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The internet’s obsession with Hailey Bieber and Selena Gomez speaks volumes about misogyny

Over the weekend we saw a revival of the internet’s favourite boxing match (and no, I’m not referring to the highly awkward and cringeworthy Jake Paul versus Tommy Fury event). I’m talking about the epic battle between Hailey Bieber and Selena Gomez. These two women have been pitted against each other for years and the combination of all of the online scrutiny, conspiracy theories and gossip has now become a well-rounded case study in online misogyny.

How did the alleged feud between Hailey Bieber and Selena Gomez begin?

Let’s first consider the origin story behind these highly juvenile online rumours. In 2010, when planking was still a thing and everyone owned a colourful pair of skinny jeans, Gomez began dating Canadian casanova Justin Bieber. They had a very tumultuous relationship—one that included a seriously uncomfortable on-stage serenade and a number of confusing paparazzi pictures. The pair broke up several times and then officially parted ways in 2018.

Only months later, Bieber dated, proposed to and ultimately married the aforementioned Hailey. The pair have now been wed for over four years, however, netizens have found a way to keep this highly toxic—and misleading—love triangle alive.

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A post shared by Hailey Rhode Baldwin Bieber (@haileybieber)

Considering how incredibly far-fetched the most recent drama involving Gomez and Bieber has been, I’ll try and run through it as quickly as possible. So, in January 2023, Gomez faced some highly sexist and intense body-shaming online after images were shared online of her in a bikini on holiday in Mexico.

Shortly after, Bieber shared a video of herself, and fellow model Kendall Jenner, lip-syncing to an audio that said: “I’m not saying she deserves it, but I’m saying God’s timing is always right.” While the video has since been deleted, the footage was re-uploaded and fans were convinced that the two events were intrinsically linked.

@riristea

Hailey Bieber Posts & Deletes TikTok With Kendall Jenner And Justine Skye! #haileybieber #haileybaldwin #kendalljenner #justineskye #riristea #entertainmentnews #celebritynews #celebnews #rivetsoro

♬ original sound - RiRi’s Tea ☕️

Moreover, on 23 February, the ‘Who Says’ singer shared a video on her Instagram joking with fans that she had “accidentally laminated [my] eyebrows too much.” Only hours later, Kylie Jenner posted a selfie with a caption that read, “This was an accident?????” written in text placed over her brows. Then, the Kylie Cosmetics CEO shared a screenshot of a FaceTime call with Bieber in which the pair zoom in on their eyebrows.

All this to be said, fans were certain that Jenner and Bieber were directly poking fun at Gomez and the online sleuths became so intense that the 30-year-old singer momentarily deleted all of her social media accounts, stating “I’m too old for this.”

According to Insider, some individuals became so enamoured with feeling as though they needed to defend Gomez from this apparent bullying that they flooded Bieber’s TikTok video comment sections with tags to Gomez’s Rare Beauty cosmetic line.

Why has the internet fuelled rumours of hatred between Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber?

While it would be easy to immediately assume that fans have fuelled rumours of hatred and judgement between these two women solely out of a lust for celebrity gossip, it would be inaccurate.

Of course, there is an element of this involved, however, when you look a bit closer, it’s plain to see that the internet’s obsession with this so-called ‘beef’ has a lot more to do with societal misogyny, than the power of TMZ.

Women have always been pitted against one and other, whether it be in the public eye, or in private settings. Female rivalry is an incredibly powerful tool for those who wish to keep the patriarchy thriving and manufacturing alleged catfights—particularly when the point of contention is presumed to be a man’s affections—perpetuates the stereotype that women are overly emotional, immature and dramatic.

Gomez and Bieber have gone out of their way to try and silence these rumours, even posing for a photo together in October 2022 in an attempt to squash the unnecessary drama. However, it seems as though they’re valued far more when they’re feuding than when they’re not.

What’s also important to note is that this glorification of female rivalry occurs in every facet of modern life. There’s no playful #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob when it comes to women—it’s cutthroat and it’s devastatingly harsh. And when the internet decides that a certain alleged feud amuses or interests them, they’ll find it increasingly difficult to ever let it go.

Hailey Bieber versus Brooklyn Beckham: What makes a nepotism baby tolerable?

On 15 August 2022, TikToker Daniel Mac posted a new video as part of his highly popular ‘What do you do for a living?’ series—where the content creator asks that particular question to random individuals driving past him in expensive cars. Though Mac often sees his clips trending on the video-sharing app, he probably never expected the one he had filmed that day to blow up so significantly.

Featuring newly-wed Brooklyn Beckham—son of professional footballer, David, and former Spice Girls member and fashion designer, Victoria—the video caught the 23-year-old driving a McLaren P1 around Malibu, where he currently lives with his heiress wife and actress, Nicola Peltz. As always, Mac politely asked his ‘test subject’ what he does for a living, probably expecting Beckham to mention his two equally famous (and rich) parents.

And yet, surprise, surprise, it seems the nepotism baby was too embarrassed to admit this and instead decided to go for his latest hobby. “I’m a chef,” Beckham answered, to which Mac replied, “Are you like the best chef in the world?”

It doesn’t take a genius to decipher what the content creator aimed to do with this follow-up question—he was practically screaming “Stop bullshitting me, cooking pasta bolognese for your wife doesn’t make you a chef. Just say you’re a nepo baby and let’s move on.”

Alas, Beckham didn’t spot the hidden message and carried on with his half-baked ‘professional’ advice, telling all aspiring chefs to “just follow your passion, whatever makes you happy—keep doing it.”

Ever since the clip was posted on the app on 15 August 2022, it has racked up more than 5.4 million views and 309,000 likes. In the comments section, users tore Beckham to shreds, with one writing, “C.H.E.F – Child (of) Handsome Ex-Footballer” and another one joking, “‘What do you do for a living?’ ‘My parents are rich so I just kinda vibe’.”

@itsdanielmac

Bruh What Even Is A “Chef Name 😅💀@brooklynbeckham #mclarenp1 #p1

♬ original sound - DANIEL MAC

While it’s almost impossible to live in this day and age without coming across a nepotism baby—be that in a movie, a red carpet, a runway or simply the streets of Malibu—there was something exasperating about Beckham’s blatant disregard of what was expected of him in this specific situation. His lack of self-awareness when it comes to his privilege made him an unlikeable nepo baby in no time, which brings us to model, socialite and fellow nepo baby, Hailey Bieber.

In a recent episode of the Shameless podcast, hosts Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald discussed the entire controversy and compared Beckham’s appeal with Bieber’s. Though it should be noted that Justin Bieber’s wife is not the most beloved celebrity online, as the daughter of Stephen Baldwin and niece of Alec, she’s somehow managed to keep her privilege ‘in check’.

In a clip of the podcast shared on TikTok, Andrews suggested how Beckham could have avoided the mess he’s now in: “What would have made me think ‘F*ck Brooklyn Beckham is a legend’ is if […] he turned and said, ‘I’m the son of Victoria Beckham.’ That would be epic.”

@shameless_podcast

Brooklyn, buddy, you’ve gotta stop calling yourself a chef #danielmac #brooklynbeckham #popculture

♬ original sound - Shameless Podcast

Meanwhile, in July, Bieber sat down with—you guessed it—another nepo baby, Gwyneth Paltrow, for an episode of her YouTube series Who’s in My Bathroom? The two discussed their experience as children of celebrities who are following in the (well-trodden) footsteps of their parents and pursuing careers in the spotlight. Unfortunately for the Goop founder, stating that her nepotism is not necessarily a privilege but more a disadvantage while blending pitted dates, almond butter, a handful of fresh mint, unsweetened hemp milk, and a zhuzh of chocolate chips into smoothies didn’t paint her in the best light either.

But boy did it put Bieber’s self-awareness in contrast… and Maya Hawke’s… and Maude Apatow’s. Being wealthy and having famous parents is all well and good—kids don’t have a say in what family they’re born into—as long as it is regularly acknowledged.

It is surprisingly rare for someone in the public eye to admit, even briefly, that their success stems from who they are related to. It’s even worse when said nepo baby ignores it time and time again—remember when Beckham released one of the dullest photography collections ever?

@cheddarnewsofficial

A reading from What I See by Brooklyn Beckham: part 1 #photography #brooklynbeckham #brooklyn

♬ These Days - Nico

Sure, it is natural that actors, watching their mother and father accumulate great wealth and fly around the world, would gravitate towards the industry. Of course, some children of musicians want to be in the spotlight too. More often than not, nepotism gets you through the door, but it rarely allows you to stay if you aren’t capable of proving yourself and don’t possess the necessary charisma and skills. Unfortunately however, there are a few exceptions. Some parents are just that influential.

Nepotism is obviously not going anywhere, and while that may be a hard pill to swallow for some of us, maybe we should look at the one thing we can have an impact on: holding nepo babies who don’t acknowledge their privilege accountable and calling them out on it. Once that’s done, they can get on with showing the world that they are, nevertheless, still deserving of their spot in the room. For some at least…