I would like to start by saying that I may not be the most qualified person to write about this, as I have limited knowledge of feminist theory. The only things I feel DO make me qualified to write this are that I identify as
1) a feminist
2) a Taylor Swift fan.
I am constantly hearing of all the things Taylor does that are problematic and seeing her described as ‘every feminist’s worst nightmare’. Whilst I certainly acknowledge there are problematic aspects of her music (namely the slut-shaming and virgin/whore dichotomies), I don’t think it’s fair to say she is an enemy of feminism, when there is so much more that suggests otherwise.
'But all Taylor Swift sings about is boys!
This isn’t true. She has written a number of songs that have nothing to do with relationships. ‘The Best Day’ is written for her mother and is essentially a thank you for all her mother did for her during childhood. ‘Change’ is an empowering anthem about overcoming obstacles despite the odds being against you, and not letting anyone hold you back. ‘Long Live’, ‘Innocent’, ‘Never Grow Up’, ‘A Place In This World’, ‘Mean’… the list goes on.
Also, I’d like to add, there is absolutely nothing wrong with singing about relationships. There is nothing wrong with falling in love with a man or getting your heart broken by a man - it doesn’t make you weak and it doesn’t make you any less of a feminist.
'In Fifteen, she talks about how 'Abigail gave everything she had to a boy'.. does that mean all Abigail had to give was her hymen?'
Moot point. The song doesn’t say she had sex with him. Giving him her ‘everything’, to me just seems she gave him all her love, believed they’d be together forever kind of thing. That’s something that happens to a lot of young girls (and boys) and you can try and pretend that it doesn’t, but it does. In the same song, she also sings ‘In your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team’. Jussayin’.
'She's just the epitome of squeaky-clean purity!'
You can look at this from two perspectives: you can say it’s problematic because it seems to condemn female sexuality, or you can see it as a positive thing that she has been successful without catering to the male sexual gaze. She proves that you don’t HAVE to let guys ogle your goodies in order to make it as a female in the music business - you can appeal to women first and men second, and still win Grammys. And yes of course there’s nothing wrong with having sex appeal, but it’s just as wrong to condemn a woman for appearing virginal as it is to condemn them for being obviously sexual.
I admit, I wish Taylor would stop with the obvious slut-bashing. I realise that that one line in ‘Better Than Revenge’ certainly isn’t ideal. But what I really, really fucking wish is that people who consider themselves feminists would stop putting down other women for not being exactly what they think a feminist should be. It doesn’t matter whether you shave your legs or believe in abstinence or listen to Taylor fucking Swift. If you believe fully in gender equality then you are a feminist. Simple as.