Hey Billie Eilish, we need to talk...
Have you seen some of the truly incredible things that young people are doing today? Last month, student activists shut down their private school in the Bronx to protest the administration not doing enough to combat racism among the student body. In LA, student organizers are protesting the racist policies of random weapons searches in schools. Last year, 16, 17, and 18-year-olds organized one of the biggest marches the country has seen in recent years to combat gun violence.
These progressive and groundbreaking actions are perhaps why your new song, “wish you were gay” feels disconcerting to so many listeners. You’re young, but your 17-year-old peers are making radical changes and are proving themselves supportive and accepting across the spectrum of identity and sexuality., Your single is blindly tone-deaf in comparison.
But Billie, please understand that these responses were generated by frustration. Your lyrics said, “To spare my pride / To give your lack of interest an explanation / I’m not your type / Maybe I’m not your preferred gender orientation.” You previewed the song online months ahead of its release and fans offered critique of this sentiment then, but you didn’t listen. Instead, you doubled down. You said, of the song, “it literally means I wish he was gay so that he didn't like me for an actual reason, instead of the fact that he didn't like me.” Here, you’re missing the mark completely.
Keep in mind, it’s not entirely your fault. Although culturally, we have begun to criticize men who decry the “friend zone” as the reason they are not having sex with women they feel entitled to, we’ve hardly shone that light back on women. Understand, Billie, that when you evoke that concept, you are acting as if you are so desirable that his sexual orientation is the only reason he is not interested in pursuing a relationship with you.
Sometimes, Billie, he’s just not that into you. But don’t worry! Despite what our culture tries to tell you about women’s value, you don’t need an overarching excuse in order to feel pretty or desirable again after a romantic or sexual interest rejects you. It’s entitled and self-serving to feel as if being gay is the only legitimate reason someone is not interested in you. He’s just not that into you. Someone else will be.
But you weren’t done. About the song, you also added, “and guess what? He just came out to me like a couple weeks ago. So I wrote the song and made him fuck a dude. I’m fucking proud, bro! Except not really though because I was really into him, like so into him, he’s so hot--oh my God, he’s so attractive.” And there we go! Reducing his sexuality and sexualizing him all in one go, congratulations Billie!
Although this comment overwhelmingly exposes your age and immaturity, it also points to a larger problem about how you perceive the entire situation. No, Billie, your attitude is not un-homophobic just because he turned out to actually be gay. In fact, highlighting that fact simply fetishizes his sexuality. Instead of someone who has recently come to terms with their sexuality, you’ve turned your ex into a token and treated him like a funny, ironic ending to your story, instead of acknowledging his life and relationships.
Finally, guess what Billie? Even if you claim your song is not meant to be offensive and you don’t explicitly said that you dislike gay people here’s a hot take: treating gay people as “the Other” is homophobic. Acting as if the only reason he could not be interested in you is because he is different from “normal” masculine-presenting men is homophobic. Treating his new relationship as fundamentally different to his past relationships is homophobic. You are not absolved of the impacts of your words just because the intent did not match.
Ultimately, Billie, you don’t deserve to be “cancelled,” despite what some critics online have claimed. Your song and your attitude simply expose your youth. But in light of what others your age are doing, maybe it’s time to hold yourself accountable. Understand that this approach to relationships and sexuality is not okay. I can forgive you because you’re young and heartbroken and this is an opportunity for learning and growth, but I truly hope that next time around you’ll do better, and learn from the incredible teen activists and organizers who have proven themselves to be far more mature and understanding than their age would imply.