Saturday, March 30, 2013

Taylor Swift and Feminism

Taylor Swift, the (sometimes country) pop princess, has been America’s sweetheart since she set the country music world ablaze in 2008 with songs like “Our Song” and “Teardrops on My Guitar”.  Since then she’s been on dozens of magazine covers, countless red carpets, and won more than a handful of Grammy’s.  Her endearingly spiraled hair and teenage soap-opera lyrics charmed the industry and inspired millions of young girls to become fearless and never let a man define their future.  She sounds pretty perfect, right?

            Alongside her list of accolades is another list of a different sort; her list of men that she has dated (I’ll admit, some are probably just rumored relationships).  Here’s the most current list (which reads a lot like an A-lister’s phonebook): Joe Jonas, Lucas Till, Taylor Lautner, John Mayer, Cory Monteith, Toby Hemingway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zac Efron, Garrett Hedlund, Eddie Redmayne, Conor Kennedy, and Harry Styles.  While there’s nothing wrong with a young woman playing the field, especially since men are often congratulated for dating countless beautiful women, I do have a probably with the way Swift has apparently manipulated her relationships and failures with these men to make a profit.  Penning a song may be her version of writing in her diary, but following through and recording a song that is obviously aimed towards someone else is not only spiteful, but embarrassing.   

One of the biggest objections to “Sex and the City”, HBO’s evergreen which now has become syndicated on E! during their “Ladies Who Lunch” marathon every afternoon, was that Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals use and abuse men.  While all four ladies on the show have a prominent professional life, dating men seems to be their only career.  Bradshaw, in particular, created a livelihood based on publicly airing her relationships with men.  This objectification of males and relying on them to aid your success seems suspiciously similar to what Swift does in her own songs. 

Swift, like Bradshaw, writes about the men in her life through thinly-veiled lyrics which accuse men for being always wrong.  This is not a good message to be sending young girls who listen to Swift religiously.  Everyone should be held accountable for their own actions, especially in a relationship.  If young girls are taught to believe that they are always the victims, they will never become anything but victims.  While Swift’s intentions may be to empower females who have struggled similarly to her, the result has evolved into quite the opposite.

Publicly, Swift has claimed that she is not a feminist.  In a recent “Vanity Fair” interview, Swift said that she believes that feminism is about “guys vs. girls.”  If her definition of feminism was accurate, which it’s not, then she could be labeled a feminist.  However, feminism is all about men and women being treated and viewed as equal human beings.  Through Swift’s lyrics, she has a tendency to objectify men, thusly creating an unequal balance between men and women.  So, if Swift, who is the voice for so many young women, is confused about her own beliefs regarding her gender role, where does that lead all her female fans?  

In addition, Swift has publicly slammed Tina Fey, who joked about the singer and her dating habits at the Golden Globes.  Instead of laughing it off like any other person with a sense of humor would do (c’mon T-Swift, it’s Tina Fey), the thin-skinned Swift backlashed against the comedienne in a very hypocritical way. 

"You know, Katie Couric is one of my favorite people, because she said to me she had heard a quote that she loved, that said, ‘There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women,'" Swift said in a recent “Vanity Fair” interview regarding the Fey incident.  This quote seems very contradictory to the statement that she tries to make.  By claiming that women who don’t help other women go to hell, isn’t Swift herself not helping other women?  Also, it appears that Swift has either been living in a cave or is incredibly misinformed and self-centered if she believes that Fey doesn’t help other women.  Fey’s role in helping women be viewed as funny and successful comedy writers and producers has been incalculable.  As a result of this “feud”, Swift comes off seeming like the popular girl that peaked in high school and blames others for her fall from grace.

Album after album, Swift has created songs that are centralized around men.  This fact echoes a theme that is overwhelmingly popular in the film industry today.  The female role in most movie genres, aside from female gothics or film noir, is to be the object of desire to men.  Even romantic comedies, which are aimed towards a female audience, revolve around the concept that women’s only goal in life is to be desired by a man.  In contrast, men have more significant roles in film that surround themes of following their destiny, defending their honor (which includes protecting their property and woman), and being a strong leader in the face of adversity.  The female lead characters are limited and divided into two roles.  As explained in the first “Sex and the City” movie, a woman can either be a “witch” or a “sexy kitten”.  With her male-centered songs, Swift is confirming society’s notions that females are simply there for the benefit of men.  I would love to see Swift escape from her fairytale, ice-cream cone world and write a song about something much more powerful than about how you’re never ever ever getting back together.    

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