Katy Perry's Mom-Shaming Joke On American Idol Is A Reminder To Check Your Internalized Misogyny

Talk about accidentally hitting the wrong note. "American Idol" judge Katy Perry is facing backlash after making a misogynistic comment to a contestant on the long-running competition show, with fans accusing Perry of displaying internalized sexism and "mom-shaming." 

The moment came as 25-year-old aspiring vocalist Sarah Liebe revealed her age to the judges, who in turn remarked upon Liebe's young appearance. When Liebe followed up and said "I have three kids," Perry jumped from her seat in shock and eventually remarked "Honey, you've been laying on the table too much!" While Perry's comments came under the guise of mentorship—and Perry may have thought she was providing humorous tough love, as judges often do on "American Idol"—the remarks raise the question: Would Perry's guidance have been different if Liebe were a man?

"American Idol" viewers took to social media and slammed Perry's quips. Many rushed to the defense of Liebe. "I would be so humiliated and mortified after being spoke about that way for all the world to see, especially by another MOM," wrote Twitter user @raisingkaelen. Others blamed Perry for Liebe's decision to ultimately quit the show to spend more time with her kids, though Liebe insisted her decision wasn't due to Perry's remarks. 

Perry's good intentions don't make her comments any less sexist

Still, Perry's insinuation appeared to be that Liebe couldn't value both a career and a family simultaneously. What's more, Perry delivered the harshest criticisms of Liebe compared to fellow "Idol" judges Lionel Ritchie and Luke Bryan, with Perry assessing the contestant more for her status as a mother than for her considerable vocal talent. 

Perry's snide remarks are perhaps surprising to those who have followed the 38-year-old singer's career. Perry also has a child and has discussed the challenges—and joys—of balancing motherhood and work in multiple interviews and on Twitter. As a result, her comments toward Liebe are a reminder that even successful women who appear to buck outdated notions still suffer from ingrained social stereotypes about what women can accomplish. As Psychology Today reports, women may not even be consciously aware of how their words further entrench gender stereotypes. Moreover, it can be challenging to recognize sexism when it's so deeply engrained in contemporary culture and, by extension, within ourselves.  

Liebe reminds us that women do best when we support each other

Fans have since called on Perry to apologize. While the "California Girls" singer has yet to release a statement, she did implore Liebe to stay in the competition. Liebe, meanwhile, posted a TikTok to express how she felt about the situation and the backlash. "It was embarrassing to have that on TV and it was hurtful," Liebe said in the video. "But I did want to take this opportunity to just say that I think that women supporting and uplifting other women is so cool, and I think that mom shaming is super lame."

Liebe said that she was grateful for the flood of support, and conceded that it was "hard enough to be a mom" without other women adding fuel to the fire. Research backs her up, too: studies have shown that mom shaming can have the unintended and severe consequences. In a poll conducted by the University of Michigan, for example, nearly half of mothers said that criticism made them more avoidant of situations.

Let that be a reminder: Mom shaming isn't okay, and everyone would fare better if we work collectively to weed out internalized misogyny from our conversations and our culture.