Written by Amy Beecham
Selena v Hailey is simply the new Jen v Ange? But when are we going to put the ‘other woman’ narrative to bed?
Our fascination with celebrity relationships has been a lengthy one. From Elizabeth Taylor’s eight marriages to Bennifer 2.0, and despite our better judgment, we just can’t help but stay up to date with who is dating whom and which couples are on the rocks. And no narrative has prevailed within that culture quite like The Other Woman.
From Paris Hilton v Sophia Bush to JLo v Jennifer Garner and even as far back as Diana v Camilla, the media will always sniff out a ‘love triangle’ and a woman to accuse of ‘man-stealing’. Take the so-called rivalry between Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie, which began in 2005 when Aniston and Pitt split up and Pitt subsequently started dating Jolie. The Team Ange or Team Jen factions continue even now, decades after each of their relationships ended.
More recently, attention has turned to model Hailey Bieber, wife of Justin, who has long been accused of ‘breaking up’ his previous relationship with Selena Gomez. Fans of ‘Jelena’, as the couple were known, have been vocal online against Hailey, prompting her to publicly ask to be left alone after her TikTok live stream was inundated with trolling comments back in April 2022.
Last year, in an episode of the viral Spotify podcast Call Her Daddy, Hailey opened up for the first time about how the comparisons between her and her husband’s previous relationship have impacted her.
“A lot of the hate and the perpetuation comes from like, ‘Oh, you stole [Justin],’” she said of her critics. “And I guess maybe that just comes from the fact that they wished he had ended up with somebody else. And that’s fine. You can wish that all you want but that’s just not the case,” she explained to host Alex Cooper.
Bieber and Gomez had an on-off relationship that began in 2010 and reportedly ended in March 2018, the same year he announced his engagement to Hailey.
“I understand, again, how it looks from the outside,” she told Cooper of the timing that has led many fans to speculate infidelity on Bieber’s part. “When he and I ever started hooking up or anything of that sort, he was not ever in a relationship. Ever. At any point. It’s not my character to mess with someone’s relationship. I would never do that.”
“There’s a lot of perception there,” she continued. “But that was a situation where I know for a fact that it was the right thing for them to close that door. They were not in a relationship at that time. But of course, there’s a very long history there. And it’s not my relationship. It has nothing to do with me. So I respect that a lot. But I know that it closed a chapter.”
Hailey went on to describe their relationship as “the best thing that could’ve happened for him to move on and be engaged and get married and move on with his life in that way”. But here lies the problem: where exactly is Bieber’s voice in all of this? And where was Brad Pitt’s, Ben Affleck’s and Chad Michael Murray’s?
Why is the fire only being stoked between the women in the relationships, and why are we so quick to decide on a victim and a villain, taking little account of the agency of the men involved?
Despite not directly referencing her at all in the episode, Hailey managed to confirm that she and Gomez have spoken since she married Justin in 2018 and that there is no bad blood between the three of them. “It’s all respect,” she added. “It’s all love. That’s why if everybody on our side knows what happened and we’re good and we could walk away from it with clarity and respect, then that’s fine.”
Because, of course, it’s the woman’s responsibility to patch everything up at the end of the day. “Girl code” determines that women mustn’t ‘screw each other over’, excusing men from any culpability.
In light of the recent cheating allegations against a number of high-profile male celebrities, you have to wonder when their tell-all podcast interview will come. Will they be expected to clear the air and dispel the rumours? Or will they get to deal with the fallout quietly and privately as they swear to “focus on their families” and “work on themselves”.
We have to ask ourselves why celebrity women don’t seem to be afforded the same luxury, particularly when there’s no proof of any wrongdoing. Because in 2023, it’s high time we stop pitting women against each other full stop, but particularly when it comes to two adult women conducting relationships within the public eye.
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