Raising an eyebrow at the Selena vs. Hailey drama

Long before the rise of social media, we have seen women put against one another for reasons ranging from publicity stunts to actual heartbreaks. Most recently, social media outlets have erupted with speculation about celebrities Selena Gomez and Hailey Beiber.  

Justin Bieber and Selena, who originally began dating in 2010, battled their on-and-off relationship for eight years until they called it quits for good in March of 2018. While there has been a wave of theories surrounding their split, the two have never given a reason for the breakup. In July of the same year, Beiber proposed to Hailey Baldwin, now Hailey Bieber. 

Selena and Hailey have gone back and forth denying false claims and assuring the public that there is no drama between them. However, in the past couple of months, Hailey has been accused of making numerous backhanded comments towards Selena through her platforms, criticizing everything from her eyebrows to her Lupus diagnosis. In return, fans of Selena have been digging through old social media posts, desperately trying to find evidence that the Biebers have become unhappy in the marriage.

Now, every aspect of Hailey Beiber’s life has been declared a free-for-all for analysis and comparison to Selena. She has been dubbed the jealous nepotism baby, had the authenticity of her marriage speculated on, and had seemingly every behavior, mannerism, outfit, post, show and interview from the past decade picked apart. All the while, Selena, former Disney Channel starlet, remains the girl-next-door-who-got-away, the right girl for Justin Bieber, a 29-year-old man perfectly capable of making his own decisions about his love life. The cyberbullying and real-life harassment of Hailey is justified as public retaliation against a mean girl. Where Selena is authentic and kind, the rumor mill whispers, Hailey is cold and vapid.

Despite the haze of parasocial relationships, we truly know nothing about these two celebrities beyond carefully-curated personas. Remember, this feud erupted over an Instagram story of eyebrows, which was contrived as a backhanded jab at Selena because it was posted several hours after Selena made a TikTok about her brow lamination. Selena took a four-day social media break as the drama began to heat up, and both women have repeatedly affirmed their respect for each other. But their clear statements that there is no drama have only served to supplement it, with fans diving back into an entire career archive to construct fitting narratives.

The entire purpose of the drama is to pit two women against each other to fight over a man, and it is flunking the Bechdel test with great spectacle. In an age of girl power and solidarity, their fans seem to tell us, fights between two public-facing women do not happen out in the open. Instead, they are forced underground, into snide jabs and tactics straight out of Mean Girls. Even under the mantra of “girls support girls”, we still just want to see two women embroiled in messy, salacious drama. There is no feud, at least no public one. But audiences will keep looking for drama, just the same.

We need to stop pitting women against each other for the purpose of attracting views. A person’s right to privacy and what they choose to share on their platforms should have nothing to do with an algorithm on TikTok. We must learn to stay away from news that is solely based on tearing down a person’s life for the fame that comes with it. Especially in the case of women and their relationships with the men they’ve dated, we need to make the conscious decision to stay out of furthering drama and tearing apart lives based on rumors.