I’m going to begin this article by admitting that I was never Taylor Swift’s biggest fan, HOWEVER, I want to seriously applaud her for her recent feminist awakening and mention that I’m now finally allowing myself to listen to her music and I’m not hating it.
Taylor Swift has been a media target since teardrops fell on her guitar back in 2006. Since then, she has been criticized for a veritable laundry list of bullshit such as: who she's dating, how she deals with breakups musically, how she’s “changing”, her dance moves and so on, which has always rubbed me the wrong way and seemed very unfair.
Then there was some (in my opinion, fair) feminist critique of her lyrics claiming they feature a constant virgin/whore dichotomy with slut shaming lyrics like, “she wears short skirts/ I wear t-shirts.” Some people accused her lyrics of being homophobic, “so go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy/ that’s fine I’ll tell mine you’re gay,” and of course perpetuating the idea that women need to be saved by a man “Romeo save me/ I've been feeling so alone/ I keep waiting for you but you never come.”
That criticism paired with her early public opinions of feminism always irked me. I mean, when you hear a female artist who is very influential to hundreds of thousands of young girls say things to The Daily Beast like, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys you can go far in life,” it’s easy to want to hit yourself in the face with your copy of Feminism Is For Everybody by bell hooks, repeatedly. (This also generated a hilarious "FeministTaylorSwift" parody twitter account that transforms her older lyrics into feminist lyrics).
HOWEVER, this seems to be a huge part of our society’s interest with feminism that drives me crazy. We never seem to ask celebrities “Are you familiar with the feminist movement?" before we dive into the “are you a feminist?” question. Call me a conspiracist, but I believe we ask young female celebrities this question to catch them off guard. I say this because 99% of the time the person answers something like “I don’t agree with feminism but…” and will follow that statement with something that actually does resemble feminism. Usually, they are simply unfamiliar with the movement and are basing their opinions on the negative stereotypes and feminist tropes that have been perpetuated in our society.
Learning about feminism doesn’t happen overnight. It's a process. I blame our schools for not teaching women's studies and gender studies, and merely teaching American history through a white, middle class, cisgender male perspective.
That being said, I’m happy to hear that Taylor Swift, along with her gal pals Tavi Gevinson and Lena Dunham, has learned a lot more and chooses now to identify as a feminist, saying in a new interview with The Guardian,
“As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means.”
That interview, paired with Swift's choice to befriend other outspoken females, the fact that she retired one of her most slut-shame-y songs “Better Than Revenge” on tour, and that she’s been strong despite all the criticism that’s been pointed her way, reminds me that she’s on her way to becoming a really great feminist icon. And while identifying now as a feminist doesn't undo her problematic lyrics of the past, it gives me faith that she's working towards correcting that message.
The fact that Kathleen Hanna is a fan is just the icing on the cake.
P.S. Just remember, you probably said some stupid inadvertently sexist things when you were younger and uninformed, you just happened to not be famous and therefore it was not documented to haunt you for the rest of your life. Feminism is a journey and we all learn at our own pace at different phases of our lives.
Welcome to the club Tay Tay!
Photo credit: Wikipedia, KqEd, Getty