She’s gone from a country music staple to a supposed feminist role model for millions of teenage girls; Taylor Swift is none other than this year’s pop music ‘it girl’. From Adele to Katy Perry, it seems as though each year a female popstar is promoted non-stop on radios, televisions and blogs for the world to see. However, one of the major appeals of Taylor Swift is her image as a feminist. There are a lot of titles you can apply to Swift; the current pop princess, multi Grammy award winner, hopeless romantic, but is Taylor really a feminist? Or do some of her recent actions (i.e. Bad Blood) suggest otherwise.
While her thirteen-year-old, unlucky in love fans may be swift to defend Taylor as a feminist, Taylor herself has previously avoided the label of being a feminist. In a 2012 interview for The Daily Beast’s Ramin Setoodeh, Swift claimed “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life."
However, in an interview with The Guardian in August 2014, Swift spoke about her newly formed famous friendship with fellow feminist Lena Dunham leading to her ‘feminist awakening’.
Swift told the guardian:
“As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means. For so long it’s been made to seem like something where you’d picket against the opposite sex, whereas it’s not about that at all. Becoming friends with Lena – without her preaching to me, but just seeing why she believes what she believes, why she says what she says, why she stands for what she stands for – has made me realize that I’ve been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so.”
According to Swift, she avoided adopting the title of being a feminist due to not knowing what the term meant. Swift avoided feminism until recently, now it seems Swift has not only assumed the identity of a pop star, but also a feminist. Possibly to increase her stance in the saturated world of female dominated pop.
Swift’s squeaky clean, non-quirky, non-sexualised, awkward, heartbroken and newly feminist image is seemingly refreshing although her new hit single “Bad Blood” contradicts Swift’s stance on feminism.
“Bad Blood” was written about an undisclosed female musical artist. In a interview for Rolling Stone in September 2014 with Josh Eells, Swift revealed the artist attempted to sabotage one of her concert tours by hiring people who worked for her. Numerous publications ranging from Billboard to Time suggested Katy Perry as the subject of the song.
Arguably, Taylor Swift’s success, not only with her young female fans but also worldwide media can be attributed to her songs always having an anonymous subject (usually an ex-boyfriend). Once the songs are released to the public, rumors and gossip surrounding the possible subject of the song spread across social media, news websites, and teen blogs and between teenage girls trying to figure out whom Swift is ‘shading’. Therefore, any irate song directed at another female popstar who is rumored to have sabotaged America’s sweet heart would cause a frenzy among fandoms and the media.
But, I thought when Taylor faced adversity; she would ‘Shake It Off’? rather than hold ill, negative and unfriendly feelings towards another female artist.
The lyrical content of “Bad Blood” is not the only controversial aspect of the song. The music video which features several female “celebrity” (albeit D-list) special guests who all happen to be Swift’s friends. Taylor (as Catastrophe) and her friends are seen forming an all-female gang including the likes of Lena Dunham, Zendaya and Jessica Alba as they arm themselves for battle against Arsyn (Selena Gomez) who betrayed Swift. As the Swifty gang approach their nemesis, the video ends not with Arsysn and Catastrophe solving their problems with a friendly feminist fist bump, but slapping each other’s faces suggesting the continuation of “Bad Blood” between them.
“Bad Blood” is a faux feminist statement. Swift’s young female fans are sure to admire the strong and tough personas Taylor and her friends adopt to go to war with their nemesis. The array of weapons and violence can be seen as a ‘rejection of subjugated roles of women are portrayed in the media’ but a closer look reveals a more juvenile and threatening motif.
Bad Blood is a primary school playground anthem for petty fights after someone steals your favorite colored crayon and you want revenge. Thus, contradicting Swift’s previous ’Shake It Off’ message to her haters, instead, you use your friends as a weapon to scare your opponent. You form a gang to enforce your stance. You manipulate your friends to also have “Bad Blood” with your ‘nemesis’ despite them not having a problem with that person themselves.
In what way is pitting yourself, your friends, your fans and the media against another female celebrity feminism? In response to Emma Watson’s feminist speech for the United Nations, Taylor was quizzed about her views on Emma’s during an appearance on French TV show Tout Le Monde En Parle
"So many girls out there say, 'I'm not a feminist', because they think it means something angry, or disgruntled, or complaining, or they picture rioting and picketing. It is not that at all. It simply means you believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities."
Taylor also hit back at the way the media pits women against each other in comparison to men.
Swift said, “Females are kind of pinned up against each other. For example, you'll never see online 'Vote for who has the better butt: this actor or this actor'. It's always this female singer and this female singer.”
"One thing I do believe, as a feminist, is that in order for us to have gender equality, we have to stop making it a girl fight, and we have to stop being so interested in seeing girls try to tear each other down."
Now it seems Swift is contradicting herself. Not only do the media pit women against each other, especially female popstars, but females also pit themselves against each other. Swift has now assumed the role as a feminist as claims ‘girl fights’ and society’s interest in ‘seeing girls trying to tear each other down’ as one aspect preventing gender equality. On the other hand, “Bad Blood” is the epitome of pitting Swift’s female popstar nemesis against herself and causing a very public and unreserved ‘girl fight’ between Swift, Katy Perry heir female fans and the media.