I’ve never really taken any notice of Taylor Swift before. I knew she existed, of course, but I never paid any attention to her or her music, which is probably a good thing since the back catalogue I’ve listened to in the last few days since getting curious about her has mostly not appealed to me much. But then I read this charming interview of her, listened to this song from her new album and I thought, “You know what? I think she’s quite darling and that song was incredibly youthful and sweet. I miss that sort of thing in my life. I think I’ll buy her latest album and see if I like it.” So I did.
And I did.
I’m not yet one of these people, but the more I learn about her, the more I respect her for putting up with so much crap and for doing it so gracefully. And I’m not just talking about Kanye and his “Imma let you finish” stunt.
In fact, I really liked it, and I might come back to discussing why, but let me sum it up by saying it’s not because she’s got an exceptional voice, or deep lyrics, or vast musical skills, but because the album is full of nice, cliche pop songs about young love and young love lost, with lyrics that are just surprising and creative enough to get a hook in. Basically, I’ve listened to nothing else for a week straight now.
But what I’ve been fascinated by is the Taylor Swift hate out there. Wow, is it ever big! And obviously, everyone’s entitled to their opinions and feelings on various matters, but I got curious–why the hate? So, I googled looking for reasons why Taylor Swift was considered such an awful person. What I found is as follows:
1) She is apparently a feminist’s nightmare. Yes, that’s right. A woman who was barely twenty years old when that article was written is being publicly shamed by women much older and possibly better educated than her for not being feminist enough, or rather not feminist in the right way, in their opinion.
Thanks, Jezebel, for pigeon-holing me into the ‘virgin’ part of your virgin/whore dichotomy. I’m only 22 years old, but I absolutely deserve being publicly put into that box and mocked for not being sexual enough. Thank you!
While in some ways I see the point of many of their comments, I think this commentary from Tumblr pretty much sums up my thoughts on this matter:
But the thing that really gets me about the anti-Taylor stance of ostensibly feminist sites like Jezebel and Autostraddle isn’t that their idea of what women should and shouldn’t do is different from mine — it’s that they criticize Taylor for being repressive and perpetuating the a patriarchal virgin/whore dichotomy by being repressive and perpetuating a virgin/whore dichotomy.
When people dismiss the stories that Taylor Swift writes as unrealistic, unfeminist pap or dismiss Taylor Swift herself as a sexist figure — even if we take them at face value, even if we pretend that Taylor Swift is indeed a virgin who thinks having sex is a bad thing and falling in love and having babies is the best experience a girl can have, they’re still wrong. They’re still wrong to dismiss her. Because by dismissing her, they’re saying that those experiences and those beliefs are invalid and girls shouldn’t have them — and that if girls do have them, then they’re inferior in some way (unfeminist, unintelligent, uncool, whatever). Which is bullshit! It’s the opposite of slut-shaming. It’s prude-shaming, and it’s no better or more enlightened or more feminist than slut-shaming, because it’s still shaming.
How dare you be 22 and not kissing random dudes you don’t even like, Taylor? How dare you write songs about a less jaded idea of romance? God, grow up, woman! No one should be allowed any youthful dreams these days when the writers at Jezebel lost theirs ages ago! Or never had any because they were too cool and hip for that nonsense!
I thought perhaps Jezebel might have lightened up on Taylor Swift with this latest album, but, nope. It appears they have not:
Of course, Swift does write her own songs, generally about boys, love, and falling in and out of love with boys. There are women younger than she is — Rye Rye and Azealia Banks, for instance — experimenting with new sounds and sexually charged lyrics; Swift has stuck to a formula and carefully curated image: The patriarchy-friendly, virginal, good, pure, feminine, pretty blonde girl that has been an American ideal for decades.
I am at a loss as to why that is a problem? Are girls and women no longer allowed to enjoy music without sexual charged lyrics or ‘new sounds’? And let’s look at what they are actually shaming this very young woman for here. They’re shaming her for being a virgin–or at least seeming to be a virgin. What now? I mean, I’m not a virgin-advocate, but if someone doesn’t want to have sex for whatever reason, whether that be religious or just because they’ve never met a guy they want sticking their dick into them, that’s their prerogative and why is that shameful or something to taunt them over or be ugly about? They condemn her for being good? What now? For being pure? What does that even mean? Isn’t that the kind of language they often say shouldn’t be used because it’s not helpful to women and doesn’t even have a real definition? Do they mean pure of heart? Pure of mind? Or is it all about that ‘pure of body’ thing again, which is a virgin/whore dichotomy that they are setting up themselves? Then they complain that she’s feminine. And pretty. And blonde. Heaven forfend! Clearly she is the devil! And because she meets (in their opinion) an American ideal, she should be…what? Ignored? Skewered? Not allowed any success? Condemned? Mocked? Shamed? Oh, Jezebel, I’m not pleased with you on this front.
2) I discovered that when she was 18 years old, she wrote a song and put it on her first album that had a rather sketchy lyric that could be interpreted as ignorant at best and homophobic at worst. The lyrics were as follows:
“State the obvious, I didn’t get my perfect fantasy/I realized you love yourself more than you could ever love me/So go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy/That’s fine, I’ll tell mine you’re gay”
So, I admit, I’m not terribly upset by these lyrics, especially given the age she was when she penned and recorded them, but, here’s the thing that makes holding a grudge about these lyrics or calling her a homophobe based on them kind of ridiculous: someone apparently schooled her, and she a) apologized, and b) changed the lyrics. In fact, you can no longer buy an album with the original lyrics and the music video also features the changed lyrics. What does this tell me? She is teachable. She is young. She learned a lesson and she’s brave. She stepped up, apologized, and did what she could to make things right. That, to me, is a lot more important in terms of whether or not she sucks as a person than whether or not she’s cashed in her v-card and wants to write songs with new sounds and sexual lyrics.
To be fair, there are some songs written when she was younger that have some ‘slut shaming’ lyrics in them, too, and those aren’t awesome. But that kind of thing isn’t on this latest album, and given how many boyfriends she’s run through in the last few years, I’m not sure she’ll ever go there lyrically again, necessarily. And, no, saying that about her dating history is not slut shaming, because I think that the number of guys she’s churned through kind of makes the Jezebel article look ridiculous. She’s dated men almost twice her age, for ffs, and gone through the others like I go through Licorice Scottie Dogs from Trader Joe’s. (I don’t actually say good on those older men, though. They should know better than to date children.) I mean, the girl is getting her wild oats sown. Leave her be, Jezebel. Surely she’s being ‘whore-ish’ enough for your virgin/whore dichotomy? Or is she still too blonde for that?
3) Supposedly she ‘stole’ a line of lyrics from Matt Nathanson. I’ll just quote from that link:
Singer/songwriter Matt Nathanson drew attention to the similar lyrics when he tweeted: “she’s definitely a fan… and now she’s a thief.”
Matt’s song from 2003, “I Saw,” includes the line: “And I’ll forget about you long enough to forget why I need to.”
Taylor’s new song, “All Too Well,” (most likely about Jake Gyllenhaal), includes this line: “And I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to.”
Oh, ffs, Matt Nathanson, grow up, put your big boy pants on, and be charming about it instead of a big wanker, and maybe sell some albums. Jeez, I’m horrified, horrified I tell you that someone would use a line like that from someone else’s song. Oh, wait, no I’m not. If it was a verse, a chorus, an entire song, a melody, okay…then I’d be pissed. But a single line? No. As a writer, I can say that little thoughts like that get cribbed all the time. Check out The Ecstasy of Influence for more on how often writers of all ilk crib ideas and lines and, in Nabokov’s case, an entire storyline.
Tori Amos used “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” in a song, The Gaslight Anthem used “at night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet” in one of their songs, if Taylor Swift wanted to pay a small homage to a musician who inspired her by cribbing that line, I’m not gonna put her in the corner and shame her for it. I think that Mr. Nathanson would’ve been a smarter fellow to say something like, “Wow, what a great homage. Thanks Taylor Swift. Here’s a link to where you can buy the song that inspired her.” He’d have made some cash instead of looking like a wanker. Just my .02.
4) She writes her songs about actual boys she dated/broke up with/got dumped by. Oh, no! How awful! Um, what??? Seriously, of course she does this. Please. Apparently, John Mayer was humiliated by the song she wrote about him. Well, John, maybe you shouldn’t have dated a 19 year old
child musician if you didn’t want to be publicly spanked for it? In other words, date her at your own peril, guys, but don’t come whining to us when she writes songs about the reasons for your break-up.
So, yeah, I’m not sure why people hate Taylor Swift, but I’m thinking it’s because she isn’t who they want her to be, she doesn’t have pipes of gold, she isn’t a genius song-writer, and yet people love her and her songs. It’s totally a case of “who does she think she is?” and that’s kinda sad and, Jezebel, it’s definitely not feminist.
You can buy her new album on Amazon. You can listen to the title track below and I’ve also included one of the songs I like best from the new album: