In between all the over-filtered beach thirst traps, there’s a lot of genuinely good content on Instagram. There are tons of designers and artists creating cool original work, from photoshopped pictures of Harry Potter characters to important political artwork. As much as I love Bachelor contestants who call themselves “creators,” I prefer actual creative talent, especially when people use their creative talent to spread an important message.
One of these creators is Becca Rea-Holloway, who runs the Instagram account The Sweet Feminist. Becca specializes in cakes, cookies, and other sweet treats, all branded with feminist messages. It’s a perfect way to bring together fun and colorful designs with important political messages. A few weeks ago, after Alabama passed its law effectively banning abortion, Becca posted a cake with the message “ABORTION IS HEALTHCARE,” and it immediately went viral. I don’t know about you, but I saw the cake reposted on tons of Instagram stories.
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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
It’s a simple message, and a simple design, but it’s instantly recognizable to those who know the work of The Sweet Feminist. That’s why, when Miley Cyrus posted photos from a shoot with Marc Jacobs and Planned Parenthood on Tuesday, one of the images immediately raised some eyebrows. It’s the best photo of the bunch, and it quickly got reshared tens of thousands of times. What’s the issue? In the photo, Miley Cyrus is licking a cake that looks exactly like The Sweet Feminist’s cake. But Becca Rea-Holloway’s name was nowhere to be found.
When someone as big as Miley Cyrus posts something controversial, it doesn’t take long for everyone to notice. That includes the followers of The Sweet Feminist, who were quick to point out that Miley’s cake looked suspiciously similar to the one Becca made. The Sweet Feminist posted a comparison of the two cakes, calling out Miley Cyrus and the other teams involved for stealing her original work and not even giving her a credit. Swipe to see how similar the cakes really are.
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@mileycyrus just announced a collaboration with @marcjacobs @plannedparenthood @happyhippiefdn using this image. It is a direct theft of my own original art work from May 2018, with no credit. It’s literally my exact handwriting, message, and concept. Swipe for comparison! Cake art is for everyone, but this is inexcusable.
Miley Cyrus quickly responded to The Sweet Feminist’s post:
While it’s nice that Miley Cyrus actually responded to The Sweet Feminist’s post rather than ignoring it, her response here is a little disappointing. First of all, she acknowledges that she and her team saw the original cake online, but they obviously didn’t care enough to figure out who made it and commission them to make another one for their shoot. Considering that it had already gone viral on Instagram, it wouldn’t have been that hard to find out. She also comes across pretty combative in asking Becca to correct her post, as if she’s done something wrong by asking to be credited and compensated for her work.
But the biggest problem is that Miley Cyrus then deleted The Sweet Feminist’s comment from her post. As the guys involved in Fyre Festival will tell you, deleting comments on social media is rarely a good look, especially when it’s someone rightfully calling you out for a mistake.
Becca commented back in response to Miley:
While you might not care about the particulars of who saw the original cake and where they saw it, Becca has a point when she says that “someone got paid to make, style, and photograph this cake, and it wasn’t me.” It wasn’t just the idea for the words on the cake, but the actual cake and photoshoot that Becca was left out of. It’s tough for creators to get paid fairly for their work, and this would have been a major opportunity for an artist like Becca.
But for me, the worst part of this story is the subsequent backlash that The Sweet Feminist has received. She posted another comment directed at Miley, in which she also criticized Miley for asking her to correct her original post:
After posting these comments, Becca posted several screenshots of DMs and emails she’s received from Miley Cyrus fans, and they are truly awful. In today’s culture of rid- or-die fans on social media, the environment can quickly become toxic, like last year, when Nicki Minaj fans sent thousands of death threats to a writer who posted a mediocre review of her music.
Here are a couple of the messages that The Sweet Feminist posted:
These are just a couple of the hundreds of equally nasty messages that Becca received. While I’m sure that Miley Cyrus wouldn’t approve of horrific messages like this being sent on her behalf, that doesn’t change the fact that Becca now has to deal with them.
This is something that has happened repeatedly in recent years on social media. When a major star rips off a smaller creator, they have to decide whether it’s worth it to put their career, and their mental health, on the line just to request credit for their work. While Miley Cyrus and those she was working with might not have intentionally ripped off Becca’s work, they’re not the ones who have to deal with the consequences.
Unfortunately, the problem of famous stars ripping off less famous artists has only become more common with the rise of social media. Just a couple weeks ago, Chris Brown (who’s already problematic for many other reasons), pulled many images in his newest music video directly from other artists, of course without any sort of credit.
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@chrisbrownofficial , famed woman beater, has a new vice. In the just-released music video for “Wobble Up” featuring @nickiminaj and @g_eazy , Brown and co-director @arrad seem to be ripping concepts from artists @mariussperlich and @tonyfutura . Planning to credit them sometime in the near future? Or did their checks get lost in the mail? • #mariussperlich #tonyfutura #art #artist #chrisbrown #geazy #copycat #visuals #concept #body #bodypaint #beachbum #bootybuilding #tropical #beach #lemon #fruit #photography #wiwt #ootd #sand #palmtrees #sun #dietprada
The Kardashian-Jenners have also been known to pull, um, inspiration from lots of people. Here’s one example from 2016, when a makeup artist named Vlada noticed that an image from the new Kylie Cosmetics campaign looked a little too familiar.
Yeah, that’s not great. So, in short, go follow The Sweet Feminist, donate to Planned Parenthood, and be sure to credit creative people when you’re inspired by their work. It’s too bad that this whole drama even had to happen, because everyone involved here has the same goals when it comes to women taking control of their bodies.
Images: Shutterstock; thesweetfeminist (7), mileycyrus, diet_prada, vladamua / Instagram