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Why “Skin” by Sabrina Carpenter Is the Feminist Anthem We Weren’t Expecting

Olivia Rodrigo’s January 2021 single “Driver’s License” created a worldwide obsession with the love triangle between three previously under-the-radar musicians: Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, and Sabrina Carpenter. The song’s subtle allusion to Sabrina Carpenter with the word, “blonde” turned listeners against Bassett, Rodrigo’s High School Musical: The Musical co-star and ex-boyfriend, and Carpenter, Bassett’s rumored new girlfriend. The single took the world by storm: going viral on TikTok, inspiring a sketch on Saturday Night Live, and smashing records on the charts. Little notice, however, has gone to Carpenter’s rebuttal – which, it should be noted, she denies has any correlation to Rodrigo’s single despite being debuted only two weeks after Rodgrio’s single and directly referencing the song in the line “Maybe ‘blonde’ was the only rhyme” in the first stanza.

Image from the “Skin” music video credits to headlineplanet.com.

This love triangle drama has caught the attention of millions because it is what girls are typically “supposed” to fight about: a wildly less successful potential boyfriend. Don’t believe there are sexist roots here? Consider Joshua Bassett’s latest statement on the matter where he asked the public to remember that women still hold “value,” as if that would not have been otherwise realized if he had not so graciously brought it to the public’s attention. But, this love triangle is not your average high school drama. It’s more important than that. The world, particularly young girls who were already familiar with High School Musical: The Musical, is watching. Now that she is in this spotlight, Carpenter is not feeding into the “cat fight” drama. Carpenter comes across as strong, confident, and most importantly, never once bashes or insults Rodrigo. Instead, she shows girls how important it is to support and encourage other women rather than viewing them as competition. The very first lines of the song are “Maybe we could’ve been friends / If I met you in another life.” She ends the song with an invitation to Rodrigo to put the drama aside and become friends, singing “I just hope that one day / We can both laugh about it.” Carpenter also shows that being kind does not mean backing down when others are talking poorly about you. She writes in the pre-chorus, “But you been tellin’ your side / So I’ll be tellin’ mine (Mine, oh).” Finally, she emphasizes the significance of not letting other people’s opinions bother you when she sings in the chorus “I wish you knew that even you / Can’t get under my skin if I don’t let you in.” Notably absent is a single negative comment about Rodrigo.

Despite being the punchline of a worldwide obsession, Sabrina Carpenter uses her time in the spotlight to protest the sexist view of how women fight: rude, catty, and in pursuit of a boy’s attention. She admirably balances standing up for herself and supporting other women in the most overwhelming of circumstances. In doing so, she shows both the world and the next generation of women how to handle drama with grace.

By: Jessica Boyd’22, Staff Writer