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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Reconciling Taylor Swift

I'm often fascinated by pop music. What's popular? What makes it popular? I often find myself singing along with these songs, even though I often don't agree with the message that they send. One of the artists that I follow new singles of is Taylor Swift. I know, weird, right? Her songs are just catchy and I find myself singing along with every word and sharing her songs with friends...mainly as a joke or to make fun of the song, but still. So how do I reconcile my feminist beliefs with the music of Taylor Swift?

Most of Taylor Swift's songs (that I know at least) are about getting the guy, not being complete without a guy, etc. One of my friends (who also has a weird love for Taylor Swift) once asked me: have you ever noticed how many of Taylor Swift's songs end in marriage? I don't know about that one, but most of them end in getting the guy or keeping up a relationship with a guy.

Let's get to some examples:

"Love Story" - all about a guy that her father won't let her see, so they have to sneak around (think Romeo & Juliet, pretty much exactly). Then the father approves and the guy proposes. Ends in a proposal.

"Our Song" - all about being in love with a guy. That's pretty much it.

"You Belong With Me" - all about being in love with a guy who has a girlfriend, then in the end he dumps his girlfriend for her.

"Picture to Burn" - maybe the one song that of hers that I know that doesn't end in getting the guy.'s about breaking up with a guy, so it still centers around the male gender.

How, as a feminist, can I like the songs (or released singles) of a singer who only sings about her relationship with guys? If you only sing about relationships with guys, it shows a dependence on guys. If you have a dependence on guys, you can't be an strong, independent woman.

There are some things about Taylor Swift that do indicate that she is a strong woman. For instance, she was one of the producers of her last tour so that she had a say in how things were done. That's great, especially for a 19 year old. But you would never know this about her through her songs.

I don't know if I can, right now, reconcile my attraction to Taylor Swift's music with my values in feminism. It's something that I think about every time one of her songs comes on the radio. There are some things that can't always be reconciled and maybe shouldn't be reconciled. There are always going to be things that people enjoy doing that might not align exactly with their values, it's a part of the society that we live in. I think that as long as you recognize the problematic attributes of things and question how they fit into society, then it might be ok to partake in things that might be anti-feminist.

Analyzing the anti-feminist attributes of certain parts of society, like music for example, is an important part of my feminism. I guess that's how I reconcile Taylor Swift with my feminism.


RMJ said...

My boyfriend loves Taylor Swift and I give him a lot of shit for it. I call her his girlfriend. I've been contemplating a post on Toby Keith - this might spur me to it.

Laura said...

Oh Toby Keith. He's quite a character. Very fun to make fun of. You should write a post about him, it would be great.

Have you heard his song "Let's Talk About Me"?

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Laura, I just love your blog and am so glad I found you through She Writes. This is a great post, and conveys some of the feelings I've been struggling with (and contemplating a post on). My daughter is 7 and loves all things Taylor Swift, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, Jonas Bros. and the like. I find that I am listening to the lyrics ever more closely.

I'll link to this on my best of the week post next week (just as I linked to your post about John Hughes THIS week. :)

Veronica said...

haha...I've been able to keep my 6yo daughter from most things Miley, but she loves "Love Story." I like it too.

I think I reconcile it with the fact that as teens we want that love story, that romance. One of the best songs about that is "She's in love with the boy" by Trisha Yearwood. But then she follows up in her next album with "Walkaway Joe." We got the fairy tale, but then we got the wake up call.

I think as long as we remember that fairy tales are fairy tales, we can handle the romance.

Criss L. Cox said...

While I agree with everything you say above, I was listening to "You Belong With Me" and while yes, it is about wanting a boy, she does make some feminist statements: she's the girl who wears t-shirts and sneakers instead of short-shorts (to get the boys' attention); she's the girl on the bleachers, instead of the cheerleading captain.

Although her songs are hanging on guys, she's validating being that girl, the down-to-earth, be-who-you-want-to-be girl. (I'm not trying to say cheerleaders are bad people, but we often see girls pushed to be pretty and popular, and here's a pretty, popular girl talking about being just an average girl.)

I also like that there are no objectionable words or adult themes in her songs... can't say the same for, say, Carrie Underwood, singing about being so drunk she can't remember getting married to some guy. Or Kelly Clarkson, idolizing a dysfunctional relationship and saying her life would SUCK without her bipolar, emotionally abusive ex. Taylor sings about liking boys, but at least she's not saying her life is over if she doesn't get the guy.

When my 8-yr-old niece is singing along to the radio in the backseat of the van, I don't mind her singing along to Taylor Swift, but there are many artists that would make me change the radio station.

(So, that's one way to reconcile Taylor Swift with your feminist views.)

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