would be sending a message that it is acceptable to stay in abusive relationships.
Adolescent girls are highly impressionable. According to psychologists at Knox College who conducted a study assessing 142 junior high school girls, younger girls often idolize male celebrities. Results of the study revealed that girls who strongly idolized a male celebrity had more experience dating, reported secure and preoccupied attachments to same-age boys and were rated higher in materialism. They tend to mimic the relationships and behaviors idolized.
Whether it’s by virtue of being a mother, aunt or grandmother, women are expected to do the emotional heavy lifting and help men be better. Women are expected to be fixers and keep it together even when they’re filling from an empty cup.
Women are not responsible for ensuring the men in their lives are happy at the sake of their own sanity—that in itself is the marker of a toxic relationship—and society’s obsession with celebrity relationships perpetuate that notion.