Thursday, February 11, 2010

Taylor Swift and some Feminist Ire

I must be really bored today 'cause I’ve just read more articles about Taylor Swift than I'd ever admit to. Ironically, I don’t even listen to Swift’s music. In fact, I had never even heard her sing until today. (Actually I take that back; I’ve been in a Forever 21 recently and since it seems to be the place where horrible music goes to die, I’ve probably been subjected to some of Swift’s songs without even knowing it. Damn Southtown Mall.)

Anyhoo, the reason I got interested was because of this picture that I saw on tumblr:

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It should be no surprise that this pic made me sit up and go, “hmmmm…I wonder what this is about.” The picture lead me to a post by Riese from Autostraddle that claimed Swift is a "feminist’s nightmare."

Favorite quote from the post:

Listen up; if I ever get my life together enough to reproduce other life forms, they will not be joining Taylor Nation – they will be brave, creative, inventive, envelope-pushing little monsters who will find a pretty, skinny white blonde girl in a white peasant shirt strolling through nature-themed screensaver-esque fantasylands singing about how “when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them” not only sappy, but also insulting to their inevitable brilliance.

I don’t want my unborn grandchildren to listen to the story of how Taylor Swift won a Grammy she hadn’t earned. I want them to set pianos on fire.
I definitely agree with this sort of thinking (no pressure Holden), but I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say Swift is a feminist nightmare. I’d much rather cast people like the Palin’s (both Sarah and Bristol) or Laura Ingram as feminist nightmares rather than a woman who sings songs about the same old shit thousands of other artists have sung about.

I also read a post about Swift over at Bitch that was interesting but also quite scathing. Couple that with the post over at Jezebel and it does seem a bit like people are harping on Swift out of annoyance that she won a Grammy over Lady Gaga. While it’s all well and good to question someone’s merits or ponder over whether or not they should have won an award, it kind of seems like people are using feminism as an excuse to bash on Swift (even if that bashing is limited to her public persona only).

Unlike some people (who are getting quite Palin-esque by claiming Swift is somehow above reproach because she’s a delicate young flower and blah blah blah), I think it’s great we are questioning the way Swift is or isn’t perpetuating the Madonna/whore dichotomy. I’m just not sure how comfortable I am with the anger that seems to be focused so pointedly at her. Shouldn’t the anger be directed at the patriarchy? I’m not saying that should excuse Swift’s role or anything, but even if Swift is reinforcing that false dichotomy (which not everyone agrees about) I still we should be talking about the cause of that sort of thinking instead of the effect it’s had on Swift.

The idea that a woman’s value lies in her sexuality is not some new or radical thought drummed up by people like Taylor Swift and I can’t help that think that the patriarchy is actually winning when we keep our focus on one individual woman instead of the system as a whole. Does that make the objections to her message wrong or misplaced? No. But I don’t see how it helps things either.

4 comments:

  1. I think Taylor Swift, yes, is repetitive and sappy and somewhat Ye Olde, but she's largely inoffensive.

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  2. I think, personally, that people kind of over-analize what goes on in popculture. Who cares if Swift is corny and virginal? She obviously doesn't feel exploited, the girls who love her are obviously fine with it, so who cares? I don't want to sound like one of those annoying defensive fans (because I really don't care either way) but if something offends you, just ignore it. Let people do what they want and everything stays where it belongs: the Justice stores.

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  3. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with questioning how pop culture affects us (since it does), but in this case I do think people are taking it a little too far. I think they’re just pissed that her bland music beat out Lady Gaga and Beyonce at the Grammy’s.

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  4. I agree with you that it's important to look at the patriarchal system, rather than point fingers at one female artist. I also have to say that Riese's quote made me laugh. Love the sentiment and certainly agree with the idea of raising brave, creative, etc. kids. But the idea that you get to mold the little people that pop out of you to that degree is pretty funny. If you give kids room to think critically, they are going to challenge their parents' ideas first. They may very well like that corny image of Swift.

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