Over the past year, I’ve come to a realization: I like Taylor Swift.
To quote Fred Armisen impersonating Joy Behar, “So what? Who cares?” I mean, I like a lot of things that are far less respected than Taylor Swift, so this isn’t really too big of a deal. What I don’t get, though, is what people have against her. From the amount of vitriol directed towards her for the simple act of writing, recording, and releasing music, you’d think she ran a dog-fighting ring or was involved in a hit-and-run. But Taylor Swift hasn’t done anything.
I mean, think about it. What has she done? She hasn’t had a sex tape or any leaked nudie pics or even done anything remotely scandalous. I’ve never even heard a rumor that she’s rude. Sure, I heard that she broke Taylor Lautner’s heart, but come on, who hasn’t.
All Taylor Swift does is write inoffensive pop songs that are, admit it, very catchy for the most part. Do I hate a couple of her songs? Totally. But I also genuinely enjoy some of them, and one more than one occasion I’ve cried to her music in the car (but then again, I’ve also cried to Katy Perry, so that’s not saying much).
There are a few reasons I know of that people hate Taylor Swift. Some people really don’t like any of her music, which is a valid reason to dislike a musician. Some people say that Taylor Swift can’t actually sing, which is also a valid point. I’ve seen her on live awards shows! It wasn’t good! But I only have to hear her glossy, corrected voice on the radio, so I don’t really care. These are not the reasons that bother me.
What bothers me is when commenters and writers on sites like Jezebel act like Taylor Swift is an affront against feminism for having the gall to sing about love and ending up with dudes and marriage and Prince Charming. There’s this article, which is admittedly old (and I really think Dodai is an interesting and great writer; I just disagree with her on a few points, this being one of them). Taylor Swift is a feminist’s nightmare? Really? A feminist’s nightmare is Todd Akin or Ann Coulter or anyone else who literally seems not to understand what words like “rape” and “assault” and “feminism” mean (or, in the case of Ann Coulter, brazenly pretend to not know what they mean in order to make money and harm other women). Taylor Swift isn’t a “feminist’s nightmare” anymore than romantic comedies or Harlequin romances or all those people who keep asking me when I’m going to get married are feminist’s nightmares. One of the lines in the Jezebel piece was a quote from another piece: “Swift’s lyrical message to teenage girls is clear: BOYS. That’s it. Just boys. Crying over boys and feeling broken and/or completed by boys.”
And that, right there, is my real problem with this Taylor Swift hate. It’s couched in this infuriatingly condescending “we know what’s best for teenage girls” attitude that makes me want to hurl. Because that attitude revolves around the idea that teenage girls believe everything they hear and are incapable of not internalizing a Taylor Swift song. And that just isn’t true.
Let’s have a little bit of respect for teenage girls, okay? They’re capable of filtering things out, of caring about romance and boys while also caring about school and their futures, of making their own decisions regardless of what pop stars do. Furthermore, they’re capable of listening to Taylor Swift and Azealia Banks or David Bowie or Fiona Apple or all sorts of other things. Our culture and certain members of our government constantly tell us that we’re incapable of making our own decisions as women. So it’s no surprise that teenage girls, who are so often overprotected and condescended to and sheltered, are presumed to be too stupid to figure out the difference between music and real life, while teenage boys and Justin Beiber are allowed to run wild all over this planet. We need someone to protect us from the male gaze and the heteronormativity of Taylor Swift’s lyrics!
All I know for sure is that, when I wore a younger man’s clothes (literally, because I bought my clothes from the little boy’s section of thrift stores when I was a teenage girl), I used to read, listen to, and watch all sorts of things. I’ve always been interested in the trashy and weird, so the books I read tended to be full of sex, drugs, and bad decisions. But that didn’t make me drink, do drugs, or have sex (or, more accurately, figure out how to get a boyfriend) in high school because my fully-functioning brain told me those things wouldn’t help me get where I wanted to go.
Teenage girls are so much smarter than we give them credit for. I promise you, they can listen to a pop song and not get a “message” from it. Just look at this great post from Rookie. Those girls understand that music can be romantic and stupid and light and smart and deep and heartbreaking and hilarious all at the same time.
Also, if you don’t think State of Grace is great, then I have nothing left to say to you.