I have never been a die-hard Taylor Swift fan, but if you were to ask me my thoughts on her, I would say I like her. She’s successful, a self-proclaimed feminist, and some of her songs are pretty good.
Lately, it seems, Taylor’s immense success over the past year has come with a side of accusations that she’s not a good feminist, among other things. Most recently, this article by Gina M. Florio, “5 Important Reasons I Can’t Love Taylor Swift Anymore” posted on a Facebook page dedicated to Feminism, among other places.
The writer then lists 5 ways in which Taylor Swift is a white feminist and how her use of cultural appropriation is offensive and “problematic”. But the only thing “problematic” to me is the article itself, and an unfortunate interpretation of a pop star who likely had no ill intentions. Allow me, if I may, to dissect this list, item by item.
“Her music videos are filled with cultural appropriation”
Cultural appropriation is a newer term for me, but I am comfortable enough to explain the meaning. It basically means using aspects from a different culture for your own benefit. The writer mentions “Shake it Off” as appropriating black culture, so I thought I would go watch it again and see for myself.
Call me ignorant, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. I see a girl having fun, dancing, and telling people she’s not going to let the “haters” get to her. If the problem the original writer is posting about is the minimal booty-shaking or “twerking” we see in the video, then I still don’t see the problem. In this particular video, we see people of color included in the cast. Is it the dancing itself? Is it the fact she has people of different races? To me, this is such an innocent song, I can picture third graders dancing to it on the playground. It’s a “feel-good” song that encourages people to live without worry of what others think.
“She constantly displays white feminism”
The term “white feminism” was a new one to me too. Huh? White feminism? Aren’t we all women?
Nevertheless, I understand women of different cultures experience their own set of obstacles. I agree with this, but the writer chooses to rehash the Twitter feud between Nicki Minaj and Swift over the VMA’s as an example, which I do have a problem with. Essentially, Nicki was tweeting about how if she was an artist of a “different” type, her “Anaconda” music video would have been nominated. She then goes on to say that oftentimes it’s videos that portray women with a slim body type that are nominated. Swift, being the only slim female nominated for an award, took offense, tweeting that she had been “nothing but nice” to Nicki and that it was “unlike her to pit women against each other.” Nicki fired back, claiming that she was speaking out about women of color and their struggle in the music industry. Furthermore, Swift was further attacked for the media reaction that Taylor was the “poor attacked little girl” whilst Nicki was portrayed as the “angry black woman.”
The writer of the original article says that this exchange displayed the “Crux of white feminism–completely ignoring race related issues while strutting a feminism that is defined by women sticking together.”
I don’t see it that way.
Where do I start here? Let’s break it down and look at the facts. Taylor stood up for herself, which any strong woman would do in this situation. She looked at Nicki’s tweets and took them as an attack, misunderstanding or not. Nicki does not mention race before Taylor responds, only after. Which is what lot of people fail to realize.
Secondly, the writer conveniently left out the fact that Taylor realized she had made a mistake and apologized, saying she thought she was being called out, misunderstood, then misspoke, followed by a “Sorry, Nicki.” To me this shows tremendous maturity in a situation where many could have chosen to ignore the supposedly offended party.
Finally, the writer’s point that Nicki was portayed as the “angry black woman” in the situation. Now, I’m not saying women of color are never miss-portrayed in pop culture. What I am saying is this: I do not believe Nicki was concerned with women of color and their issues here, but rather ornery because her sub-par song “Anaconda” didn’t get nominated for an award. Let’s not forget, countless women and people of color have won VMA’s. I think the anger here comes from the fact that *GASP* the song just wasn’t that good. My opinion, but I had to say it.
There is so much to be said about this issue, and this article–including the term “squad” originating as a term for the oppressed, but I want to touch on the last point of this article before this post becomes too wordy.
“She refuses to acknowledge her privilege”
The writer explains how Taylor has painted herself as an “underdog” for quite some time, i.e. the dorky girl at school who wanted the boy that was dating the popular girl. That she carries herself as someone who could be everyone’s friend. The writer than goes to bash her upbringing, noting her parent’s professions and how she received a fancy car when she turned 16. Finally, the writer laments that it’s completely frustrating for Taylor to have the audacity to suggest that she had overcome a lot to get where she is today.
Listen, I know I’m white myself, and I will never understand the struggles of a black person or a black woman. That said, does this mean that if you haven’t faced racial oppression, you are unfamiliar with struggle? Struggle comes in all shapes and sizes and all forms. Why do we put this immense pressure on Taylor Swift to somehow acknowledge that she’s had it pretty good, that whatever she is referring to when she says she had to overcome it, it’s less valid than what some others go through?
As I have seen in the responses to this article, no one woman is a “perfect feminist”. Taylor included. We all have things we can work on and issues that we can focus on. Taylor has done a great deal for women. She has spoken out countless times against sexism. I have to think that perhaps the reason she doesn’t speak out about issues women of color face, is because of the fact she is not a woman of color! If she were to speak on this subject, would she then be criticized for speaking on an issue she has no experience with?
I don’t dismiss the issues that people of color face and I certainly won’t claim to know how it feels. Believe it or not, I do recognize my privilege. What I don’t understand with or agree with, is nit-picking at the things that seem rather innocent. If I am wrong here, I hope to learn. But in the meantime, let’s focus on feminist issues and educate each other, instead of bashing other women who don’t display perfection.