Since Westbrook posted her video, the feud between the two beauty vloggers caught the public’s attention rapidly, with Westbrook garnering over a million subscribers in a day while Charles lost nearly 3 million subscribers. Live sub counts comparing the subscriber counts of both vloggers are widespread on YouTube with thousands watching, and the feud is running rampant on all mediums of social media; Both “James Charles” and “Tati” have been trending on Twitter for the majority of the past weekend, and Westbrook’s “BYE SISTER . . .” video has been trending on Youtube, garnering over 38 million views as of May 13.
Scrolling through different social media platforms and even news organizations such as CNN, I quickly grew uneasy by the sheer volume of attention the feud between the two influencers was garnering. My misgivings were affirmed when I came across tweets pointing out how Charles has had a long history of problematic racist and transphobic behavior, but people only started reacting when they realized that this behavior has only affected straight and cisgender males.
This isn’t to say that Charles’ behavior is in any way acceptable — predatory behavior conducted by anyone, no matter their sexuality or gender identity, is never excusable. This fact has been reaffirmed time and time again by the #MeToo movement.
I just wish that the internet channeled the same anger and outrage towards men who display the same behavior towards lesbian/bisexual/queer women, talking about how they can “turn” these women straight. The most recent example in pop culture that I can think of is with pop singer The Weeknd's song “Lost in the Fire” from his new album with Gesaffelstein. The song features blatantly homophobic, disturbing lyrics talking about how being lesbian, bisexual or sexually confused is “just a phase,” and how he can “f**k you straight,” referring to the queer woman he was attracted to.
When I first listened to the song on the radio, I grew sick with outrage, my stomach twisting with anger as I quickly logged onto Twitter to see if anyone else was talking about this. To my dismay, very few people were talking about the issues with this song, with a couple news outlets and twitter accounts addressing them interspersed between tweets praising the album. I, I’m ashamed to admit, quickly forgot about my issues with this song, and went on with my life. When the accusations against Charles started plaguing social media, however, the messages in the song kept coming to mind. The widespread instances of “corrective rape” around the world, as the extreme of this kind of predatory and homophobic behavior is legally referred to, is largely ignored by the internet and the world, but once it becomes known that this kind of behavior affects exclusively straight and cisgendered men, the whole world is up in arms.
The widespread instances of “corrective rape” around the world, as the extreme of this kind of predatory and homophobic behavior is legally referred to, is largely ignored by the internet and the world, but once it becomes known that this kind of behavior affects exclusively straight and cisgendered men, the whole world is up in arms.
The internet’s obsession with this feud proves to be yet another example of its tendency to jump on the bandwagon of hating the next “cancelled” celebrity or social media influencer, using memes as the primary medium of spreading hate and mockery. A point can be made that he deserves the criticism he’s receiving and needs to make a genuine apology that isn’t monetized and doesn’t feature crocodile tears. A point can also be made about how he’s only 19 years old, and his previous misgivings, however atrocious, don’t warrant the hate he’s receiving by seemingly the entire world.
The point I’m most inclined to supporting, however, is that other issues currently plaguing the nation, such as the recent heartbeat bill that charges Georgia women with murder for having a miscarriage on top of banning abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy, climate change consequences in Alaska and more, deserve the same amount of attention this feud is getting — maybe even more. This isn’t to invalidate those that have allegedly been made uncomfortable by Charles. I just think that sometimes, we love drama that doesn’t affect us a little too much, and need to start giving that same attention to issues that have a global reach, issues that need our attention, issues that we as a community actually have the power to change.
And that’s the tea, sis.