Sunday, January 22, 2017

Taylor Swift, We Need You To Give a Fuck

I had different plans for this post. I wanted it to be part of my Brunch Colloquy series. This one is going to be a doozy. I just needed to get these thoughts out.

Unpopular opinion upfront: I am not a fan of Taylor Swift. 

When I was younger, this was simply because I couldn't get behind her music. I found it annoying and whiny at best. But I understood her appeal to people my/her age. When we were - what? - 14-17 years old, she sang about the same superficiality that we were dealing with in high school. When I was this age, I was highly pretentious. I think we all can be, but as strengthening as it can be to ensure a child understands her own competence and intelligence, that heightened awareness can make said child unbearable at times. And boy was I unbearable. I had a rant for everything. When it came to Taylor Swift, the rants ranged from her "mediocre voice" to her "surface level lyrics." (I'm putting these things in air quotes because they don't matter much to the point I'm about to make. And while in some ways I may believe that about fetus-Taylor, and sometimes now-Taylor, who really cares what my opinion is on her music? She's having fun, right? Let her.) ...


The point is, it wasn't hard for me to be on the "Fuck Taylor Swift" train. I had been a residing passenger for a while, to be honest. When she started to finally accept that she wasn't all that country and moved towards pop, her songs were redundant and got stuck in my head. I credit her and her marketing team for their ability to make shit stick, but I, of course, was livid... Made me hate everything she was doing more. I would also like to point out that I had an abundance of friends that had been obsessed with this girl since she rose to fame, so I never got the chance to escape her either. I probably wouldn't have cared if she hadn't been forced on me back then.

The world saw a metamorphosis that I hadn't expected of Taylor Swift starting a couple of years back. I really thought she wasn't capable of being more than she was: a presumably vapid human being. I mean, she seemed like she was nice. I wouldn't have spat in her coffee, but I just didn't care for her celebrity persona or art. That's okay. It's subjective as hell. Taylor became infinitely more likable once she started to be more aware of feminist issues and have her say in them. It was cool she was speaking up. Plus, she made herself the butt of the joke sometimes, and even poked at jokes that I was guilty of making. That whole psychology of laughing first, or at least at some point, really did wonders for her general facade. I was starting to come around. And there was a huge, stubborn part of me that didn't want to admit that. Then her album "1989" came out. Guys, girls, and nonbinaries... I... Well, there's no easy way to put this: I fucking loved that album.

To be honest, there are parts of me that still love certain songs. They are witty and fun and not nearly as redundant as "Red." And on top of that, she was seeming to really understand the power of the female voice. And I don't know if y'all were paying attention to her Tumblr at the time, but aside from the cats, her genuine posts and replies to people were just great. Just a funny young woman that knew she was a little awkward but also had the confidence to be stronger than that.

It all came crashing down rather fast for me, though.

First, it was little things. I was still willing to believe that Taylor Swift and I could be sistahs. I was really letting go of that pride. I loved the song "Bad Blood." Honestly, I still do, but it had some issues outside of its original version. When I first noticed them, I chose to do what I often like to do with entertainment and that's take it at face value rather than project too much onto it without due cause. Sure, art should be analyzed, and I will do so gratuitously any other day, but because I was enjoying myself, I really didn't want to examine it further. I didn't want to come at Taylor's empire with a sledgehammer just because I was stubborn. If I was enjoying myself and her, then why not be happy to be on the same side for once? That's what building communities and understanding each other is all about. But I noticed these little things, and at the end of the day there is just no escaping that truth. Before I go further, I should say that by now, you've probably heard the opinions I am about to state before, so mine will hardly look original. If anything, this part of the post is about to be quite antiquated and dull for those who have been paying attention. I apologize in advance. There are two versions of "Bad Blood." Let's start there.

I don't know which was for the music video/advertisements and which actually made it to the album because I haven't listened to the published album, but I noticed that the version of the song that came packaged with the music video had Kendrick Lamar in it. I like ol' Kendrick Lamar. I think he's great. But on the cusp of Taylor Swift's album and her interviews being full of her (and other females') power, you'd think she would have chosen one of the millions of talented rappers/singers that are female to be featured on that track. I thought this was a misstep, but again, I'm in it for the entertainment, and I include Kendrick Lamar in the entertainment portion of my enjoyment. I let it slide. (We'll also get to why I believe she didn't have a female shortly. And you could make the argument that feminism is about equality so having another gender isn't a misstep, but I think it goes deeper than having a token male. Yes. Token.)

The music video for "Bad Blood" was cinematic and fun. It was jam-packed full of females kicking butt. I thought it was interesting that it was a video pinning gangs of females against each other, but I let it go, y'know? It looked cool and I love about 90% of the women in that video. I just took it as good golly gee fun. And I'm sure that she did, too. In hindsight, she probably just wanted to shove as many of her female friends into one video to show off their prowess. But when she already annoyed most of sane America with her misappropriation of a Madeline Albright quote in recent months, after she couldn't take a joke from goddesses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler - both who, just by breathing, have done more for women in the entertainment industry and at home than Swift has ever done - it started to look hypocritical and like more planning should have gone into that message. Let's also pause to take notice of what I'm about to say in conjunction with the fact that Taylor Swift has never done well with letting confrontation or comedy slide if it's against her. She will attack quickly and rather poorly.

You see, dear readers, if you aren't aware of the trope in female circles, we're often out to get each other. Claws out. Ready to pounce. Sizing each other up. Can't trust each other. Snatching weaves. A similar, but more "macho" version of this also exists in male circles, but I can only speak nebulously about it. I haven't lived that. I've lived this. I am a female. Born female, female now. I've had 26, almost 27, years of experience being in this game. Subconsciously, Taylor Swift is only furthering those stereotypes and creating a space that says that women will ultimately pin themselves against each other. As if we cannot help it. One of the biggest lessons I've learned - and one you would think she would have learned by now - is that your female friends are the deepest connections you will have. There are power in numbers. But she's too busy picking those numbers apart.

I ignored these things, and I shouldn't have let it go for so long. Especially when it became very clear that the entire song, "Bad Blood," was a transparent parody to the infantile feud she has with Katy Perry (and by association, Nicki Minaj). Which in lies the problem with not having a female rapper. See... Taylor searches for female connections and feminist answers within a very tiny bubble. Her tiny bubble are all skinny white girls (with the occasional, accidental POC) who apparently weren't there to gently tap her on the shoulder and remind her that feuds are pointless and it's time to let go and let god. They also apparently weren't there to hand her a dusty rolodex full of female rapper's names who have been in the game since T. Swizzle was sucking on a pacifier. And it's not dusty because they haven't been making moves, it's just an old list of rappers that hasn't been flicked through recently because people already know them by name and don't need the reminder. So, I can get why one of the more popular rappers, Nicki Minaj, who has been featured on just about anything you can rap on in the last 5 years, wasn't on this track. Nicki doesn't have time for whatever Taylor is trying to sell.

Nicki, despite the shade Taylor has tried to throw at her before, even was woman enough to side with Taylor Swift in her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, proving that she's one rapper that won't hold grudges or be against women that aren't beholden to her ideals. She understands what that power can really do, when you're there for everyone. Just had to point that out. 

What Taylor Swift doesn't realize - after boycotting Spotify (even though accessibility leads to exposure and sells and it's the reason I've never actually heard her album as it is), trying to trademark a year (seriously you don't own 1989, that's just obnoxious), trying to sue and executing immediate takedowns of parodies and covers of her work from other content creators (instead of, you know, uplifting them and understanding that her work is inspiring them somehow), getting into feuds on Twitter with celebrities when she could have just stayed in her lane, and not using her voice and doing when it really matters - is that she's setting the example for young girls and women everywhere that being passive is okay. No. Really. Just go ahead and throw up a little sub-Tweet. We couldn't possibly need anything else from you.

Feminism is not a magic trick of cards where you just shuffle them in front of someone and guess if they picked it - even if you're wrong. Feminism is a branding and a brand. It's a mark on your history and your identity. It's there forever if you're doing it right. It molds your ideals and who you are. It's strong, it's liberating, it's for the greater good, it's active. God. Damn. It.

Once you begin the conversation, you simply cannot stop talking.

Look, this isn't one of these posts where you say you don't care about the celebrity but you clearly do that's why you spent way too long crafting a post about them. I get why you might want to relegate the point of my post to that. Sometimes, it's hard to swallow that your favorite is a disappointing pill of placeboic bullshit. My point isn't that she's trash and we should all hate her and ignore her forever and let her sales plummet. My point is that she's become an incredible disappointment. She's cheap fanfare - as I once called her when I was 15 - and she's proving that she's not really in this fight. And as disappointed as I am, I'm not above saying that she needs to be in this fight. We need her in this fight. She's Taylor Swift, y'all. Unfortunately that means she has too big of a voice and she's using it for nothing. But if she did use her voice for something and then on top of that did something, imagine what that could mean for an entire generation?

We watched her go on and on about her beliefs and her feminist enlightenment for at least a year, then she went radio silent for an entire political campaign that could have used at least two Tweets from her in support of something much bigger than us - a fight for our civil liberties against a man willing to strip it all away from us just out of spite. And it's because she didn't want to isolate her audience? Not to mention, smack-dab in the middle of this scary, divisive, campaigning, she was busy leaking news that she's going to buy a 24-hour Taylor Swift channel on TV? That's your news and big announcement on Twitter? When I hear that, I know that she's not here for you or for me. She's not here for women. She's here for what will fucking sell. And right now, that's saying you're a feminist. For her, that doesn't include doing anything else. I also just double checked myself and not only was she never seen at any rallies or performing for anyone, she only Tweeted once about voting, and that was the day of, probably just because she could make it cute, if we're being honest. Which I don't hate her wholly for. We're all in it for that fire Insta, but.... 

I will give Taylor Swift this: like the rest of us, she is still learning, and she's not going to get it right all of the time. But when she has exposure and access, she has very little excuses for not doing better. Her lack of involvement with the Women's March on Washington was my final straw. After watching her get into petty social media wars and losing the strength to care if she comes out better on the other end for the past two years, seeing her - as someone so wonderfully put it - gross opportunism calling out the march but didn't have the decency to be there, enrages me to no end. She couldn't spend any time working with politicians who are trying to make our lives better during those petty fights with Kanye West? If she had been doing both, I'd at least give her the credit for standing up for herself, but now I don't have the energy to be proud of anyone who only fights if its centric to her own needs.

Not only is my lack of empathy to a point of analytical deconstructive levels - taking the decomposing corpse of her latest album and picking away at it with meticulous tweezers until I've sacrificed the whole of its body and understood it for what it is: cheap entertainment grasping at popular hands just trying to feed on truer sustenance - but I am of the point now where until I see her with a sign in her hand trying to stand for something when it's not conveniently in front of EW's cameras, I will no longer be supporting anything about her.

I saw fans clamber to defend the artist, as they do, with arguments that stated that Taylor didn't want her presence at the Women's March to detract from the message. There were celebrities upon celebrities upon celebrities upon celebrities at women's marches across the country, across the world, and yet her presence would have had the whole fucking city so shook they'd forget how to walk? You are not that important, but this is.

3 comments:

  1. I applauded Taylor Swift for not forcing hr opinions on others. Social media is too ready to pounce on a celebrity. Heck you are attacking her for NOT sharing her opinion, what if she doesn't share your opinion. She is just tying to do her job (make music). It isn't her job to speak for all women.

    She is very close with her fans and donates a lot of money to charity. She is a decent roll model now. She doesn't need to put on a pink pussy hat, talk about blowing up the white house or tell us her pussy bits back.

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    1. That's your prerogative to think that's okay, but I won't just let people only talk about issues when the stakes are low when their voice matters. I'm not about letting that slide anymore. But you can be if you want. I don't think differently of others for feeling any sort of way about it, but I'm not into it.

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    2. And I don't expect her to be the voice for all women. That's not what any of this is about. And it's not fair to put that shit on anyon'es shoulders. Her purview to actual issues is so small that she can't speak for all of us, but she could have added to the conversation, and she chose to push her Fifty Shades Darker song instead.

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