Bad Blood: Swift, Cyrus, and a Culture of Double Standards

Miley Cyrus caused something of a stir this week. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “What’s new?” Well, no matter your thoughts on the twerking songstress, she made a very valid point about sexism in the music industry and society as a whole. Her target? Taylor Swift’s star-studded music video for Bad Blood.

Cyrus made the comments in an interview with Marie Claire magazine. Speaking with refreshing frankness, she compared the double standards at play – that female liberated nudity is off limits, but violence is totally acceptable, even celebrated:

I don’t get the violence revenge thing. That’s supposed to be a good example? And I’m a bad role model because I’m running around with my titties out? I’m not sure how titties are worse than guns.

Swift’s video, which accompanies a track that is all but confirmed to be about her ongoing feud with fellow popstar Katy Perry, sees her stabbed in the back by friend-turned-enemy, Selena Gomez. What ensues is a menagerie of ridiculously attractive models, singers and actresses who rally round Swift, whipping her into shape for battle against Selena and her cronies. Amazonian beauties strut round in high heels as they wield bazookas, swing nunchucks, and curl their perfectly manicured hands into fists. It ends with the two groups coming face to face, and Swift and Gomez laying a slap across each other’s faces. The video was an instant success; breaking a Vevo record, hailed as the ultimate in girl power, and providing fresh material for that godawful hashtag, #squadgoals.

In a wave of people applauding the video, Cyrus spoke out against it. Did she speak out of jealousy of Swift’s success, or bitterness that she is repeatedly vilified while Swift rides high as America’s sweetheart? No, she spoke out because the video’s popularity says something worrying about how society perceives both female sexuality and violence. We’re at a point where it’s more shocking to see a woman breastfeeding than it is to see someone get shot. Young children are allowed to play violent videogames without a second thought, but the image of a woman who hasn’t waxed her pubic hair is considered graphic and inappropriate. Swift’s video pitting scantily clad females is up for the VMA Video of the Year; Cyrus was honoured at the amfAR awards for her contributions to the fight against AIDs and all anyone can talk about is her armpit hair.

There is so much sexism, ageism, you name it,” says Miley. “Kendrick Lamar sings about LSD and he’s cool. I do it and I’m a druggie whore.

This isn’t the first time Swift’s video has been at the centre of controversy. In July, Taylor and Nicki Minaj had a tense exchange of tweets after Bad Blood was nominated for Video of the Year, but Minaj’s Anaconda was not. Swift believed the rapper was indirectly calling her out with her tweets that mentioned women with slim bodies and record breaking videos:

The two artists later resolved the issue and publicly made up, but not before Perry added in her two cents with what many believed to be a thinly veiled dig at Swift:

While it seems no-one is going to stop talking about Bad Blood anytime soon, maybe it’s time to change the discourse. As Cyrus said, I’m not sure how titties are worse than guns.

Read the full interview in Marie Claire magazine, on newsstands August 18.

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