The Yoko Effect

We all have strong opinions regarding certain celebrities, but isn’t it funny how none of us actually know them personally?

You may be familiar with Yoko Ono, but most likely, you only know the multifaceted artist as an extension of John Lennon. Yes, they were lovers, but you may also associate Ono with the disbanding of The Beatles.

Not only is this factually untrue, as the infamous band was already on the rocks by time Ono was introduced, but this simple rumor depicted by the media and fans ultimately left a permanent smear on her name.

The vilification of women in the media for their male partner’s transgressions or tragedies is still occurring today. Now dubbed “The Yoko Effect,” we see a pattern of this behavior to use the woman in famous men’s lives to serve as a scapegoat when things go awry.

“There is not a Beatle fan out there that doesn’t have strong feelings toward her, either hating on her or thinking she and John had the greatest love story ever,” said Robert Rodriguez, author of Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Many women have gone on to relive the fate Yoko Ono did of being scrutinized by the public for seemingly ruining the men they’re involved with.

Monica Lewinsky’s claim to fame

Monica Lewinsky is a name that hasn’t left pop culture since the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal first emerged in the public eye in 1998.

In fact, she herself reported that her name has made an appearance in almost 40 rap songs as of 2015.

Nowadays, Lewinsky is an activist, public speaker, producer and online personality. Amazingly, she has a good sense of humor considering the horrible condemnation and slut shaming she endured during the infamous scandal.

Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky was consensual. However, there was an obvious power dynamic in which a vulnerable 21-year-old girl was taken advantage of. However, the media’s take was quite different.

According to a 2008 study conducted by the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, “In the media, Ms. Lewinsky was reduced to either a cartoonishly two-dimensional, predatory seeker of validation and attention, or a completely mindless victim. Under either characterization, she was viewed as incapable of existing among thinking adults in a world of constrained, albeit present, agency.”

Both parties involved in the affair were guilty of adultery, but you’d think Lewinsky had acted alone by the way the media treated her in contrast to the former president. In fact, by the end of the trial, Clinton was acquitted on both articles of impeachment and even salvaged his marriage. Lewinsky, however, bore the scarlet letter for years to come.

Mainstream media disparaged the intern by labeling her the perpetrator and “turned a young woman into a slutty punching bag while sometimes also celebrating what journalists who covered Clinton called his ‘horn dog persona.’”

Ariana Grande’s tragic love triangle

Ariana Grande’s relationship with Mac Miller was filled with love, but unfortunately, it needed more than that to survive.

Shortly after they called off their two-year relationship, Grande entered a whirlwind romance with Pete Davidson and spontaneously got engaged after a few weeks.

On September 7th, 2018, Miller died of a tragic, accidental drug overdose.

When news broke, however, it was Grande’s name that was soon trending. There were messages of anger, hate and blame unfairly directed at the pop singer.

Tweets aimed her way criticized her for further pushing Miller on his downward spiral of addiction for breaking up with him earlier that year.

“How absurd that you minimize female self-respect and self-worth by saying someone should stay in a toxic relationship because he wrote an album about them,” Grande said in a Tweet, responding to the hate. “I am not a babysitter or a mother, and no woman should feel that they need to be.”

Grande couldn’t have said it better. Miller’s drug addiction and eventual heartbreaking death had nothing do with her. It is not a person’s job to take on the very challenging struggles that their partner is battling. The demons Miller faced were his own, and no one is to blame for his death.

“Fan claims such as these stem from the most dangerous branch of pop culture’s continuous fascination with the so-called 'Yoko Effect' and its desire to connect female partners to actions they may not comprehend,” said Rolling Stone magazine. “These claims and conspiracies — often solely perpetuated by the most toxically masculine factions of fandoms — sometimes never disappear.”

The accusations against Grande not only increased the unimaginable heartbreak she must have felt during this time, but also dishonored Miller’s legacy by poisoning the story of his death by faulting someone he had great respect for, even after their breakup.

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The media plays an enormous role in shaping public opinion and influencing pop culture. Unfortunately, a lot of the time this means demonizing innocent women for the events that transpire around them or the demise of their male romantic partners.

One thing can be said for sure: Social media, while toxic, has offered a platform for these women to stand up for themselves. Unlike Ono and Lewinsky, Grande had the opportunity to clap back at people that tried to tear her down and was able to come out stronger than ever.