What should have been an innocent, albeit very cheeky, happy birthday wish from one friend to another became the focal point of serious criticism on Wednesday. It was Katy Perry’s birthday and, among all the well-wishes, the “Swish Swish” singer got a shout-out from her friend Ellen DeGeneres. Turns out, however, that DeGeneres’ idea of a funny yet sweet “happy birthday” tweet might have sounded better in her mind than when it was written out.
DeGeneres chose to quote Perry’s lyrics from her 2013 song “Birthday” back to her for her own special day. “Happy Birthday, @katyperry! It’s time to bring out the big balloons,” DeGeneres wrote under a photo that was taken of the celebs (along with DeGeneres’ wife, Portia de Rossi) at the Grammys a few years ago. In the photo, DeGeneres seems to be jokingly ogling Perry’s cleavage while Perry looks at the camera, which adds some sexual innuendo to her birthday tweet for Perry.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) October 25, 2017
Given the sensitivity the public has developed in the wake of serious allegations of sexual assault made against men in a variety of different industries, including Amazon’s Roy Price, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly and President Donald Trump, it’s entirely understandable that the public didn’t react with the same kind of cheeky joy DeGeneres most likely intended. Instead, the birthday tweet was perceived as crass and gross, with some calling out the double standard of a woman being able to joke about ogling another woman or referencing her body while a man could not (the public doesn’t really seem to like it either way, coming from a man or a woman, for the record).
Here’s a sampling of the arguably fair and expected criticism DeGeneres received in response to her tweet to Perry.
Not appropriate, regardless of gender. I'd be offended if this tweet was about me on my birthday.
— Janet (@janetcwalsh1) October 25, 2017
— Rebel Alliance 🐼 (@TheRebelUSA) October 25, 2017
WTF? Ellen Weinstein? @TheEllenShow totally unacceptable.
— Erik Kunzelman (@ErikEKunzelman) October 25, 2017
Of course, one Twitter user (who was certainly not the only person pointing this out) tried to quell concerns that DeGeneres was being crass in any way by pointing out that she was simply referencing Perry’s own lyrics in celebration of her birthday.
How the heck are people getting mad at this. Its a literal reference to Katys own lyrics. Its an innuendo people cmon.
— David W. #ConMenRDW (@MarioPrtyAnimal) October 26, 2017
DeGeneres has no reason to cater to public opinion; nor does she have to tailor her tweets to fit into a large public conversation. However, a little more consideration for the context of the tweet could arguably have helped keep criticisms at bay. Let’s hope this problem blows over quickly and doesn’t dampen Perry or DeGeneres’ week too much.