Honestly, I am not a Taylor Swift fan – in part because I think she’s way too hyped up and hearing her songs constantly play over the radio has gotten rather irritating. But I’m also not much of a fan because of the annoying way she’s presented herself over the last couple years and the fact that Swift is quite honestly the best example I can personally name of White Feminism™ (okay so Tina Fey and Lena Dunham also rank as some of the best examples…).
Melissa A. Fabello wrote for Everyday Feminism about the 5 ways in which Taylor Swift does exemplify white feminism and why it’s a problem. One thing that Fabello brings up is that Swift seems to only really surround herself with beautiful, thin, rich, famous, white women. Her squad seems to be mostly women who look exactly like her…
And her latest video (The Wildest Dreams), for example? It’s set in Africa (that’s vague as fuck) but features almost exclusively white people. Plus, her Bad Blood video? Not exclusively white people but very close to it. Dayna Evans also wrote an amazing piece about how Taylor Swift isn’t your friend, as much as she appears to be.
Taylor Swift has frequently been critiqued for her cultural appropriation, particularly in regards to her twerking and use of black culture in Shake It Off. (She’s not the only white pop star to not only use black culture and be criticized for it.) Janell Hobson wrote about both Shake It Off and Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda, highlighting in particular that Swift works to distance herself from being overly sexual:
…when Taylor Swift deliberately positions her awkwardly dancing body in “Shake It Off” as a way to defend her innocence against the constant slut-shaming she has experienced, she reifies her whiteness, her purity.
And for me, it just seems like Swift’s own feminism seems the easiest path she could have taken to proclaiming to be a feminist. The thing about fighting oppression, about being a feminist is that there is going to be work and the journey will be uncomfortable. But many of Swift’s actions seem to be a shallow nod at what mainstream White Feminism is. Adding people to the background of your tour doesn’t mean representation. And for someone who has said feminism can mean women helping other women, Swift has made a lot of money off hating other women as Elfity on Persephone Magazine pointed out:
Taylor Swift has made a very, very large amount of money off of hating on other women. She’s sold a lot of records with the, “I’m not like those other girls,” message and helped to perpetuate the virgin/whore dichotomy. She is not without blame. It’s nice that you like t-shirts and sneakers, but it doesn’t make you any better than the woman who likes high heels and short skirts. Lobbing hateful, sexist lyrics like “She’s an actress, whoa. She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress, whoa,” that seek to specifically devalue someone’s profession because OMGslut don’t really seem like they’re helpful to other women.
I do think that Swift’s identity as a feminist and some of her actions (like apologizing to Nicki Minaj for making Minaj’s critiques of the 2015 VMAs all about her) can have some good implications. People aren’t perfect and we as society shouldn’t expect people to be so. But that doesn’t mean that Swift or anyone else is free from critique. Nor does it mean that we should just ignore problematic behavior because of a few good actions.