“Look, I’m not a victim in this and neither is she,” the 32-year-old singer tells The Los Angeles Times in a new interview. “But I don’t have feelings of kindness when it comes to humans being made fun of for questioning their identity, especially kids. The whole ‘When they go low, we go high’ thing doesn’t work with these people. Any resistance movement is not done with kind words. And there’s a lot worse things I could’ve called her.”
It all started last month with Brittany posting a seemingly innocuous Instagram video depicting a glam-up — but with a loaded caption.
“I’d really like to thank my parents for not changing my gender when I went through my tomboy phase. I love this girly life,” she wrote. Her “Trouble With Heartbreak” singer husband replied to the post, “Lmao!! I’m glad they didn’t too, cause you and I wouldn’t have worked out.”
Maren chimed in with a reference on Twitter, writing: “It’s so easy to, like, not be a scumbag human? Sell your clip-ins and zip it, Insurrection Barbie.” A war of words ensued, with famous friends and fans chiming in. Brittany went on to defend her statements on Tucker Carlson Tonight, with the host referring to Maren as a “Lunatic Country Music Person.”
Maren used the moniker on a new line of t-shirts, with proceeds benefitting Trans Line Life, a non-profit organization that offers emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis, and GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program, which works with the media to fairly and accurately tell the stories of transgender lives. She has so far raised more than $150,000 for the organizations.
Brittany also went on to market and sell a line of Barbiecore-inspired “Don’t Tread on Our Kids” tees, with proceeds supporting Operation Light Shine to help fight child exploitation and human trafficking.
“I hate feeling like I need to be the hall monitor of treating people like human beings in country music,” Maren says in her new interview. “It’s exhausting. But there’s a very insidious culture of people feeling very comfortable being transphobic and homophobic and racist, and that they can wrap it in a joke and no one will ever call them out for it. It just becomes normal for people to behave like that.”
She adds, “I think just the culture of misinformation that goes along with trans youth is where I was coming from. It’s not, ‘Oh, this is bad, and this is good, and we can agree to disagree.’ No, we can’t, and you are being fed information that is false. And even though you’re not the one with the bullet in the gun, your words matter. Your disinformation matters. That hospital in Boston just had a bomb threat because people who listen to that rhetoric literally think they’re mutilating kids and don’t bother reading any sort of actual study on it.”
Maren, who hails from Texas originally, says she’s largely unphased by the hate she’s received from Jason and Brittany’s fanbase in the wake of her comments, and that her own conservative friends and family members have reached out to tell her they’re on her side. She also reveals that it was fellow country music artist Kacey Musgraves who first texted her the clip of Brittany’s appearance with Tucker Carlson.
“This whole thing got so ugly so fast because the worst they can say to me is, ‘Oh, you must be a groomer then.’ That’s literally their favorite word,” she says of her critics. “I have a son, and I think we’re all — especially all parents — we’re just trying to do our best and take care of our kids and make sure they’re happy. You don’t know if one day they’re gonna come home in tears because they don’t feel right in their body. And it’s just so s— for the parents that are going through that right now to make a joke out of it. Suicide rates are so high because of hateful bull— like that. I don’t care if it’s a joke. But they don’t want to talk about that part because it’s too real.”
As the CMA Awards quickly approach, Maren’s Humble Quest is up for Album of the Year while Jason is nominated for Musical Event of the Year for his “If I Didn’t Love You” collaboration with Carrie Underwood.
Maren says she may skip the Nov. 9 ceremony altogether.
“Honestly, I haven’t decided if I’m gonna go. I’m very honored that my record is nominated. But I don’t know if I feel [at] home there right now,” she admits. “So many people I love will be in that room, and maybe I’ll make a game-time decision and go. But as of right now, I don’t feel comfortable going.”
The “Girl” singer muses that there might be two sides to country music right now.
“Friends that aren’t in country music, they ask me, ‘What the hell is going on in Nashville right now with these people?’ And I’m always like, ‘It’s fewer than you think.’ Sometimes I feel like I’m in this abusive relationship and I keep defending it: ‘It’s not all bad!’ But sometimes you have to call it out for what it is.”
She continues, “I think there are people in country music that want it to be niche. They don’t want it to expand. They don’t care about it becoming more inclusive. It’s theirs, and everyone else is an other, or woke, or whatever. That’s sad to me, because I feel like country music at its core is people’s real stories. And to think there’s only one kind of person that gets to live them out and celebrate them is not why I’ve chosen to live there or make music within those walls.”
For more on the timeline of Maren and Brittany’s feud, find ET’s coverage here.
See the complete list of CMA Award Nominees here.
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