Love Her or Hate Her, Everyone is Talking about Taylor Swift
Whether you like it or not, Taylor Swift’s name is everywhere right now. The singer-songwriter has a new and long-awaited album out in November, which will undoubtedly release plenty of record-smashing singles that will dominate the radio station and inspire millions of “woke” thinkpieces about how terrible she is, and how the way she flips her hair one minute and thirty-two seconds into a music video proves that she was actually behind the assassination of archduke Franz Ferdinand and singlehandedly plunged the world into World War II.
Although Swift was almost entirely out of the public eye throughout the last half of 2016 and the first half of 2017, the mere dropping of her name by another celebrity was enough to make headlines, and the Katy Perry vs. Taylor Swift feud that everyone including your out-of-touch mother seems to have an opinion about is discussed so often one would assume Swift tweeted about it as often as others do “fake news”, when in reality the last time she did anything that might have taken a jab at Perry was release the “Bad Blood” music video over two years ago.
Swift’s first emergence into the public recently was her counter-lawsuit against a deejay who had groped her in 2013. At the time of the incident, the celebrity had reported the deejay to his employer’s, who fired him. He was initially suing her for damages, but Swift counter-sued for a symbolic $1. At this period of time, media attention was largely positive for her, with plenty of articles churning out about how important the lawsuit could be.
The lawsuit ended. Swift won, and got her dollar. And immediately, the world hated her again, just as it has for eleven long and tiring years. Articles published the Monday of the verdict loved her. Articles published the following Wednesday ripped her apart, citing tired and often ridiculous reasons why she is a bad feminist and a scourge on the name of women everywhere.
Now, these articles can have some truth, if written fairly. It’s definitely not false to say that Swift has remained largely quiet on a number of issues, and it’s reasonable to question why videos such as Wildest Dreams, which takes place in Africa, doesn’t have many people of color fulfilling available roles and background parts or why Shake it Off features almost entirely white dancers except for the women who “twerk”. There are absolutely fair criticisms of Taylor Swift and her intersectionality of a feminist, and I don’t mean to imply that she is a flawless feminist.
That being said, the media tends to go after her for ridiculous issues. Swift is constantly criticized for having friends, for appropriating the word “squad” to describe them despite the fact that the media is the one who have popularized the name. She is called a bad feminist because of the Perry feud, because apparently feminism means you have to like every single woman you meet, and it isn’t valid to feel betrayed by someone and write ambiguous songs about it. She has always been slut-shamed for dating, even by many feminists who typically would be upset by those unfair accusations. It’s one thing to question how intersectional or effective her feminism is, but there is a problem when we let go of our own feminist ideals just to throw stones at Taylor Swift.
Sometimes we are too quick to point fingers and judge. As a white, privileged person myself who knows many other white, privileged people that vilify Swift for these mistakes, things that I could easily see any one of us committing if we were in the popstar’s shoes, I wonder if many of us use Swift as a scapegoat that allows us to ignore our own shortcomings.
She often takes the blame for the media’s treatment of Kanye West after the 2009 VMA’s, despite the fact that they made amends and she wrote the song “Innocent” about him. Regardless of whether or not you feel she lied in the obviously edited and incomplete snapchats posted by Kim Kardashian West, people are eager to demonize Swift while ignoring, for instance, the overall misogynistic nature of West’s song, the fact that in his video he made a life-size wax dummy of Swift to lie naked in bed with him, and his depiction of Rihanna in bed with her former abuser, Chris Brown, which may signify that he believes Brown made her famous the way he supposedly created Swift’s career. Swift is also often criticized for not specifying who she voted for, and while this might have some validity, it is ridiculous to demonize her for not publicly supporting Clinton while defending West, who said that he did not vote but would have voted for Trump.
Quite frankly, the woman can’t win. When she first arrived on the scene as America’s sweetheart, she was criticized for being too excited, something that she lampshades in her new music video for “Look What You Made Me Do“. In her satirical video, she plays on the once-viral idea that her career is over and dead, creating a new persona in much the same way that she did for the song “Blank Space”, only now, she is mocked for being “edgy”. When she writes to Apple Music and has them change their policies so that they’re more fair to starting artists, she is called greedy. When she donates her money, she is told she should have spoken about it instead. Pieces are constantly written about how Swift needs to recognize her privilege, but even when she does so at her trial, the flood of hatred seems to continue.
The strange thing to me is that Taylor Swift truly does not seem to be the epitome of evil so many Bustle articles claim she is. She has plenty of friends and coworkers who have only good things to say, she regularly tops donation lists, she offers plenty of luxuries to fans, including free meet and greets, secret sessions to hear her album ahead of time, and by regularly interacting with them on Tumblr. What is important to me, is that she seems to have a capacity to learn and grow as a feminist. People often accuse her of using feminism as a brand, but if you pay attention to when she actually discuses the subject, usually in interviews, she has some intelligent insights. She has talked about how she was not always a feminist, but she was never educated on what being a feminist means, and how she wishes she had learned earlier. When she was between the ages of 18 and 20, she wrote a slut-shaming song “Better Than Revenge”, but she had admitted that this was misdirected blame, and no longer performs the tune. An issue frequently brought up is when she misunderstood a claim by Nicki Minaj about the racist nature of awards shows, but it usually is ignored that Swift did publicly apologize and announced that she had misunderstood.
Again, I’m not saying that these examples are not problematic, but it does seem that Taylor Swift of all celebrities has some capacity to take ownership of mistakes when she feels she has made them, and her feminism clearly can grow. She is white and privileged, and it is absolutely fair to call out problems such as lack of diversity in videos, but we also should pay attention to how she has handled much of this criticism. The video for “Look What You Made Me Do” featured many more dancers of color than Shake it Off, certainly, and since it followed her recent trial where she discussed her privilege, I feel we may be seeing signs that she has heeded some of the criticism and is at least working on becoming a more intersectional feminist.
Sometimes we are too quick to point fingers and judge. As a white, privileged person myself who knows many other white, privileged people that vilify Swift for these mistakes, things that I could easily see any one of us committing if we were in the popstar’s shoes, I wonder if many of us use Swift as a scapegoat that allows us to ignore our own shortcomings. All of us who come from a place of privilege have some implicit bias, and we must always be working on expanding our intersectionality. Policing everything Swift does doesn’t do anything for any cause, and it does not help us grow either, because it creates something that we can over exaggerate and slander so that at the end of the day, instead of reflecting on our own actions, we can take pleasure in the fact that we were a good feminist who shared a piece about how Taylor Swift is a white feminist on Facebook.
Despite the onslaught of unoriginal articles popping up each day with the same accusations against her, and the many people on social media who claim to hate her or not care about her, it seems that the entire world cares about Swift. A video she released with almost no promotion has broken several records and become the most viewed video within 24 hours of release of all time. Clearly, some people like Taylor Swift, and clearly, those who make such a point to discuss how they don’t care about her, do care enough to whine about their disinterest in her.
Taylor Swift seems to operate in a cycle. Everything she does makes headlines. Regardless of whether or not she had something to say ahout it, there are a million pieces written about it and millions of tweets complaining about it. The surge in popularity inspires more pieces, since they’re easy clicks, and her name gets bigger and bigger. The more everyone complains, the more they seem to help her. The thing everyone “made her do”, with their constant criticism, was write another song, one that will be played on every station, take home plenty of awards, beat records, and make her an even bigger celebrity than before.
It’s almost gratifying as a Taylor Swift fan to know that much of the criticism she receives is absolutely ludicrous. More of it could be seen as reasonable, if people would learn to stop trying to act like she’s planning world takeover, and instead focus on realistic and tangible issues that I truly believe and hope she would try to fix. What’s even more gratifying is to hear the same complaints I’ve heard for ten years and to know that it will do nothing to hinder her, and that while her name is everywhere for the next year or so that she will be releasing new singles, I can simply enjoy listening, rather than be forced to angrily tell everyone I know about my hatred for her.
If you don’t like Taylor Swift, that’s fine. You don’t have to. She really is not for everyone. However, when you blame her for every small thing, and focus not on valid criticisms but on ridiculous issues, you just further her notoriety. The more you complain, the more you talk about how you don’t care, the more you contribute to the mass hysteria that surrounds everything she does. Treating every action by this largely harmless celebrity as capital crimes, and spending all of your time over-analyzing and shaming her does nothing to help yourself or any causes you believe in. Complaining about Taylor Swift isn’t just tired, easy and cliché, it’s absolutely pointless, and it’s time we stop letting it be cool to constantly bash her, because at this point, I think everyone, fans and enemies alike, are bored of it.