I know, I know. Taylor Swift may not be your favorite performer. Taylor Swift may not be the favorite performer of many people who read humorous ladyblogs. And there are perfectly good reasons for that!
Namely, the fact that she refuses to identify as a feminist and thinks that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are, strangely, going to hell. They almost certainly are not, though it would reinforce the Victorian notion that every single cool person you encounter will be hanging out in the 9th circle. I cannot imagine a better incentive to sin than hanging out with Tina Fey for eternity.
So, there’s that, and, of course, she writes a great deal about her recent break-ups.
I think that Taylor Swift has a lot of ideas that I don’t really agree with. However, I do feel like some of the ways we criticize her are bordering on unfair.
I know that in the past, I’ve criticized her for taking pot-shots at her exes, and it’s true that I don’t think that’s necessarily in good taste. Personally, I think it’s a little undignified to sing about your exes or mock them at the Grammy Awards. But you know who else sings about their exes? Ray J. (“I Hit it First” about Kim Kardashian). John Mayer (“Your Body Is A Wonderland” about Jennifer Love Hewitt). Justin Timberlake‘s “What Goes Around..Comes Around” video depicts Elisha Cuthbert (who was engaged to his good friend) dying in a car crash.
If we’re going to be outraged by talking negatively about exes in public – and look, a way to avoid having your love life made fun of is, admittedly, not to talk about it in public – then we should be outraged when men do it, as well as women.
You could even say that it’s pretty admirable that she’s honest and open about her emotions. Well, you could if you’re the kind of person who likes that kind of thing.
We’re not sitting around talking about how tacky Justin Timberlake is. And while I think this is a good song:
I do not think it is a much, much, much better song than this:
And, of course, male performers are never put in the position where they are called upon to stand up for men in general. While yes, I do believe Taylor Swift should identify as a feminist and not try to damn her fellow female performers to hell, I also think that her songs depict themes of female friendship in a positive way. I chose “22” for a reason (even though I think being 32 is even better!) because I think the idea of female friends getting together and celebrating their youth is much less terrible message than… well, a lot of other other pop songs about landing a man. Admittedly, some of which are by Taylor Swift herself. However, I do agree with Kathleen Hanna that Swift is pretty good about writing music that is directed towards women, and I think that’s really admirable.
But mostly, I think it’s worth remembering that Taylor Swift is only 23 year old. And if you are thinking “I had read all of Andrea Dworkin by the time I was 23,” also consider the fact that she’s a 23 year old who has likely been pushed very hard to appear unthreatening, girlish and appealing to a younger demographic.
If you look at her recent collaboration with Keds, you’ll see that she still identifies her favorite things as being guitars and kitty cats. I’m not saying that she’s going to restyle herself as the sort of feminist trailblazer that everyone might hope for in the years to come (though God knows I think it would be terrific if she did) but I think there’s still a lot of time for her to develop her opinions. This girl is not going to be 23 forever. And I suspect that when she has grown up slightly more – and is, indeed, as another pop singer said, a woman, not a girl – she will get over some of the tendencies that make people like me apt to dismiss her. I really believe the song she makes at 30 is apt to be even stronger than “22.”