I don’t particularly like Taylor Swift, so I hate being in the position of having to defend her, but come on. In addition to some of the excellent points made by commenters — e.g., it’s ridiculous to say a young woman who sings about how there are bigger and better things in life than boys, and exhibits more control over her career than most 20-year-old women in the music industry are allowed, is “a feminist’s nightmare” (surely there are more horrifying things keeping you up at night) — there’s the very simple fact that if you pay more than five seconds of attention to Taylor Swift, it becomes very very clear that the cute/sweet/virginal/infantilized image is not all there is to her, nor is it the image she most often chooses for herself. If you want to have a conversation about why we as an audience, no matter how educated or liberal or feminist, seem unwilling to acknowledge that women in the public eye (and in general) can exist somewhere between the opposing extremes of “sexed-up whore” and “sweet baby virgin” (and I guess now “liberal feminist smartypants”), then that’s cool. I’m with you. But if you’re not willing to do that work, and are instead going to take the lazy, careless route of conflating the image projected upon Taylor Swift with the image Taylor Swift projects, and using that to proclaim Taylor Swift, as both a person and a symbol, the enemy of feminism? Then fuck it, you’re feminism’s worst nightmare.
Hell, it was not long ago that Jezebel was criticizing the Cyrus girls for being too sexual and wondering whether Rihanna “should” be wearing skimpy clothes and posing for bondage-inspired fashion spreads, because, I don’t know, when your boyfriend beats you he also takes away your right to express your sexuality, plus some Catharine MacKinnon shit about how women can’t possibly choose to be sexy or have sex, and if you think you can, you are wrong, because women are incapable of consenting to anything, and the ones who want to consent are just damaged from being repeatedly raped by society. Or something. IDK, it’s hard for me to think with this tiny, tiny ladybrain.
But the thing that really gets me about the anti-Taylor stance of ostensibly feminist sites like Jezebel and Autostraddle isn’t that their idea of what women should and shouldn’t do is different from mine — it’s that they criticize Taylor for being repressive and perpetuating the a patriarchal virgin/whore dichotomy by being repressive and perpetuating a virgin/whore dichotomy.
When people dismiss the stories that Taylor Swift writes as unrealistic, unfeminist pap or dismiss Taylor Swift herself as a sexist figure — even if we take them at face value, even if we pretend that Taylor Swift is indeed a virgin who thinks having sex is a bad thing and falling in love and having babies is the best experience a girl can have, they’re still wrong. They’re still wrong to dismiss her. Because by dismissing her, they’re saying that those experiences and those beliefs are invalid and girls shouldn’t have them — and that if girls do have them, then they’re inferior in some way (unfeminist, unintelligent, uncool, whatever). Which is bullshit! It’s the opposite of slut-shaming. It’s prude-shaming, and it’s no better or more enlightened or more feminist than slut-shaming, because it’s still shaming.
So much of the criticism against Taylor Swift seems to be based on her being “the kind of girl who [insert behavior you think is totally uncool, in a way that makes it clear you would never do that because you yourself are way cool].” I mean, the Jezebel piece actually seriously contains the following paragraph:
The result is boring; the song feels like a cloying imagining of a the kind of sheltered high school experience you see on “safe” TV. True, I grew up in New York and spent my freshman year going dancing at clubs, flirting my as off in the hallways, spreading gossip, ranking guys at school on hot lists while simultaneously lamenting how lame/dumb/unimaginative and gullible they were. My best friend and I wrote extensive stories for each other, attempting to create the ultimate fantasy; generally, these dreams involved us having jet-set careers in film directing and bar/club-owning, and movie star boyfriends we barely had time for. For Taylor, fifteen means falling for a boy and dreaming of marrying him. My fifteen was more like: Flirt with this one, make out with that one, try a cigarette, get drunk, lie to your parents, read some Anais Nin, wish you lived in France, attempt to adopt Shakespearean euphemisms for sex into casual conversation (“beast with two backs” was very popular in my circle Freshman year), etc. (I love that Riese notes: “[Taylor has] one song that misinterprets Shakespeare and The Scarlet Letter so criminally I’m certain she’s never read either.”)
Congratulations, you’re a douche. My fifteen wasn’t like yours or Taylor’s, but if I had to make a choice, I probably would have preferred hanging out with T-Swift, because she doesn’t seem like an insecure bitch who’s trying way too hard to be cool and grown-up, will probably peer pressure me into drinking and kissing boys I’m not even interested in, and avoids talking about her actual thoughts because she knows that deep down at her core she is a black hole of ignorance and all her literary references and worldly aspirations are just a dilettante patchwork she desperately hopes can cover up the utter emptiness of her mind.
See what I did there, Jezebel writer? I took a list of things you did in high school, and used them to not only decide what kind of person you are, but to declare that kind of person stupid and unworthy of my time. THAT WAS KIND OF UNFAIR AND IGNORANT OF ME, WASN’T IT?