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TALES OF VINDICATION: Taylor Swift Edition

It is with great interest that I read this – very long! Info-graphic enabled! Other-graphic enabled! – piece in, I believe, “Autostraddle” (with which, I have to confess, I am not all that familiar) on the feminist and musical offensiveness of Taylor Swift. For example, I really enjoyed this passage:

I mean, she’s pretty clear in “Fifteen” — really the only song where Taylor has an actual female friend — that “Abigail gave everything she had to a boy, who changed his mind, and we both cried.”

I’ll spare you the time of listening to the song and give it to you straight: Abigail had sex with a boy, and later they broke up. That’s right. No marriage. She gave him all she had.

That’s right. All Abigail had was her hymen.

Songs like “Fifteen” dig up the ancient Puritan ideal that girls can only access power by confidently and heterosexually denying access to their pants.

I have but one petty complaint, which is: would it have killed you to throw up a cite? Given the truly Kanye levels of reaction to that one Bitch piece (which was all over! Everywhere! For months and months) where I said basically this thing, exactly, I really do want to receive my fair due for pioneering the public expression of massive feminist and personal irritation with that one little blond girl. Especially now that you can apparently do that without being told you hate kittens, apple pie, and Freedom.

But, you know, it’s entirely possible that this person didn’t read the piece! Scientists have informed me that the world does not actually revolve entirely around me, but rather around the orb we call “The Sun,” although I of course responded by excommunicating every single last one of them. HERETICS! Have they never seen the sun quite visibly rise above the earth each day? But, whatever, the point is, if the author didn’t read my Kanye moment (possible! Likely!) something much stranger has happened: contra every single person who showed up to tell me I was BUCK-WILD CRAZY for being irritated in this way, the very same irritation has been induced by the same stimulus in another human subject! Which, in turn, means, I may have been… what is the word we use for this? It is on the tip of my tongue… ah, yes: RIGHT.

It’s rude and immature to say “I told you so.” So, I will simply say: IN YOUR FACE, EVERYBODY.

Great piece, though. Oh, hey, and the graphics!

madonna-whore

42 Comments

  1. riese wrote:

    Here’s a link to the comment where I discovered your piece in bitch magazine (after writing my article) and freaked out: LOOK LOOK LOOK, SOMEONE ELSE FEELS THIS WAY TOO AND IT’S REALLY FUNNY!. I would link you to all of my self-satisfied emails of LOOK AT MY SISTER SADY WITH THE SAME FEELINGS SEE I AM NOT ALONE but those are privates!

    I actually tried to comment on the bitch piece when I finally did find it (another website which linked to my article also linked to your article, so I checked it out) to express other feelings in all-caps and ask you if you wanted to be my soul-sister BFF for life, or maybe just come join my girl-gang on the web, but it wouldn’t go through. or rather i thought it did and then it didn’t and HERE I AM TALKING ABOUT MYSELF AGAIN.

    I can add a link to the article if you want? Should I do that? To say “if you doubt me, DOUBT NO MORE!” Do you want me to. Sady, I am submitting to you. Sady I read & subscribe to bitch magazine but didn’t read anything about Taylor Swift ’til last week. Sady I am lying on the ground in a tattered white dress soiled by the legendary promiscuity of my early 20s and asking you in your superior wisdom to tell me how to live

    oh so it’s option b) IN YOUR FACE EVERYBODY

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink
  2. Sady wrote:

    @Riese: Haha, THAT IS COOL. CAPS ARE FOR FEELINGS. And I also did not mean for that to be as snarky as it sounded! I was just making a joke about laying claim to the Taylor Swift backlash even though I basically assumed you had not ever read the piece ever in your entire lifetime.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink
  3. Sady wrote:

    @Riese: So, no, do not in any way feel obligated to link. IS I GUESS MY ANSWER. CAPS AGAIN.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 8:27 am | Permalink
  4. Eneya wrote:

    I bet in 2 years she will became a bad girl really fast. The same way Christina Aguillera and Britney Spears did. And although Christina managed to produce some good songs, this doesn’t change the fact that pop music tolerates only two types of women: 1. attractive, available and fuckable and 2. attractive, unavailable but fuckable in the long distance time.

    I read a lot how Beyonce managed to get out of this loop, but I can’t see it. Her sexuality is as exploited as all others women in the music industry.

    The video is irritating (the idea that only AFTER you remove your glasses you will be treated as a possible date from a boy (who would want such and idiot though? and I want to point out – possible) or the whole “girls hate each other in the guts because” theory.

    The songs is trying to sell something using the most awful cliches and label them as empowering. Hah. :)

    Dear Tyler – if you want to sing – go along and do it, but if you are going to be this boring, unimaginative and straight-forward sexist, please, just make your one-hit-wonder and get lost.

    Anyway, what I wanted to say was a little bit different.
    I am not sure that this video story was her choice but the people who are behind her and who orchestrate the whole thing.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink
  5. riese wrote:

    Okay Sady I want you to know i just read this post out loud to my girlfriend and when I got to, “what is the word we use for this?” she goes “RIGHT!” even before I read that part. tada

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 11:13 am | Permalink
  6. snobographer wrote:

    Eneya – if Swift ever makes the mistake of publicly stating that she finds Eminem attractive, as Aguilera did, surely Mr. Em will spend a good year or three manically slut-shaming her with blow-up dolls in the same unimaginative fashion.

    And if that doesn’t happen, it’s only a matter of time before a gust of wind blows her skirt up in the presence of paparazzos, at which point she’ll be extradited to Slutsville for revealing her “vagina” (meaning her underwear).

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  7. snobographer wrote:

    On Taylor Swift though? I’m mixed. On the one hand, you’ve got the Madonna/Whore videos and the problematic lyrics (cheerleaders are so snotty, yo). On the other, her Dear Diary songwriting could be good encouragement for girls to express themselves. Maybe her fame will lead to more teenage girls buying acoustic guitars and putting their angsty poetry to music. That would be pretty cool.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  8. Samantha b. wrote:

    I really don’t have much exposure to Swift here in my rural hermit realm, but, wow, those stills are totally an ad for whoredom. Quelle fabulous red dress.

    Eneya, of course Beyonce is continually depicted in a hyper-sexualized manner, but I actually think that’s not a bad thing. I certainly don’t see why she should have to hide her sexuality in of itself. Music has always had associations with erotic, and I don’t think that, by virtue of her femininity, she bears a responsibility to play that down. Of course, my exposure to Beyonce is exceedingly limited as well, but, as Riese points out, she has made effort to speak out on behalf of feminine independence, and I think there’s an element of slut-shaming to the notion that that’s negated by her eroticized self-presentation.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  9. Havoc wrote:

    @Snobographer I think I speak for– Well, myself, at least, when I say my angsty teen poetry should never, ever be put to music.

    Even if I still have my carefully copied book full of angst shoved on a bookshelf.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink
  10. snobographer wrote:

    Oh yeah, Havoc? Tell that to Radiohead.
    note: I am in no way drawing an equivalence between Taylor Swift and Radiohead. Just saying angsty poetry can become good with practice, and that
    encouraging artistic expression in girls is a good though oft-neglected thing
    . I’d bet Thom Yorke’s early scribblings were superduper angsty and possibly quite embarrassing.

    note also: I really hope I’m not coming off like one of those rabid Swift supporters here. I understand the problems with her Disney Princess persona. I’m just hoping something good might come of a female musician marketed to young girls who plays an instrument and makes a big deal of writing her own cloying though accessable songs.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink
  11. Gina wrote:

    You know, my daughter has two or three of Swift’s songs on her ipod. And I have to admit, I never really listened to any of them very closely. I KNOW, BAD FEMINIST MOTHER!! I think, partly because she is also mildly obsessed with Ani Difranco and the Gaga. So I thought, no big deal, there’s a balance.

    Also, I would rather stick my knitting needles in my ears than sit and listen to her songs all the way through. A frequent problem, as the parent of a tween. But, after further thought, I guess I didn’t listen to the songs because I assumed they’d be fairly benign. My kid and I talk about things we think are fucked up and racist/sexist/homophobic all the time, it’s part of our lives.

    She had to listen to me blather on for an hour after she went to see Twilight with a friend. And I am caught, see, between calling out all bullshit that is presented to her all the time, and not wanting her to feel bad for liking a stupid song. Sometimes she gets tired of thinking critically, which I get.

    But I’m uncomfortable with the realization that I waved Taylor Swift through without a first thought, because she’s all squeaky and I’m tired. I guess the thing to do is to ask the child what *she* thinks the song is about. Which usually produces interesting answers.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  12. Sara wrote:

    I’m with Havoc. I hope no one ever finds my teenaged, angsty poetry. Although I still keep it. :)

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  13. Eneya wrote:

    Hm, angsty poetry you say?
    I think it is very good idea actually.
    But I definitely do not believe that a good stimulus for any in-closet poet, writer or just a sane person is trough listening or watching pop-culture music hits.

    Sex as a part of life is one thing.
    Using sex to say anything – from muffins who bluff (god, help me!) to the single ladies, who’s hips so totally don’t lie (I felt like I want to visit my doctor just by watching the way those women… convulse about that damn ring) it is just wrong, because it ties the expressing our minds and thoughts through fashion statements as Gaga or sexualizing yourself beyond belief (Pink, Christina, Britney, Gaga, Taylor… oh, yes, she is as sexuallized as Britney, although somehow she manages to miss the fishnet so far).

    Maybe what I am trying to say is that I am disgusted that women are reduced to body parts or to be precise – stereotyped body part who fit the whore/madonna dichotomy. (Is it just me that finds hugely ironic that the first thing I thought about then I read it in the post i thought of the singer? :) )

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Permalink
  14. Erin wrote:

    Yay, I love posts ripping apart Taylor Swift. Stupid little blond girl.

    No, seriously, I don’t get the absolute glee people express while tearing her down. It makes me quite uncomfortable.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Permalink
  15. Kjerstin wrote:

    !!! I know!! I had that thought exactly when I saw the article linked on Jezebel. I have often thought, WTF Jezebel for not linking to the relevant Bitch blogs (earth! sun! revolving! around me, actually!), but can chalk it up to them not reading it. Fine. But then they link to Auto-WHATNOW? The fuck!

    At the very least, I am glad you are a little less haunted by the Taylor fanzoids that backlashed with their tiny viriginal-white gnashing teeth in the Bitch comments screaming

    LOVETAYSOOMUCH

    _STUPID WRITERS I DONT EVEN KNOW WHY I WASTE MY TIME READING THIS AND COMMENTING ON YOU..YOUR SOOO PATHETIC AND MYBE BORED ON YOUR LIFE THAT U SAY STUPID THINGS ABOUT SOMEONE WHO JUST DO WHAT SHE LOVE BEST WROTE A SONG AND MAKE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC OF IT.

    keep up your grrreat work!

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink
  16. Erin wrote:

    I think it’s because it gives me flashbacks to middle school cattiness.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink
  17. MaryAnn wrote:

    When I read your post on the Bitch blog, the entire time I was thinking, “This is so right on, this Sady really rocks, I am sure that everyone who reads the Bitch blog will be totally down with this.” Of course, to my utter shock, it was the complete opposite. They are all crazy and you rule for writing that post. Reading those Taylor-defending comments made me really hesitant to read the Bitch blog, to be truthful. And I never get involved with the comments anymore. I just wonder, did they think that they were reading Conservative Mom’s Weekly or something? So anyways, you are the pioneer of critique in this instance and I commend you for it!

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Permalink
  18. Eneya wrote:

    That’s cause we are evil man-hating feminists (and of course – prettier women-envying) who think that sexist stereotypes are not cool. :)

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Permalink
  19. Adrianna wrote:

    I dislike Taylor Swift because I firmly believe that the Patriarchy has created her to serve it’s own purposes, and because I hate most people who promote the “slut/virgin” divide, be they male or female.
    I suppose there is a certain vehemence when it’s a woman because it almost feels like a betrayal…like they’re SUPPOSED to be on our side because we have the same genitals.
    Which is stupid.
    But I feel it anyway and I’M NOT SORRY.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Permalink
  20. Maura wrote:

    and of course – prettier women-envying

    Yes! We hate them, but want to be them. :o )

    I’m of the opinion that everyone deserves her own music. I’m amused when People Who Take Music Very Seriously (AKA music snobs) criticize the latest boy band, because dude, that music is not for you. It’s for 8 year old girls. Pick on someone your own size.

    I don’t know much about Taylor Swift, and I honestly had no idea she was so popular. It seems she’s become something of a lightening rod. What baffles me is how she is the spokesperson for misfit girls who suffer because they’re not pretty enough. She can’t hide all that America’s Sweetheart/Girl Next Door beauty behind a pair of really cool glasses.

    Here’s the thing, though. All those misfits are going to grow out of their Taylor love. Haven’t we all grown out of the crappy music we listened to when we were young girls? Hell, I was a little girl in the early 60s (before the Beatles), and the music I heard on the radio is horrifying now. Google “Johnny Angel” and “(I Want to be) Bobby’s Girl”. Or “Treat Her Like a Lady”, with these lyrics: “Strange as it seems, you know you can’t treat a woman mean.” That’s from the 70s. WTF? It was a huge hit. The meaning went right over our heads.

    I get what Sady and Riese are saying about Swift. The messages in some of her songs make me want to tear my hair out, because I’m not keen on girls hating girls because of a boy. But, apparently, her songs speak to a lot of girls. I just think we have to tread softly in criticizing Swift. Coming down too hard on her could result in those girls thinking there is something wrong with them. Don’t they have enough of that already?

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  21. Queen Aeron wrote:

    It’s funny because I had my Itunes set to shuffle and what starts playing as I read this post, “Fifteen” by Taylor Swift. I remember reading your first column about the song and agreeing with you. But then I stopped and listened to the lyrics for a minute.

    While I agree that she is very sweet bubble-gum pop country and for the longest while I couldn’t stand her, she’s starting to grow on me. I found I wasn’t as upset by the lyrics as some of you. I know I wasn’t all the like the girls in the song, boy crazy and into dating (my parents wouldn’t let me date until I was 16), but I had friends like that, so I remember how they were back in the day.

    For the bridge where her friend gives the boyfriend her everything…at fifteen, it does feel like it’s everything. She’s got the whole “this is true love and it’s going to last forever” yada yada yada. Again, I knew girls like that. My first “boyfriend” dumped me right after we slept together and I was in college. I knew better, but damn if it still didn’t hurt like a SOB. Subtract 5 or 6 years (I was a sophmore in college) and it would feel like it was everything.

    Now, I feel like part of the problem is that we put too much emphasis on women as sex objects instead of sexual beings. The Madonna/Whore complex does make me absolutely ape-shit crazy. I have found that I look at things differently since reading your blog Sady. I look at those movies I just thought as stupid and well…stupid and see the sexism in them. I think I saw it but couldn’t define it before.

    I remember when I was a tween and listening to “It’s My Party” with my mom and asking her “Have you ever listened to the lyrics of this song?” She explained to me that this was what was expected of women in her time, but that times had changed and she wanted more for me than what she had wanted at my age. I love Britney Spears and Christina (I can’t spell her name). I love Kelly Clarkson and P!nk and yes, I even am starting to like Taylor Swift. All of their music is pop music. It won’t last forever like the classics (I’m talking swing music and classical) They are like bubbles in the wind. They will be played for a while and maybe show up on an oldies station so that someday our children will ask the same question I did “Mom have you ever listened to the lyrics of this song” and we will answer the same way my mom answered.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
  22. Citizen Taqueau wrote:

    I *wish* someone had made fun of me for liking shallow, stereotype-riven pop culture when I was 10. Perhaps I would have wasted less time on crappy music and teen romance novels.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  23. Eneya wrote:

    I am not sure that criticizing and pointing out sexism or stereotypes is necessarily a bad thing. I do not think that a lot of girls would start that there is something wrong with them after more critical approach to music (hello, we have women magazines for that goal), but reassuring as the norm: women envying each other and hating each other because of the goal to be someone’s boyfriend IS not a good idea.

    I would love to hear a pop music song about strong women friendship between girls or girls and boys. But that is rare. Usually we hear a lot of song about dudes before girls, but rarely the other way arround.
    I am not saying that we need more sexism towards males, but I’d love to see less sexism towards females.

    Although… is it possible that we put too much time and analysis in something as insignificant as pop music lyrics content? I do not think that many girls took them seriously or shape their idea about the worlds trough them.
    Or am I wrong?
    Are we trying to sat that there wouldn’t be sexist women and men if there wasn’t sexism in the media and pop culture and this is more of a wishful thinking?

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Permalink
  24. Sady wrote:

    @MaryAnn: Oh, the Bitch blogs are great! I think that people just weren’t ready to see Taylor Swift backlash at that point in time, so close to the Kanye thing, so it got hairy. I also think it got linked to on some other places, like ONTD, that normally wouldn’t read Bitch. So that might explain where the reactions got all complicated. By no means should you not read Bitch blogs! I think they are pretty wonderful, myself.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink
  25. Sady wrote:

    @KJERSTINNNNNNNN: Actually, I think Jezebel did link to my Taylor piece! Hortense did, in her “is Taylor Swift being set up for a fall” piece. I can’t blame them for latching on to the amazing and vindicatory powers of this very long and comprehensive article, given that they have now too been subject to the Powers of Taylor Swiftite Defensiveness. The Autostraddle piece was good for us all!

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  26. Sady wrote:

    @Erin: Oh, it’s not about Taylor Swift the Person. I actually thought that was a point the Autostraddle piece made quite well. It’s about how Taylor Swift the Media Creation plays so thoroughly into so many ideas about womanhood or girlhood that the rest of us have been shamed for not quite fitting into. And also, if I may be honest? My irritation with Taylor Swift would have been but a passing thing, had I not been subject to the ire of her fans. They’re some of the most hyper-protective that I’ve encountered. I mean. Twilight fans are supposed to be intense, right? And I’ve written plenty of not-so-complimentary things about Twilight. Yet never in my life has the amount of anger from Twilight fans even come close to 1/25th of what I encountered from Taylor Swift fans. There is some scary, Tori Amos-level, how dare you impugn the Goddess kind of rage going on there and it has kind of stoked my fire in a petty, but perhaps unavoidable way.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  27. Melinda wrote:

    I am an obsessive comments reader, and it seemed to me like at least half of the *”pro-Tay”* comments came from a single person who really had something out for Sady and just kept posting the same thing over and over again in response to subsequent positive responses… it was almost impressive…

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink
  28. Eneya wrote:

    Almost impressive?
    The absence of any personal life, goals, interests or anything that could make him/her less sounding and acting like a psychopath?

    But that sort or people reaction is the reason why I wonder if the issue is with sexism and stereotypes or with intellectual laziness and close-mindness.

    Sady, I am truly sorry for the amount of comments I’ve left, but this subject is interesting and is fascinating me.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  29. Maura wrote:

    I am not sure that criticizing and pointing out sexism or stereotypes is necessarily a bad thing. I do not think that a lot of girls would start that there is something wrong with them after more critical approach to music (hello, we have women magazines for that goal), but reassuring as the norm: women envying each other and hating each other because of the goal to be someone’s boyfriend IS not a good idea.

    I agree, Eneya. I wasn’t saying don’t criticize Swift’s music. Girls hating girls because of a boy can lead to women hating women for… any reason. It’s a gateway drug, y’all. But teenage girls are sensitive little humans, and they internalize a lot.

    Having been brought up Catholic, still being friends with a lot of Catholic guys, and having dated my fair share, I am painfully aware of the Madonna/Whore complex, and oh my god, if you’re old enough to rent a car how can you still believe that shit? But, cripes, some guys still buy it, and teenage boys most certainly do. They don’t even have to be Catholic. And I know that sound a whole lot like “be careful, or you’ll get a bad reputation”, but it’s not. Because that’s blaming the girl.

    I think Queen Aeron makes some good points. Having sex for the first time does feel like everything, especially if you’re 15 years old. And there’s apparently a huge number of girls who feel that way. I don’t think that can be discounted.

    Maybe worrying about their reactions to Sady’s and Riese’s posts is pointless, because I don’t think teenage girls are their target audiences. I could be totally off the mark here.

    It feels weird defending Taylor Swift, because she kind of bugs me too.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 8:32 am | Permalink
  30. Eneya wrote:

    I understand you now. Thanks for the explanation.
    You are right… it is a big deal when you are fifteen (hell, it is still a big deal, the sex and the city spend six years and two movies speaking about sex and relationships, so yeah, it is an important part of our lives).

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  31. ginmar wrote:

    The world portrayed in TS’ lyrics–and approved of, apparently, by her fans—scares me. It’s a world where boys take and girls give and it’s all stereotypes and rigid gender roles, and like Twilight, it’s the bees’ knees to the people that eat it up. When I see girls hating girls for a guy it’s far scarier to me than when guys hate a girl for any reason. It’s more than song lyrics or a badly-written novel about a controlling, sexually-repressed stalker vampire boyfriend. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a lot of TS’ fans mothers like Sarah Palin.

    TS is going to face a huge fan backlash if she ever gets caught being ‘not one of us.’ The type of people who like those gender roles aren’t noted for their forgiveness. I hope she saves her money. I frankly expected more of a backlash when she and that Twilight actor broke up. Talk about crossing the streams.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink
  32. Queen Aeron wrote:

    I just finished listening to Fifteen again. I swear it’s not the only song I’m listening to, it just keeps popping up in my Itunes queue. I found myself singing along with the tune and that really forced me to focus on the lyrics. Maybe I’m not a serious enough feminist, but I actually found other parts of the song ring even more true than before.

    I’m 43, so I feel I’m far enough from my teens to be sort of objective, but still close enough to remember what it was like. The line about the 2 girls laughing at other girls. We still do that. I do that when I’m with friends. We check out other people’s shoes (mostly trying to figure out why someone would want to wear heels that tall). I’m not proud of being catty, but I’m not going to pretend that I’m perfect. We all do it. We are doing it now to Taylor Swift.

    She mentions at several points to stop and take a deep breath, not to jump feet first into a situation. Both sexes in their teens are all hormones and puberty and there are many studies that show that certain parts of a teen’s brain aren’t fully developed until their twenties. That’s why they think they are invincible. They don’t always think of the consequences.

    While I was singing along with the song, I went out and got the lyrics to make sure I heard them correctly. She had one set of lines that struck me.

    “But in your life you’ll do things greater than
    Dating the boy on the football team
    But I didn’t know it at fifteen”

    Then she makes a statement that I think still holds true to most women even at any age.
    “When all you wanted was to be wanted
    Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now”
    How many times have any of wished we could go back and change how we reacted to a guy.

    Finally she talks about ‘her’ choice.
    “Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday
    But I realized some bigger dreams of mine”
    She’s deciding to wait because she knows she wants to realize her dreams. That line in particular always hits me because I always felt that I needed to wait to have sex until after high school because I knew that I didn’t want to end up like a lot of the girls in my school, married right out of high school with kids before they turned 21.

    I’m not saying that all of her lyrics are perfect or great anthems to feminism but I think there is more there than we sometimes realize. We (and I include myself in that we) force a person into a type and don’t want to admit it when they don’t stay in that type. Look at Christina Aguliara. When she was into her whole “Dirty” look, she was writing songs like “Beautiful” and “Fighter” which I thought were both incredible songs about how we feel about ourselves and how we can overcome pain and grow stronger from it.

    I don’t fit into one sterotype. I’m personally all over the place, I’m a geek who likes girly things. I love astronomy and Barbie dolls. While I didn’t completely understand calculus, I know if I get more serious the second time, I can understand it better and I keep trying to wrap my brain around Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. I’m all for talking about sexism and feminism but I think sometimes we see things because parts of them fit our perceptions when other parts don’t.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  33. ginmar wrote:

    You know, I read some of the comments at the Bitch blog piece and….those were parodies, right? Right? C’mon, they were parodies, right?

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  34. Brad Nelson wrote:

    Hey, can I get any confirmation whatsoever that Abigail’s “everything” is explicitly her virginity? Perhaps there is an interview with Swift that I’m unaware of in which she volunteers this information with the sort of delightful aplomb that can only come with having remained chaste while her poor friend did not. Except I have no idea from where that notion originates either, as “Fifteen” doesn’t set up Swift as a contrast to Abigail in any sense, but as an analogue, someone who also threw herself into untenable situations at far too fast a rate while in high school, which at that age is oppressive and new. Which is an impression that shouldn’t exist but regardless does through its relentless iteration in every cycle. This can lead to some decisions you regret, maybe.

    And isn’t it a bit non-feminist to remove this girl’s “everything” of anything not resembling the loss of virginity? I mean, yeah, that likely happened, but I guess I think there are other things that define even a world so teenage, like time, devotion, your standard high school fumbling toward love? In my high school experience, that shit was huge, it enveloped every conscious step toward another person, every attempt at connection. There was the distinct feeling that our actions inside this house would not let us get out alive. Which is why I don’t think Swift is so much promoting a healthy fear of sex as much as she’s examining an unhealthy fear of and submission to everything.

    But hey, I guess regardless of my problems with the way you are contextualizing some lyrics about a person (who is real, but it’s not like she was anything but her hymen–which, to clarify, is the identity you’ve limited her to through your interpretation, not anything actually in Taylor Swift’s song), it’s totally possible to read it that way. The initial Bitch blog, however, really distorts “Fifteen” into something that it is not unless you live in the inverted universe, which I understand, I commute there occasionally. You conflate the “I realized some bigger dreams of mine” with sex, suggesting that Swift had bigger dreams than giving up her vagina to some guy who wouldn’t satisfy her as much as God, when the actual line informs that she decided not to marry a dude right after high school and instead carved out a life/artistic pursuit for herself. I am looking for where she tells “girls stories about how being too sexual will make them broken hollow sluts who can never succeed at life” but perhaps that lyric was cut from my Wal-Mart edition of Fearless and y’all went to Best Buy, or something.

    Yes, there are songs on this record like “Love Story” and “You Belong with Me” which arc on gender dynamics that are abominable but existing. It’s why I really dislike her at first blush. But, what do you know, by actually engaging with her music, songs like “Fifteen” and “White Horse” reveal themselves as the wider lenses of these themes, “Fifteen” disassembling this destructive desire for someone who probably isn’t worth all this dogged contrast with her and someone who could be Abigail (although the “laughing at all the girls” line is unconscionable), and “White Horse” knowingly undoing all of the “prince” and “princess” tropes in “Love Story” because Taylor Swift knows it’s all horseshit and to presume less of her is a somewhat shitty thing to do. Why doesn’t she do this in every song? Because, I don’t know, I think Taylor Swift likes to explore these issues through complex narrative instead of surface-level dismissal?

    Also, all the linked article’s consistent need to contrast Swift with Beyonce ignores the latter’s incredible devotion to existing gender disparities in her lyrics, not to mention how, just as Swift, her boys tend to bear halos (this, incidentally, is something Alex Macpherson noticed, not me). “Single Ladies” invokes marriage as a sort of purchase, the chorus informing that you should have bought me when you had the chance, and it disguises its support of a pretty goddamn patriarchal institution as female empowerment, which I think might be a real feminist’s nightmare.

    Others have said more exact and succinct things on the topic. For one, girlboymusic, who really gets to the heart of the problem with the madonna/whore critique (“so, you’re criticizing Taylor Swift for perpetuating a virgin/whore dichotomy and projecting her rigid values upon other women by…classifying her according to a virgin/whore dichotomy and projecting your rigid values upon her? Yeah. Good job.”). There’s also some particularly on-the-money comments in the Taylor Swift thread on ILM (Ex. from kingkongvsgodzilla: “Man, my first impression was that 15 was warning people against adolescent sex specifically as an extension of adolescent infatuation. There isn’t anything anti-feminist about that”). I’ve just been simmering over this article for days. Prior to reading this blog, I didn’t know you started up the choir, Sady. And it’s really alarming to me that someone whose writing I respect so much would endorse this lazy criticism posing as feminist thought.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink
  35. ginmar wrote:

    Did you just totally mansplain the whole thing away and issue a pronouncement on what you think is feminist and…not?

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  36. Adrianna wrote:

    I really think people with two page comments should just start their own blog already. It’s not that hard to do.
    Wordpress is giving it up for free (just like Abigail, har, har, har)

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Permalink
  37. Shiyo wrote:

    I don’t blame people for liking Taylor Swift and the messages in her songs, which I do find fairly innocuous except for the implications of the Madonna-whore theme, but I’m not impressed when people try to say that her music represents some kind of universal adolescent experience or something, which is what some of her fans claim. I’ve always had this suspicion that there’s this whole feedback loop with pop culture where it simultaneously reflects and perhaps exaggerates some aspect of real experience yet also molds our experiences or the way we perceive our experiences that way. From what I remember from high school (and I’m 20, so it’s not that long ago), there were people who might today say “hey yeah, my whole life revolved around this girl or boy or sex at the time” but in actuality they were interested in tons of cool things and forming remarkable bonds with their friends and their angst wasn’t always centered around a relationship, even if they did care quite a bit about their crushes. They were boy/girl-crazy AND all these other things. Even my womanizing rapist of an ex-boyfriend was a championship martial artist who worried about things like being an immigrant and not fitting in.

    I just wonder why there are so few bits of pop culture about teenagers doing all these other things – it seems like every representation of high school life revolves around sex and crushes, if a bit darker drugs and alcohol. That’s especially true for representations of teenage girls – rarely do we see portrayals of friendship deeper than relationships with the opposite gender, or of competitiveness in sports or other competitions, or of girls who are rebellious and nonconformist in ways other than their looks. That’s not to say that relationships aren’t serious issues for a lot of people, but I guess I’m annoyed when they’re seen as the ONLY issues.

    I’m not blaming Taylor Swift for writing what she enjoys, and her melodies are quite catchy; my criticism is directed towards an industry that centers almost exclusively on the topics of sex and love, which ignores huge chunks of how we construct our identity. Even if Swift’s songs talk about one’s growth as an artist, must she contrast this with relationships with the opposite sex, as if they’re two separate paths? Are they really either-or choices? Can we not be all these things, and more? I think that there is a substantial part of adolescence and all the confusion and alienation and depth at that age that has been neglected, and Swift doesn’t exactly help that (though I don’t demand that she does, it’s the big picture that she belongs to that I am frustrated about).

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Permalink
  38. Tiffani W wrote:

    Wow, like Brad, I too am kind of disappointed to discover that this anti-Taylor-Swift thing is coming from Sady, whom I so often champion and agree with.

    I am a Swift fan, but I don’t think that overly influences my interpretation of her music – I’m also a Britney Spears and Katy Perry fan, but songs like “3″ and “Hot and Cold” are some of the grossest, most misogynistic things I’ve ever heard. So my liking an artist’s music and image doesn’t mean I automatically approve of the messages in their work.

    That said, I continue to be extremely confused and frustrated by these portrayals of Taylor Swift as an abstinence-pushing, Christian mafia virgin. I have never once, in all of the time I have listened to her music and watched her interviews, seen her reference God or “good morals” or keeping your virginity to be pure or anything like that.

    “Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind” – I honestly have no idea where you got the idea that this was talking about losing her virginity. This exactly describes a high school relationship I had where I built my fantasies and dreams around a boy who told me he loved me, but just as easily as he had “fallen in love”, he fell away from me. We didn’t have sex and we didn’t need to. Is this not kind of a near universal first break-up sentiment, when someone breaks your heart? And please note the other lyrics Brad quoted because those are the same ones I think of when I read these negative critiques of Swift as supporting the patriarchy; I tend to view her as quite the opposite.

    Anyway, I understand how you could read the virginity aspect into it, but Taylor Swift is not a Christian artist, she is pop-country. (Nearly?) every one of her songs is about falling hopelessly in love with a boy – and either how great it feels in the moment, or how dumb you feel when it ends and you realize you had built your life around him. Because of this I find it very difficult to interpret “Fifteen” as a moral crusader anthem and much easier to see it as an expression of that stage of growing up where you learn you can’t trust everyone, and you can’t always bank on your life turning out exactly the way you imagined, because sometimes there are bigger things for you out there than you dreamed.

    And Ginmar and Adrianna – I don’t think that Brad’s points are invalidated by virtue of his gender or post length. I feel like I’m pretty up-to-date in the blog-o-sphere re: mansplaining, and I didn’t read any of that into his post at all. Maybe I am mistaken by virtue of the fact that I agree with him. But I really would be interested to have some people respond to these criticisms because I haven’t seen anyone do so yet.

    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Permalink
  39. Tiffani W wrote:

    Oh also, I agree with Shiyo that there are not enough teen pop songs that talk about other issues that face teenagers.

    You might be interested to note that Miley Cyrus is (was?) the exception to this. If you listen to that double Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus album that came out a couple of years ago, there are all kinds of songs about how “everybody makes mistakes; everybody has those days; nobody’s perfect” and “life’s what you make it, so let’s make it rock”. The last song on the Hannah disc is actually an anthem to her “true friend” and about how “true friends will go to the ends of the earth till they find the things you need” and “you pull me aside when something ain’t right; talk with me now and into the night till it’s alright again”, and I think there is another song on there that references the same thing (although it’s more of a friend-break-up-song).

    Anyway sorry to fill up so much space, but I thought you might find that interesting! ^^

    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Permalink
  40. Gnatalby wrote:

    I really think people with two page comments should just start their own blog already. It’s not that hard to do.
    Wordpress is giving it up for free (just like Abigail, har, har, har)

    Ahahahaha! Best comment ever.

    @Sady: How DARE you malign the Godess Amos!

    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 5:57 am | Permalink
  41. Eneya wrote:

    @Tiffany
    I am sorry… hot and cold is the most misogynistic song you’ve heard???
    How about almost everything that Perry had published? With the (n)ever lasting hit “I kissed a girl” and so forth.

    I do not have the time nor the enthusiasm to write about the rest of your text.
    So what is the excuse of Taylor Swift(or whoever writes her songs) for the movie and lyrics of “You belong with me”?
    Miley C. is another cup of tea (definitely not my cup of tea) and she is on the other side of the above mentioned dichotomy. Her acts are so oversexualised that I wonder… why?

    But I suppose the logic here is “Gaga can do it, so can I”. But Gaga is not under 18, so I am just…. confused. When sexuality was mistaken with cheap imitation and sexism?

    Friday, February 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  42. polkweed wrote:

    just stumbled on this kerfuffle and want to weigh in. i like taylor swift a bit; her songs are light and upbeat but not distracting so basically good driving music.
    “you belong to me” bothered me not because of the obvious points in your article but because it’s a derivative version of other music with the same subjects and problems.
    “girlfriend” is a terrible song but at least it’s obvious. “you’re hot, your girlfriend sucks, date me instead” as opposed to “from my perspective, your girlfriend doesn’t understand you and you need to realize that we’re soulmates already, boy i stare at longingly but never have an extended conversation with.” the diary perspective makes poor taylor seem obsessive while avril’s head’s on approach is dare i say, audacious? it’s bitchy and it’s shallow but still a strong statement of what the singer wants and exactly how she’s going to get it.
    and then there’s saving jane’s disturbingly similar “girl next door” which rises above the pack by portraying a natural expression of teen girl anxiety and self-doubt. “there’s the popular girl that has everything and then there’s me; i shouldn’t hate her but i do” there’s no focus on male approval or even a show down; just the simple difference in social standing and how it sucks to be at the low end of the hierarchy especially because the speaker might be the only one who sees it that way. compare that to “you belong to me’s” absolute romantic and moral certainty. the song implies (and the video outright shows) that taylor’s pure hearted affection makes her incapable of holding any bias. she’s too good to have her judgment affected by her feelings. there is nothing wrong with virginity, or cute songs, or romance but i expect a nineteen year-old woman to have a little more perspective especially if she’s writing from her own experience.
    “you belong to me” sucks because it features a girl waiting for a man to notice her because she so sure that he will. she’s not determined (or brave) enough to go after what she wants but doesn’t have even a moment of doubt that maybe the reason she’s so unwilling to make a decisive move is because maybe this isn’t the great love story she wants it to be. we’re left with the image of a weak willed protagonist who is possibly delusional; what an inspiration.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink