Whether you just woke up and you’re in need of catching up, or you were like me and stayed up all night refreshing Twitter, you’re probably all caught up on the latest Taylor Swift versus Kim Kardashian/Kanye West drama. If not, here’s the quick and dirty: Kim Kardashian took to Snapchat to post footage of Kanye asking Taylor for permission to include the line, “I feel like me and Taylor still might have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous?” in his song “Famous.” While Taylor and her team fervently denied that she approved of the lyric for months–even alluding to its offensiveness in her Grammy speech–the footage proved that there was, in fact, an agreement of sorts from Taylor. Because we’re all predictable pop culture drones, we all flipped. The memes came fast and furiously, stan wars began, Selena Gomez joined the mix (with side eye worthy results), Khloe Kardashian and Chloe Moretz started fighting, and there’s already discourse about bullying and whether or not we’re all being bad feminists for laughing at a photo of Taylor Swift’s head on a snake’s body.
Found this Pokémon earlier I only need three more lawsuits to evolve it! pic.twitter.com/hJ83qvt1jC
— ira² (@antisexuaI) July 18, 2016
Bullying is bullying. Kim and Kanye’s bullying of Taylor legitimises every schoolyard bully’s justification that ‘she deserves it’.
— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) July 18, 2016
It’s this last bit that’s been particularly nerve wracking. Is one woman calling out another woman’s dishonesty anti-feminist? Sure it is, if your approach to feminism is what I and many others ruefully refer to as “Taylor Swift Feminism.” What’s Taylor Swift Feminism? Think of it as a type of feminism that might be well meaning–investment in equality between men and women, wanting girls to be empowered–but becomes embroiled in watered down rhetoric and cutesy mantras. Remember when Taylor accused Nicki Minaj of pitting women against each other? That has become the litmus test of whether or not you’re a good feminist. But isn’t feminism more than never being rude to another woman, or having a girl power squad? Here are four reasons why it’s time to reject Taylor Swift feminism now, not later.
1. Feminism cannot just be about women being nice to each other at all times.
Here’s the thing: Girls say and do things that are harmful to other girls and girls at large all of the time, and it’s unfortunate. There should absolutely be a concentrated effort to stop girls from perpetuating slut shaming, or from body shaming, and other gendered attacks. But there’s a tendency to condemn any and all negative communication between women (famous or otherwise) as “girl hate.”
Listen, we’re human beings. Not everyone is going to like each other, and women are no exception. There are women out there that I simply don’t like and don’t care for, and nothing about feminism dictates that I have to support everything they do just because the patriarchy is getting us down. It’s one thing if your reasons for disliking somebody have a covertly sexist leaning–thinking a strong willed woman is a “bitch” if you wouldn’t mind the same qualities in a man, hating on somebody because you think they sleep around too much–but otherwise? Let’s not get silly.
Think of it this way: Let’s say I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton and I call her out for initially supporting the Iraq War, and a woman tells me, “Okay, but Hillary faces sexism and needs your support. Stop encouraging girl hate.” Um, in what universe is that an acceptable response? I can’t dislike Hillary Clinton because people say bad things about her? Bye!
Which brings me to another point…
2. Women should be able to fight and disagree with each other without it being a blow to female solidarity.
If you’re under the impression that feminism or any other social justice movement that emphasizes solidarity should all be fluffy spaces where there’s never any disagreements, arguments, or general strife, you’re in the wrong place. We can all agree that every woman is different, right? We’re all marginalized as women, but there are black women and white women, trans women and cis-gender women, gay women and straight women, disabled women and able-bodied women, poor women and rich women, etc. Sup, intersectionality? They’re not all going to have the same experiences navigating the world as a woman, especially the ones who have to deal with being marginalized in more ways than one. So naturally there are going to be disagreements about what’s best for us as women, what needs to be focused on. Having an empire and being able to become a CEO without gender getting in the way might be an important feminist issue for a well off white woman, but an issue like police brutality might be a feminist issue for a black woman who has to worry about whether or not having kids will put them at risk. Meanwhile, laws protecting transgender people might be a feminist issue that’s most important to a transgender woman who doesn’t want to be discriminated against.
Discussing some of these touchy issues might make people forceful, or lead to calling someone out, maybe even dragging someone on social media. But when this kind of frank dialogue is reduced to “not supporting other women,” it’s erasing the heart of some important discussions.
3. Feminism is bigger than girl squads and other flowery symbols of togetherness.
Over the past couple of years, Taylor Swift has shifted her focus to the importance of female friendships, a strong contrast to her reputation for having high profile romances. This helped usher in an era of fawning over literally any female friendship between Taylor and another female celeb. Taylor and Lena Dunham, Taylor and Lorde, Taylor and Karlie Kloss, Taylor and Selena Gomez…hey, nothing wrong with that. Female friendships are important, and in a world that often reduces girls’ worth to what they can provide for men, they can provide refuge. But why does it seem that this theme has become such a strong showing of feminism lately? During Taylor’s 1989 tour, Taylor trotted out her high profile (mostly female) friends, and we were meant to get amped. Look at Taylor, showing us that she has… friends? Remember when Taylor rolled up to the 2015 VMAs with a crew of women, and it gave people #SquadGoals for days? Her video for “Bad Blood” was celebrated as a feminist show of force.
Give me a break.
I think that the value of female togetherness and embracing “girl power” are great baby steps into feminism, but it just can’t stop there. Which brings me to my next point… You appreciate the women and girls in your life, cool! But feminism is about more than squads or you and your friends taking photos of your hairy legs on Instagram as a feminist act. This brings me to my next point…
4. Feminism is about more than just men and women being equal.
Taylor Swift, like most of us, didn’t always identify as a feminist, but now she wears the term proudly. That’s great, because it helps the term become less taboo and more socially acceptable. In 2015 she told Maxim, “…to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it’s just basically another word for equality.”
Again, this is a great introductory approach to feminism, but it really can’t stop there. When we say that feminism is about women being equal to men, we have to ask ourselves an important question: Which women? Equal to which men? Women aren’t even equal among each other. And in terms of equal to men? Let’s be real: Nobody is thinking, “I want to be equal to a black man in our society.” Why? Because we know that black men are also given unfair treatment. Maybe I’m being nitpicky, but this is why I cringe whenever I hear people say that feminism is about women being equal to men. Feminism should be about fighting against systematic BS that disproportionately hurts women. Feminism can’t just be about women being paid the same as men, it has to to also investigate why black and Latina women are paid less than white women. Feminism can’t just be about fighting rape culture, it has to also focus on violence against transgender women. See what I mean? Equality isn’t a cure all word, we have to understand that oppression is about more than that.
Taylor Swift obviously isn’t the only celebrity who has been lauded as some sort of feminist disciple for doing the bear minimum. Rihanna’s video for “Bitch Better Have My Money” was seen as feminist by some despite depicting a ton of violent imagery against women. Hell, I saw an article about why Blac Chyna taking Rob Kardashian’s last name is a feminist power move. But Taylor Swift has come to embody a type of feminism that is super watered down; a feminism that focuses on never critiquing other self-described feminists no matter what, and, oh yeah, “equality and stuff.” Even here at Gurl, it’s hard to write a single article even poking fun at Taylor without receiving backlash about being anti-feminist. Really? Is that what feminist has been boiled down to?
In essence, Taylor Swift feminism is just another way of talking about “white feminism,” a type of feminism that focuses on problems that affect (or hurt the feelings of) economically well off, straight white women above all else, and everything else is a distraction. These women tend to receive the most protection from criticism–whether it’s Hillary or Taylor–and top the bill of feminist influencers. Criticism is seen as a sexist attack, and wearing a t-shirt that says “feminist” is all you have to do to show the world that you’re invested in helping women. It’s a self-serving type of feminism that is trotted out when convenient, like when you or your fave is being attacked, or when your viewpoint isn’t centered; it’s about being at the center of it all, or else.
I don’t want to play the “are you a real feminist?” game, because I think that’s silly. I’m not here to revoke Taylor’s feminist card or anyone else’s. None of us are perfect feminists, we all make mistakes, and in an ideal world we all learn from them (I mean, even Taylor admitted she was wrong to go after Nicki). But I think it’s time for anybody who calls themselves a feminist to understand that feminism is more than never being mean to another girl, or dyeing your armpit hair green, or voting for Hillary Clinton, or hanging out with your girls and taking fun selfies. Sometimes, being a feminist means getting into disagreements and getting called out. Hell, you can even be a feminist and laugh at a harmless meme that pokes fun at a female celebrity. Let’s get our hands dirty, let’s disagree, and let’s learn from each other. That’s what being a better feminist is all about.
What’s your take on Taylor Swift Feminism? Tell us in the comments!