Toxic Swifties vs Toxic Avocados: Taylor and Billie fans fuel a rivalry that will only harm women

The recent toxic rift between Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish fans is a disservice to both women

Mahnoor Vazir May 25, 2024

If you’ve ever been a part of a fandom - whether it’s pop, film, comics or otherwise - you’re well aware that it's not the same as being a normal fan, it’s a step above. Being in a fandom is like joining a secret society, where obsession and loyalty are unspoken vows that bind us together.

Within the compelling whirlpool of modern fandom, an unsettling trend has emerged that pits women against each other, fostering a toxic atmosphere of baseless and unnecessary rivalry between celebrities. This anti-feminist phenomenon, perpetuated by the same fans who claim to support these stars, rips through these passionate communities like an unchecked virus.

The rumour mill, always running in the fandom-verse, recently threw out whispers that Taylor Swift strategically released new content to block Billie Eilish’s new album, Hit Me Hard and Soft from reaching Number 1 on the charts, and dethroning the The Tortured Poets Department from its long-standing reign. As the rumour mill churns, let’s break down this latest fan-concocted theory and delve into why these two fandoms created the illusion of hostility between the pop powerhouses.

At loggerheads
Imagine the pop music landscape as a grand chessboard, with Taylor and Billie as its reigning queens. On one side, we have the Swifties, Taylor’s fiercely loyal fanbase. On the other, we have the Avocados (yes, that’s what Billie’s fans call themselves), who are equally protective of their icon. It’s a classic case of fandom rivalry, but with a twist of modern-day marketing warfare.

The rumours started when eagle-eyed fans noticed the suspicious alignment in timing. Billie released Hit Me Hard and Soft, and on the same day, Taylor announced three new digital editions of her album. Given Taylor’s history of dropping things unexpectedly, this wasn’t surprising, in fact, it perfectly fit her signature style. The Ocean Eyes singer then released sped-up and slowed-down versions of her album, including an extended version of the track L’AMOUR DE MA VIE.

In the blink of an eye, the two fandoms found themselves locked in a heated battle. It was a narrative straight out of a pop soap opera, complete with whispers of sabotage and dramatic confrontations. Avocados hurled accusations at Taylor, painting her as conniving and greedy, alleging she despised seeing other women on top.

An overtly impassioned Avocado commented, “Taylor Swift, I hope one day you will not be so insecure about your career and how bad your music is that you won’t be so chart obsessed.” Another wrote, “That woman is so annoying and bitter. She has everything. The album broke records, multiple weeks at Number 1, yet she still wants more.”

Swifties countered with a ferocity matching their opponents, vehemently defending Taylor against what they saw as baseless slander. “Billie should just accept her Number 2 debut and keep it pushing,” one wrote. Another stated, “There are so many other artists that released music the same time as Billie and you all still find a way to bash Taylor. Get a life.”

In this fiery clash, the fandoms spoke volumes on behalf of their respective artists, unwittingly painting a picture of animosity between Taylor and Billie when, in reality, any tensions were confined to the fandoms themselves. Here, in the real world, both Taylor and Billie have immense respect for each other’s work.

But why would Taylor want to overshadow Billie? Some say it’s purely a business move – a way to ensure she dominates the charts. On the other hand, it could be completely coincidental that the Blank Space singer introduced the new digital editions the same day as Hit Me Hard and Soft was released, but hardcore fans behave as if the idea of multiple strong female artists coexisting is too radical to accept. Regardless of the intention, instead of applauding their savvy business acumen, or trusting that Billie’s album could end The Tortured Poets Department’s extended rule, toxic fans cracked their knuckles and keyboards were clicked, memes flew, tweets erupted, giving way to a full-blown digital duel.

Fandom wars

Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2000 MTV VMAs. KEVIN KANE/WIREIMAGE

Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2000 MTV VMAs. KEVIN KANE/WIREIMAGE

Looking back, you see a continuous thread of this behaviour over the years. The infamous feud between Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera’s fandoms in the early 2000s. These two pop icons were constantly compared and pitted against each other by their fans, eternalising the ‘good girl’ versus ‘bad girl’ narrative. Newsflash: Britney and Christina never needed you to fight their battles, and the constant meddling actually created genuine tension between the stars, which they eventually acknowledged.

Photo: Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber pose together at the Academy Museum Gala 2022. TYRELL HAMPTON

Photo: Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber pose together at the Academy Museum Gala 2022. TYRELL HAMPTON

Fast forward to today, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Take the ongoing saga between Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber’s fandoms. For years, fans have eagerly stoked the flames of the ‘jilted ex-lover’ versus the ‘smug wife’ narrative. Needn’t I remind you both women have more to them than their connection to Justin Bieber. Social media became a warzone, with fans mercilessly trolling the other side, analysing every lyric and public appearance for signs of shade. It wasn’t until a highly publicised photo op and official statements that called for fans’ kindness that the animosity began to die down.

But what drives this behaviour? The pathology of fandom. Fans identify deeply with their chosen idols. Any perceived threat to their idol’s success feels like a personal attack, triggering defensive and often aggressive responses. The frequency of these rivalries underscores a troubling aspect of fandom culture: the tendency to dehumanise the artists themselves. In the heat of defending their favourites, fans often forget that they are real people, with real emotions. So, the next time you're gearing up to defend your idol in a display of fearless loyalty, pause for a moment and ask yourself: “Am I being my best feminist self?”

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