Think back to the late ’90s and early aughts. The pop music landscape was divided, a civil war between Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync fans. The rivalry usually took the innocuous form of adolescents gloating or crying over which band snatched the #1 spot on MTV’s daily music video countdown TRL. Seems downright cute when compared to the current state of stan wars.
With the emergence of social media platforms like Twitter that make online bullying so much easier than the random forums of yore, the West Side Story-esque turf wars have become increasingly troublesome. This week, both Katy Perry and Lady Gaga released highly-anticipated singles from their upcoming projects (“Roar” and “Applause,” respectively). Some of Katy Perry’s “Katy Cats” think Lady Gaga pushed up her single’s release to stop Katy Perry’s momentum, while Gaga’s “Little Monsters” think Katy Perry isn’t even in Gaga’s league. Things got heated enough for Gaga to play referee, telling her legion of fans: “don’t fight with katy’s fans, or anyone. STOP THE DRAMA. START THE MUSIC. pop music is fun, and these ‘wars’ are not at all what I’m about.”
But this phenomenon isn’t an isolated incident between these two camps; feud culture extends to most fan bases that are centered around a female figure. Madonna vs. Gaga. Mariah vs. Nicki Minaj. Miley vs. Selena Gomez. Beyonce vs. Rihanna. Britney vs. Christina. Are you sensing a pattern here? Pitting women against women isn’t a new concept, but that doesn’t make it any less troubling.
Over the past few months, Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake have been competing for the Song of the Summer 2013 crown with similar aesthetics and nearly identical music videos in which naked women dance for them (that’s an issue for another article). But any disagreements surrounding these two male artists stays focused on the music itself, while anything to do with female singers devolves into intensely personal attacks, too often on the performers’ physical appearances.
Considering that fans of Katy Perry, Gaga, and most female singers are, for the most part, women, why is there this ruthlessness in elevating one queen by beating down all the others? The answer can be found in any corner of our popular culture. Take television, for instance: The Real Housewives of Wherever make a living fighting their peers, with the knowledge that, if they are not sensational enough, they will be replaced with someone who is scrappier, while The Bad Girls Club takes this a step further and trades in subtle digs at charity events for actual scratch and claw violence. They’re not here to make friends, after all.
Not only are women encouraged to battle with each other, but it’s become so mainstream that it’s now accepted as entertainment on most television channels, in the pop music world, and even finds itself in real life conversations when a girl hates “the other woman” instead of the man who made promises to her. All of this is a symptom of a culture in which misogyny is so pervasive that it becomes internalized and then perpetuated by the very women that it victimizes.
These unfortunate realities of our society are more apparent in this digital age, in which anyone can write anything from behind a screen, often something too extreme and hateful for them to actually say in the real world. There’s no easy fix to this problem, but there is an easy way to make some progress: don’t pollute your love of one artist with your disdain for another. If you don’t like Taylor Swift or Mariah Carey or whomever, then why spend time and energy saying so? Use that time to support the artists you actually do appreciate and try to remember that there are enough people in this country saying demeaning things about women, whether they’re famous or not. Do you really want to add your voice to that?