When Mel B stormed off the Sunrise set on Monday morning, the audience wasn’t quite sure whether she was serious.
In response to the millionth comment about her supposed “feud” with fellow X Factor judge Iggy Azalea, the singer flung her arms up in mock horror, got up from her seat, and said: “Oh gosh. I’m leaving. Like, what is all this?”
At first, the former Spice Girl laughed off the Sunrise hosts’ insinuation she and Azaelea didn’t get along.
When presenter Natalie Barr asked if Azaelea felt “scared and a bit threatened” by Mel B’s late addition to the programme, the 41-year-old responded, “Oh God, no.”
“She’s got a massive career, she’s highly, highly successful. And we get on, so…”
But the questioning about her relationship with Azalea was unrelenting.
“Do you? Do you really?” pressed Barr, to which she responded, “I know you’re trying to get some rivalry between me and Iggy, but there isn’t any.”
Koch even asked Mel B whether Azalea would be a good addition to the Spice Girls (?!?!), receiving a stern reply: “There’s only five Spice Girls in the whole entire world, and that’s it, so ZIP IT.”
Literally every single time the made-up feud between the artists was brought up, Mel B articulately refuted it and tried to change the topic.
But that didn’t stop Koch from ending the interview with a reference to it, prompting Mel B’s walk out.
“Don’t miss Mel B on the X Factor,” he said. “It’s the first elimination show tonight, at 7:30. How will she and Iggy get on?”
When Mel B stormed out, the entire crew, including the Sunrise hosts, erupted into laughter. But I actually don't think it was funny.
I think what we watched yesterday morning was mainstream media completely unable to conceive of two capable, successful women working together and not hating each other.
If I was Mel B, I would find it insulting that no one thought there was anything more interesting to ask me.
When Guy Sebastian is interviewed, he isn't asked about whether or not he 'gets along' with his fellow judges. He's asked about his career, and his team, and his family.
This phenomenon isn't just limited to the X Factor. We have a hard time conceiving that women can work together without hating each other in several domains.
The front covers of magazines are painted with images of feuds between women in the entertainment industry, and the Internet could hardly handle it when Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian became ARCH ENEMIES for a few days.
Why? Why do we love to see women hate each other?
According to research, the myth that women just can't get along has a long history. For centuries, it's been assumed women aren't capable of true friendships. Even the term 'mateship' implies that there's a certain level of friendship that occurs between men that doesn't exist among women.
It's simply expected that women will be vicious towards each other. Traditionally, when we do get along, it's been seen as a threat. I guess if women were the property of men, and our only purpose was to marry and reproduce, it would be a little silly for us to have friendships. What could we possibly be up to?! Probably witchcraft...
When it comes to professional women, there's another layer of meaning. It's assumed one successful woman can't support another because there's not enough room at the top for both of them. Many commentators suggest women don't help women shatter the glass ceiling because it might compromise their own position.
But because this stereotype exists, we suffer from confirmation bias - the tendency to identify information that fits our pre-existing world view. So every time we see a Taylor Swift versus Kim Kardashian feud, we think ,'Oh, that'd be right, women can't ever get along.'
Of course, both men and women can be enemies, and can be mean to each other. It's just that we attach more significance to it when we notice female examples.
So what David Koch and Natalie Barr did to Mel B has a longer history than one would initially assume. And obsessing over whether women like each other instead of, you know, what they're actually saying or doing, is a way to disempower them.
No, it's not funny. And I wish more people stormed out when asked such insulting questions.