Header image credit to Billboard
It seems to be that the most controversial and dividing opinion is where you stand on international pop star Taylor Swift. I don’t have to tell you that she started out as a simple country girl and rebranded herself countless times, eventually becoming some sort of pop vampire. And it seems that no matter what she does, people find a reason to hate her.
However, what’s truly interesting are the differences in people’s distaste for Swift. The issue of her character is dividing people around the world for a reason, and it seems that those with strong opinions fall into three, distinct categories: “white feminists,” anti feminists, and intersectional feminists. I would argue that these categories get broken down further into, her supporters, the wrong way to hate Taylor, and the right way.
I’ve always had a distaste for the term “white feminist.” Often, the stereotypes associated with those accused of being a “white feminist” come from a place of the person not being educated, and the accuser eventually grows out of it. Regardless, “white feminism” can be summed up as an entry level approach to women’s rights that only consider issues that face Western Caucasian women, and using these issues to shout over women of other races. An on-topic example would be the fact that people have praised Swift for twerking in the Shake It Off video while simultaneously shaming Beyoncé for being an open, sexual being. That being said, Taylor Swift has become the poster girl for “white feminism.” Those that identify with these ideals are the Swifties.
So what do I mean when I say there are right and wrong ways to hate Swift? This is where the anti-feminists and intersectional feminists come in.
Taylor Swift, anti-feminists and feminists
Let’s start with the anti-feminists. Since her days as the girl next door with an acoustic guitar, Swift has been writing about her relationship woes. Such iconic singles as You Belong With Me and Love Story made their way into the mainstream, resonating with young romantics and dominating the radio. Pretty soon, it became the cool thing to do to hate Taylor Swift. This was due to the fact that she only wrote about men and whined about them all the time, which people took to be a bad thing. She was labeled as a “sl*t” for her list of exes, and so the controversial opinions began.
This sl*t shaming is due to the girl hate that our society is subject to. An issue that is dominating the face of Western feminism, sl*t shaming is the idea that women are told they cannot be sexual beings in the way that men are allowed to be. It is obvious to see that this is a dangerous way of thinking, that harms young women while praises the rampant behavior of young men. Often, this isn’t something we consciously do — we as a society have normalized this attitude, and it takes a great effort to unlearn.
Shaming Taylor Swift for her multitude of ex-boyfriends is nothing more than sl*t shaming, and her celebrity status reveals the double standard in a broader sense. Men, be them solo artists or in bands, have been writing songs about women for as long as music has existed — Maroon 5, Ed Sheeran, Fall Out Boy, Plain White T’s (anyone else think Hey There Delilah was creepy?) to name a few. If your reason for hating Swift chalks up to her former lovers, it’s a deeply anti-feminist and problematic one.
Speaking of past lovers, you may remember that Swift fought this anti-feminist hate when she released Blank Space. The single played up her crazy ex-girlfriend persona that the media and her haters played into, and poked fun at the flings that surrounded her career. Many feminists began to claim her as an icon, celebrating her parody of the image painted of her. Instead of letting the haters get to her, she decided to just shake it off (ha!)
So… when did the feminists turn on Taylor?
Intersectional feminists — which can easily be summed up as actual feminists — began to point out the problematic ideas that Swift has been promoting her whole career. If you indulged in the link to the Shake It Off video above, you may notice the awkward gyrating and black featured dancers in the background. Swift was accused of using them as mere props and appropriating their culture in an attempt to better her image.
Furthermore, if you recall our conversation on sl*t shaming, people were quick to dig up the fact that she’s participated in that herself. In Better Than Revenge, Swift calls out a woman’s sexual history, saying “she’s better known for the things she does on the mattress.”
Moving into the present day, anyone who keeps up with pop culture knows about her feud with Katy Perry. Of course, Perry is also at fault for dragging this mess on, but the fact that Swift is promoting such nonsensical girl hate to further her brand is deeply problematic.
In the midst of the Perry/Bad Blood mess, a feud with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West began. Swift claimed that she never approved the messy lyric in the first single off West’s new album, Famous. The lyric in question:
“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex why, I made that b*tch famous (G*d damn) I made that b*tch famous”
The lyric, of course, refers to West stealing her VMA and claiming that Beyoncé was robbed. While this odd award ceremony moment is deep in the past, Swift began beef with West once again when she claimed that she didn’t approve the lyric. Kardashian-West then posted a video of a phone conversation with Swift in which the lyric is then approved. This sent pop culture fans into a frenzy as they claimed which camp they’re in, Swift or Kardashian-West. Once again, we have girl hate being used to promote her brand.
In a riveting article by The Daily Beast, we tackle the problems with Swift’s “girl squad” and political silence.
What say you, Girl Squad?
First, the girl squad. The article points out that those in the girl squad have been known to remain silent on social issues — for example, Selena Gomez came under fire for thinking it was silly to use her platform to support black lives matter. It is important I note that there are activists in the friend group, such as Zendaya. However, it is the belief of many self-proclaimed activists that you cannot align yourself with people who are not willing to speak out when times get hard, or who are poison to your beliefs. For example, squad member Lena Dunham has been accused of molesting her sister, and Gigi Hadid has been accused of racism — Swift said nothing on either of these issues.
A deeper issue with this girl squad is the idea of exclusivity that surrounds it. Swift may have aimed to publicize the squad to promote positive female friendship, but the entry only status about it makes it seem like nothing more than a real life Mean Girls “Plastics” scenario. The squad “reveals” that fans look forward to may look like exciting promotions of mutual support, but they can also be seen as chalking women up to their looks and status in order to further Swifts brand.
Then, her political silence. While it is the choice of many celebrities to not speak out, the issue with Swift’s silence comes from the demographics of her fanbase. A seemingly patriotic woman, it is an unavoidable fact that she gains a decent fanbase of Trump supporters. Now, of course, we should not paint with too broad of a brush when it comes to our President’s supporters. However, Swift is a self-proclaimed feminist and women’s rights activist, yet stood silent when an alt-right group essentially crowned her their queen. After all, people of both parties are buying her music, and she needs to tread carefully, so why would she alienate her anti-women fanbase?
Lastly, intersectional feminists point out that Swift’s money hungry attitude is distancing her less fortunate group of fans. It’s no secret that she is copyright hungry, making it impossible for young artists to make fanart and express their love for her without getting hit with lawsuits. Furthermore, when 1989 came out, it was removed from Spotify and sold on iTunes only as a full album. This made it an unnecessarily expensive venture that many women cannot afford, raising the question — does Swift only care about her richer fanbase?
These feuds and a few other isolated moments (her $1 lawsuit, for example) lead to the single that broke the internet: Look What You Made Me Do. Haters were quick to rip the single to shreds, within good reason. The main criticism is that she is playing up the victim card, trying to act like she did nothing wrong despite making several missteps over the years. She does it cleverly, saying it isn’t her fault that she’s angry, rather the fault of everyone who hurt her, to which people responded that she could control her anger in a more mature way.
If you hate Taylor, why?
If your reason to hate her is that she is overdoing her victim card, using black women as props, and parading that she’s feminist while feuding with other girls and remaining silent on important issues– to each their own. If you want to remain just enjoying her music and ignoring the social issue surrounding her, go right ahead.
But if you are still stuck on the narrative that she’s a crazy ex-girlfriend who has had one too many lovers, please consider what made you think that. Is it Swift that you hate, or is it female culture?
Disclaimer: these are the opinions of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of Pop Culture Beast.