I love Taylor Swift (in case I’ve not made that apparent enough already). And I’ve loved Taylor Swift loudly, proudly, and consistently, since I first became aware of her and her music.
I loved Taylor Swift loudly when it was cool for teenagers my age to love her (Fearless), I loved her loudly when it was cool to hate her (Speak Now), I loved her loudly when it was cool to love her in a ‘guilty pleasure’ way (Red), I even loved her loudly when it had been uncool to love her long enough that it became cool to love her again (1989) [despite every anti- hipster/trend atom and instinct in my body raging against it]. And I love Taylor Swift loudly now, when the pendulum has swung back in the tired direction of yesterday, and people are getting off on hating her once again (Hiddleswift/Kimye).
But this is me just bragging, I should unravel why I love her, but before I do that I’ll get into why I believe her relentless attackers are full of shit. There are various specific attacks that I could get into. But to save time space and words I’ll only address a few examples pertaining to Taylor Swift’s connections to our society’s problem with women.
Exhibit A. Taylor Swift is not a feminist because she uses feminism as a weapon: Examples being her responses to 1.) Tina Fey/Amy Poehler making fun of her at the Golden Globes, 2.) Nicki Minaj’s tweets reacting to the VMA nominations in which ‘Bad Blood’ was one of the nominees for Video of the Year.
Exhibit B. Taylor Swift is a hypocrite about sexism because 1) she slutshames in her songs (‘Better Than Revenge’), and 2) she doesn’t do enough for non-white/western women….
In regards to A1.
Recap: basically when Vanity Fair asked Taylor Swift to comment on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler making a couple of jokes at Taylor’s expense at the 2013 Golden Globes, Swift quoted Katie Couric and said ‘there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’. No party was guiltless here in my view. I ADORE Poehler and I ADORE Swift, and I’m fairly sure I would also adore Fey if I knew more about her and her work. But here’s the thing, human error. We’re all susceptible to it.
One could argue that no, Poehler and Fey were not doing their gender any favors by reducing an artist and businesswoman like Taylor Swift to a favorite patriarchal stereotype (Maneater). But one could easily argue back that Taylor was also doing her entire gender a disservice by resorting to blaming women as opposed to the sociological infrastructure actually responsible for such antics. So what do I suggest we do? Give all involved a break, and remember almost everyone has moments when they forget to think clearly with their moral/activist codes, when under professional duress (Poehler and Fey), or when things get a bit personal (Swift).
Poehler and Fey were under the immense pressure that comes part and parcel of having status as women in the male-dominated business that is comedy, and thus probably did not consider enough how they might be undermining one of their self-proclaimed causes by belittling the achievements of, and the force that is, Taylor Swift, and thereby perpetuating the problem that is sexism.
Swift probably wasn’t conscious enough at the time of the VF interview, of the difficult terrain Poehler and Fey have had to navigate their whole lives– comedy is one of THE most difficult industries for women to be taken seriously in, ironically (see Christopher Hitchen’s infamous Vanity Fair article on how women can’t be funny). Furthermore, it is my own suspicion that the harshness of Taylor’s response to the award show dig was probably a result of an unpleasant emotion most of us are quite familiar with- that awful feeling one gets when one is MADE FUN OF by someone one very much admires and respects. If Taylor hadn’t thought much of Poehler and Fey, I doubt she would have been bothered or insulted enough to claw back.
In regards to A2.
Recap: After the 2015 VMA nominations are released and Nicki Minaj is snubbed by the award show, Minaj tweets: If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year. Taylor tweets back: I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot. A few tweets and days later, all is good between the two artists. Taylor admits to misunderstanding, apologizes, and Minaj accepts her apology. Cool. So two peers got a bit sassy but it didn’t take long for them to resolve the crossed wires. No big deal, right? Wrong.
Because these two artists are famous, because they are women, people feel the need to re-write and extend the narrative. But after the offended party accepted the apology, shouldn’t the matter be put to rest? And shouldn’t those still harping on it accept that it is even less of their business now than it was while the twitter conflict was still active, over a year ago…?
Now onwards to B1.
Recap: In Swift’s third album Speak Now, there is a song in which Swift wrote and sang some lyrics regarding a woman who is “not a saint, and she’s not what you think she’s an actress/ she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress”. No, the slant of Swift’s ‘Better Than Revenge’ of a specific ‘she’ (supposedly Camilla Belle) does not sit one hundred percent well with me, moreso because of its women vs women slant rather than its condemnation of promiscuity-
[Sidenote I, personally, do not condone promiscuity (in BOTH sexes mind) either, and though this isn’t a conventionally ‘feminist’ position to take, my feelings on the matter: 1. I’m entitled the right to be both ‘prudish’ and ‘feminist’, and 2. I’d assert many women of our generation have crossed the line from the positive ’embracing of our sexuality’ to the negative (in my opinion) plain old ‘promiscuous’- not because this is in their nature (although there are of course women who do have this in their nature and to them I give my honest commendations, sexuality is a spectrum in both quality/content and quantity/appetite)- but because this is the new status quo. And I for one firmly believe this ever-enhancing pressure on, and trend amongst, young women has been a significant factor in the increasingly diminishing respect in young men for the fairer sex.
Only one generation of Western women has experienced such blatant disrespect, disregard, and disdain from potential romantic partners during the dating/courtship/mating ritual stage of life; ours. And out tolerance is at fault, is what has enabled these low standards to both continue, and continue to depreciate…
Even our parents are so removed from the state of the dating scene today and its ubiquitously disadvantageous bias against women, that most are shocked, appalled, and wildly disapproving of/at how their daughters not only allow themselves to be treated, but also now EXPECT to be treated. Even our mothers understand and remember the meaning of ‘courtship’, and they’d never have tolerated the behavior in suitors and boyfriends (husbands are, of course, a separate matter) that girls now are so tragically used to and accept as the common standard among boys today. And don’t even get me started on how much better our grandmothers had it on the dating scene….
Sidenote concluded. ]
-FURTHERMORE, who am I to pass judgement on a NINETEEN/TWENTY year-old GIRL for using the resources at her disposable (her art, voice, and platform) to call out someone who wronged her. But let’s break this one down even further-
At the point when this song was released, Taylor was not even close to being a self- proclaimed feminist. She would, in fact, attempt to distance herself from the label about a year later when questioned about the movement- I will gladly attribute to this the youth and ignorance nearly all of us once succumbed to, for the following reason:
I, although an adamant feminist now, was certainly not one at nineteen. I was too preoccupied with myself and my hormones and my self-centred mentality and privileged outlook to even fully understand what feminism was beyond the opaque definition of ‘girl power’… It would take two extra years of higher education, of gaining life experience, for me to even get interested enough in the concept to put in some effort to understand and come to grips with it. It would take a further two years, involving more world exposure, cognitive development, emotional maturity, and a master’s degree, for me to become legitimately informed, actively engaged, and passionately vocal about the issue.
Like me, Taylor would eventually grow up and get her shit together, and go from a girl to a young woman, and publicly align herself with feminism/identify as a feminist. So who the HELL would I be to judge her for things done or said on this topic in the distant past/before she’d fully developed her own conclusion on the issue?!
Now onto the song itself- ‘Better Than Revenge’ is, like almost all of Taytay’s song, extremely catchy and relatable. I personally love the song because it objectifies men (she uses this metaphor to describe the fickle ex-boyfriend the subject of the song seduced: soon she’s gonna find stealing other people’s toys on the playground won’t make you many friends [lolz]) and (full disclosure here) I can be something of a misandrist at times who staunchly supports gender affirmative action (re-balancing the scales for the future requires preferential treatment for the disenfranchised side in the present).
But the song has merit beyond my personal preferences as well: the joyous and upbeat energy of the song, I would argue, also puts a positive spin on a negative experience- as so many of her songs’ tunes/melody + lyrics/subject matter do- that of being betrayed by a fellow member of your gender. Swift thus coloured a common adolescent experience with brighter strokes than it would ordinarily be perceived with (‘Taylor Swift was screwed over by another girl too! And she turned it into something fun! It’s not personal, it happens to everyone!’), and thereby might have helped foster less lingering hostility and female rivalry in the long run (the only ‘revenge’ she is actually condoning is not staying silent when screwed over).
The influential value of Taylor promoting this sort of thick skin, through the accessibility of her music and her emotions, should never ever be underestimated, especially in regards to teenage girls and young women. Regardless of whether or not this was intentional (and my honest opinion is it probably wasn’t) the effects remain the same, so the haters need to get over it.. Unless of course, they are keen on being evidence for Taylor’s own thesis that Haters predictably and pathetically continue to hate, hate, hate, hate, hate (no matter what facts or figures prove their allegations and/or reasons for animosity are unfounded).
I read somewhere something about how ‘Better than Revenge’ ruined Camilla Belle’s career. No offense to the half-Brazilian beauty, but from what I’ve seen of her work, her choices of roles were what ruined her career.
ALSO, Taylor Swift has, what, two or three, specifically ‘anti-women’ songs in her oeuvre, compared to the COUNTLESS anti-men songs? I also use the terms ‘anti-women’ and ‘anti-men’ only to establish my point clearly, not because they are in any way accurate. Taylor Swift is not anti-woman or anti-man, she is ANTI-BULLYING (‘Shake It Off’, ‘Mean’). And just because the public fancies they know the female ‘targets’ of a couple of these songs (‘Bad Blood’), that have virtually the same message as those contained in the majority of her discography: IT’S NOT OKAY TO TREAT PEOPLE POORLY (which yes, usually pertains to romantic partners, BUT ALSO INCLUDES friends, family and/or innocent strangers), they assume the songs are mean-spirited attacks, rather than a general denunciation of unkind behavior.
Another thing- Swift has said on numerous occasions that, despite enjoying giving her fans hints as to the real life inspirations of her songs, it ultimately remains quite important to her that there are never any confirmations of specific identities, because the anonymity of ‘characters’ in her music is essential (she wants people to listen to the songs and empathize, imagine their friends/boyfriends/enemies/ex-lovers/etc, not hers). Ultimately it does not matter whether the subject that inspired a song is this or that person, a boyfriend a girlfriend an adversary a relative a best friend or a frienemy. Because Taylor never fails to candidly tell us the only thing that really matters about the characters in her songs: if and why they’re an asshole.
Lastly, my thoughts on B2.
Sexism needs to be kept SEPARATE from other areas of bigotry (racism, social prejudice, xenophobia, homophobia etc.) All minorities must prioritize and fight the specific injustices distributed to them and their kin first and foremost, if real and lasting change is to be enacted (of course we should try and want to be involved in as many movements as we can, but separately, as there are always limits to the amount of responsibilities/ political zeal/emotional investment each of us can take on). And yes, many perpetrators of discrimination have blanket intolerances for all of the marginalized, HOWEVER, misogyny, anti-semitism, classism, Islamaphobia, various social stigmas, etc, are all different breeds of injustice that need to be fought as distinct enemies. The plight of the African, the working-class, the mentally disabled, the immigrant, etc. are all unique… And frankly, the oldest and most constant of these various social traditions of denunciation & oppression of entire demographics, has arguably been the subjugation of women- because sexism’s reach has spanned across all religions*, all epochs, all races, all cultures, and nearly all recorded civilizations.
[*obviously, with every major monotheistic religion having a male god at the top of its pecking order]
No, in more recent centuries, women, as a conglomerate, have not gone through nearly the amount of mass-scale cruelty that the Native Americans, the Africans, and the Jewish have, but (please don’t mistake this as AT ALL wanting to minimize the unspeakable horrors and disgusting genocides [spiritual and corporeal] that these groups all fought and only some survived), I’d argue that this does not necessarily translate to women having been less feared, hated, and cruelly dealt with, than these other demographics. At least psychologically and socially, if not physically, and only in widespread terms. By that I mean ‘women’ in general, as pockets of and individual women throughout time and throughout the world, have been and are still, utterly enslaved, despotized, and at regular risk of violent rape and physical abuse (that range from domestic abuse to being publicly stoned to death). But women as a whole, have not been violently targeted, and physically victimized and violated, on a large-scale and all-encompassing basis, as other minorities have.
Because we’re not actually a minority. Not in the technical sense anyways.
That an entire group of women has not (yet) been physically massacred or villified by overt propoganda, is probably largely due to the fact that we compose more than fifty percent of the population , and are pretty damn integral to the reproduction process aka the continue of the human species.
But to bring this tangent back on track, it is ultimately futile and supremely unhelpful to throw these singular populations of victims into a competition. They are each noble and important and worthy in incomparable ways, and the best choice for each of us, right now, to pick up and fight for, is that which touches and relates to ourselves and our loved ones, most profoundly. Because that fight will be the one we are most qualified to enlist in. Because it is that which is subjective and personal that will always, by default, affect us most, and thereby generate the most invested action and the most productive results (this theory is, in a nutshell, essentially the whole premise of the field of phenomenology).
So in conclusion (to this thread at least), let’s try to refrain from castigating Taylor Swift (and everyone else) for not fighting every fight of the disenfranchised, every fight she (or he or they) has less of a personal connection to and comprehension of, than the battle(s) they have chosen, and are better equipped, to join.
And here’s a confession. I am not writing this to actually ‘defend’ Taylor Swift. I am in fact confident the woman is perfectly capable of defending herself.
[Sidenote: I do not worry about the girl cause guess what? “It’s like [she’s] got this music, in [her] mind, saying it’s gonna be alright !! !! !!” Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, but seriously, that lyric alone, and the message it sends, would secure my undying position of defense for this woman alone.]
I am writing this to ask people to consider some stuff that all of this Hiddleswift and Kimye mania has reminded me of recently- I am writing this to ask people to consider Taylor Swift as a human being, as a woman, and her relation to the feminist problem we STILL desperately need to solve, to consider another prominent female magnet for vile hatred that is largely based on the biases of misogyny** (the consequences of which are far more tangible, urgent, and terrifyingly dangerous, than perhaps any isolated incident of sexism ever has been in recent memory).
[**The ‘dated’ nature of Part Two of this TaySwift series gets most overt right here, in its reference to the recent election that was, when I wrote this, an ‘upcoming’ election (oh happy days of the past how we yearn for you). I chose to keep this ‘no longer relevant’ bit in nonetheless, as it lends a certain ‘all the more tragic’ element to the text, and the state of sexism today, that I want so desperately to make a deep impression on anyone who might read this.]
[sidenote: I would have written a defense for Hillary Clinton too but I could not have researched or said it better than Michael Arnovitz, who coincidentally is A MAN, probably one of top ten most awesome men currently alive, everyone please go to http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/6/11/1537582/-The-most-thorough-profound-and-moving-defense-of-Hillary-Clinton-I-have-ever-seen
and read what he had to say on the matter- and then if you’re so inclined you can read a couple of my thoughts regarding it on the very first post I released on this blog).]
Consider the obstacles, the resistance, the glass ceilings, and the animosity, Taylor has had to overcome, to not just be where she is today, but to be there while having retained full autonomy and creative control over her work, and without ever once compromising her core ideals, or permitting herself to be reduced to a sexual object. Consider Taylor Swift as the symbol of female empowerment that she is, consider the summit of female agency that Taylor Swift embodies incontrovertibly. And then deal with it.
And one last thing: Consider, everything that I’ve written about T.Swift with the words of the great and beautiful and fortifying Brene Brown:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the [wo/]man who points out how the strong [wo/]man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”