Celebrities, corporations and governments around the world have been stepping up since several U.S. states signed legislation that would virtually ban abortions. One notable celeb who is lending her voice to the fight is Miley Cyrus. She’s collaborating with Marc Jacobs and Planned Parenthood along with her own Happy Hippie Foundation to create a hoodie from which all proceeds will benefit Planned Parenthood. It’s sure to be an effective campaign but in promoting it, Miley’s camp stole art from an independent artist.
The hoodie—which is available for pre-order right now—features a photo of Cyrus and the words “DON’T F*CK WITH MY FREEDOM.” In a promotional shot for the collab, Miley’s official Instagram posted a photo of her licking a pink cake decorated with the words, “ABORTION IS HEALTHCARE.” It’s cute and goes with Miley’s current food theme in the promotion of her album, but the problem is, she didn’t pay or acknowledge the cake’s creator.
The cake is actually an image from The Sweet Feminist Instagram run by Washington, D.C.-based baker Becca Rea-Holloway. Becca has posted the image at least five times since she first started sharing her “rage bakes” in May 2018 and re-posted the cake most recently this past May when Alabama’s Senate passed a bill which puts a near-full ban on abortion in the state.
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Last night, HB314 passed Alabama’s Senate. It is now the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country – it makes abortion a felony at conception, punishable by up to 99 years imprisonment (note: the governor has not signed this law yet. *Abortion is still legal in Alabama*, and this law will be challenged). One thing that’s been bothering me a lot lately (other than the systematic degradation of our collective right to bodily autonomy) is the willingness of some to write off the states where these laws are passing. If you’re writing off these states as “backwards”, or calling for a general boycott (which organizers on the ground are saying is not a good idea) you are also saying that you are willing to abandon the residents of those states who do and will need access to abortion. Abandoning Alabama, or Georgia, or Ohio will not save you. It just feeds into the false narrative that abortion access is only for some. Abortion access should not depend on geography. If you buy into the idea that Alabama and other states like it are “backwards”, you erase all the factors that shape lawmaking there (like: disenfranchisement and voter suppression, racism), as well as the people who are on the ground working towards reproductive justice. If we are willing to abandon the residents of Alabama, or Georgia, or Ohio, we are complicit. It’s not enough for abortion to still be accessible for some. It must be safe, legal, and accessible for everyone. Today is a good day to donate to @yellowfund, @sistersong_woc @ppse_advocates #thesweetfeminist #sweetfeminism
After discovering her artwork on Miley’s Instagram without credit, Becca commented on the post calling out the use of her image without her consent. She also posted what happened on her own feed, writing, “It is a direct theft of my own original art work from May 2018, with no credit… Cake art is for everyone, but this is inexcusable.”
Miley’s team responded quickly, tagging The Sweet Feminist in the original post and commenting back that they had made the change.
Since Miley didn’t offer any monetary compensation or even mention The Sweet Feminist in the caption of the photo, Becca commented back that she wouldn’t be taking down her call-out post. She added that while she would have happily worked on a collab with Miley (the cause is right up her alley, after all), she didn’t think a retroactive tag was enough of a fix for the situation.
“While I acknowledge your tag … it doesn’t change the fact that my work was used without compensation and without my consent and it is not sufficient,” she wrote. “This was not an oversight, it was blatantly and willfully neglectful and deceitful.”
Since the exchange, Becca has shared that she’s received “literally hundreds and hundreds” of messages from Miley’s followers calling her all sorts of vile names, accusing her of just looking for attention and even telling her to kill herself. She’s posted some of the worst in her Instagram stories, writing in a text overlay on one, “This is f*cking terrifying. This is what happens when women dare to have opinions in an online space (or any space!!).”
Theft of intellectual property happens a lot online and it’s not uncommon for celebrities to steal art from unknown independents. What makes this case particularly frustrating is that Miley’s campaign is about supporting women, and she had an opportunity to support an independent female artist in the process, but (either intentionally or through negligence) chose not to. What could have been a fantastic feminist collab is now a dramatic and dangerous situation that is resulting in yet another woman being attacked online.
Miley has yet to reply again but in the meantime, why not go support a feminist baker by giving The Sweet Feminist a follow and dropping some likes?
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PSA: it’s okay to be angry today (and everyday, actually)! I know this week has been difficult for many people, myself included. I’ve been bouncing between a variety of emotions – from sadness to despair to motivation to pure rage. All of those feelings are valid. Sometimes it feels like we are just screaming into the void, but that’s not true. Our anger fuels action. It allows us to imagine, demand, and build a better reality. Note: we have to make sure this vision is inclusive of everyone. I know there is a tendency in discussions of reproductive justice generally (and abortion access specifically) to rely on the word “women” as short hand. This erases trans men and nonbinary folks, who absolutely must be included in all aspects of reproductive justice. This is something I’ve had to unlearn, and I hope you’ll unlearn it with me. We also must consider who these abortion restrictions and bans do and will impact most intensely – poor Black and Brown folks. It’s ok to experience what’s happening this week as an attack on us as individuals, but we can’t lose track of the ways (and these ways are often different) that it’s an attack on others. Thank you to everyone who has shared your experiences, stories, and insights with me. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share this community with you. #sweetfeminism #thesweetfeminist