Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Taylor Swift

     When someone insults your role model it stings.  When a bunch of people continually hate on your role model it enlists a certain kind of expression;  jutted out jaw, pursed lips, scrunched nose, and furrowed brows.   Hands on my hips I stomp my foot and say, “nuh-uhhh!”  My petty, knee-jerk reaction sadly does nothing to challenge the other person’s opinion.  I’m hoping this piece accomplishes more than my hissy fits.    
     A couple of songs of Taylor Swift’s have ruffled some feathers.  Her song “Picture to Burn” is one such song and is about being dumped by a boy and declaring the relationship a waste of time.  The line that is often critiqued is, “So go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy, that’s fine, I’ll tell mine that you’re gay.”  Let me just say I am totally against bigoted lyrics.  That being said I want to explore this.  Though Swift uses gay as a treat she makes no obvious implications that the word gay should or does mean anything inherently negative.  In a different part of the song she discusses getting revenge by dating “all of your best friends.”  I believe Swift is threatening to tell her friends her ex-boyfriend is gay because it would eliminate or at least decrease the chance of him avenging her in the same method she considers using.  Even if Taylor Swift is being homophobic in this song, at least she is using the term accurately instead of as slang for stupid.  There are many worse and irredeemable songs we should be taking issue with before this one, which, depending on Swift’s intentions, might not have anything wrong with it in the first place.

       As much as I adore Miss Swift she does have a few songs that, despite being catchy and dance worthy, have less than stellar aspects.  Her song “Revenge” objectifies her boyfriend and “Shake It Off” has a good message but the video is almost completely based on racial stereotypes in dance.  She is not perfect.  No one is.

     The song “15” is written in the point of view of a senior reflecting on herself as a freshman, an if-only-I’d-known sort of song.  One line in this song has upset many people.  The line is, “Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind.”  The assumption that Abigail might’ve been sexually active isn’t outlandish if the lyrics and music video are considered.  That is not what’s upsetting people.  What has gotten the most panties into bunches is the belief that Taylor Swift considers a teen girl’s virginity to be her “everything,” implying that the love, time, effort, and trust she brings to a relationship isn’t worth anything.  Knowing her songs as well as I do and having listened to many interviews I highly doubt that was Taylor Swift’s intention when writing this song.  Even if that was Swift’s belief at the time she never clarifies for listeners exactly what constitutes Abigail’s “everything.”  Every person claiming Swift means Abigail’s virginity needs to pause here a moment and consider why that conclusion was made.    I believe this interpretation is so popular because of the cultural regime we live under.  For a long time I was guilty of making the same quick assumption about Abigail too.  It’s almost a sort of Rorschach test.  Our assumptions about Taylor Swift’s implications reveal more about us than about one particular song or singer.  We know enough to be disgusted when someone claims a girl’s virginity is her entire worth, yet we are ignorant and oblivious enough not to realize we are the ones making such claims.

     Any slip-ups Taylor Swift has made or  will make need to be held against nine years of her unwavering role model status to millions of young people and her many songs about self acceptance, suicide prevention, overcoming bullying, and everyday life as experienced by a teen and young adult female. 

     Taylor Swift is a talented young person.  She has been voted Most Charitable Celebrity for the past three years on  She gave some of her fans personalized holiday presents.  She gives personal advice to lucky fans on Tumblr.  She calls out gender based double standards.  She is just an awesome person overall.



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