But I'm going to take the opinion of Sady Davis at Bitch, who calls Swift out for being a less-than-ideal representative of a young woman at the height of fame.
Let's take a step back for a moment, shall we? Back to when I was 16. Back to when my parents found out I lost my virginity because Newsweek had written an all-too-paternalistic feature on how great all these untouched teenagers were. I decided to compose a letter to the editor arguing my view that one could be a smart, responsible, upstanding teen even if you've let someone round the bases. Due to my unending wisdom and eloquence even in 11th grade, they wanted to print my rant. So they called my house to ask permission. While I was at school.
What I was rebelling against when I was 16 is what Taylor Swift has come to represent - the I haven't-given-it-up-so-I'm-better-than-you morality. Being a virgin, by nature, should not make you a "good girl." But the concept is endlessly perpetuated, and I am unwilling to call anyone an unlikely feminist unless they're willing to challenge the "The Disney Factor." The only representations of young women between the ages of 15 and 21 are the virgins or the whores. Our society refuses to allow the middle ground - the not-overtly sexy teenage girl who doesn't totter around on stilettos, but has given a blowjob or two in her day. No one depicts what most would consider average teenage sexuality (need I remind, 63% of high schoolers have sex before they graduate) - you're either riding stripper poles or calling anyone who doesn't wear a promise ring a slut.
For me, here's a big difference between singing songs for a particular demographic, and presenting onesself as being PART of that demographic. Raffi records music for young children - but he doesn't pretend he's a five-year-old. Taylor Swift, though legally old enough to vote, smoke cigarettes, view pornography and serve in the military, is making music for girls that are fourteen and presenting herself in music videos as though she were fourteen. Surely Swift's life experiences can't just be boiled down to four years of high school, can they?
The common response to the argument against Taylor Swift is that those who dislike her image "carry baggage," and "made mistakes" and are jealous of her adorable purity. To say I am envious of her money and fame is not ridiculous - I make thirty thousand dollars a year, for Christ's sake - but I think I've seen more in my 23 years than Taylor could ever dream of, and I'm happy to have that experience. I just don't think young girls need more patronizing, another famous figure who's telling them that if you are female, and you LIKE SEX, you are BAD. In addition, she is framing masculinity in excessively limited terms as well - BOYS are going to push you to do what you don't want to, BOYS are clueless and only go for the girls in high heels, BOYS are going to break your heart no matter what you do.
I'm not going to say that Taylor Swift is a bad role model, because I don't think she is, in context of broader pop culture. But if you look at Swift in comparison to artists such as Jewel, Alanis Morrisette and Fiona Apple - all of whom helped write and cut their iconic American debuts Pieces of You, Jagged Little Pill and Tidal around the time they were 19, Swift's current age - you realize how far she has to come. Swift is lamenting on losing boys to high-heeled cheerleaders and fantasizing about becoming a princess. "Who Will Save Your Soul" addresses American consumer culture, addiction and prostitution, and Jewel said she wrote it when she was sixteen. Alanis, instead of cowering and crying about her breakup, rants and raves and misbehaves on "You Oughta Know," playing anything but the docile feminine doll that Swift has come to embody. Fiona made it awfully clear she's a sinner in "Criminal," and ultimately, this self-awareness made all of us realize how adult she and the other Lilith Fair era ladies actually were. They owned themselves and their images, even at 19.
My point? Let's give it up for the ladies of the 90s. At least they didn't have an agenda other than being totally fucking crazy, and awesome.
Today in Dumb Young Women Who Don't Know What the Hell They're Talking About and They're Making the Rest of Us Look Bad, Eva Lorraine Molina busts out some bullshit about how women nowadays aren't "ladylike" enough.
I bet this girl just read "Modesty" by Wendy Shalit and thought she'd chime in with her own narcissistic, implausible, poorly written diatribe.
"On college campuses telling the difference between liberal and conservative women is nearly impossible when they behave in an equally undignified manner. Conservative women should display their values through their lifestyle. This means acting like ladies, because the difference between conservative and liberal women should not just be the way we vote."
Conservative women wear modest clothing. Liberal women dress like they're competing for Miss Hawaiian Tropic. I'm sorry but I can't take anyone seriously who makes sweeping generalizations and divides people into two categories.
"A lady does not tell dirty jokes along with men and she does not tolerate men telling dirty jokes in her presence. She does not swear, and she is not considered 'one of the guys.' In spite of new fashion trends, a lady always dresses appropriately, leaving a lot to the imagination. When at a social gathering, a lady does not do things she will regret the next day. Above all, a lady is well-mannered, dignified, gracious, and kind."
A lady has no sense of humor. She does not have fun, and she is not considered "someone you hang out with." In spite of new fashion trends, a lady wears the frumpiest clothes possible, hiding behind her baggy shirts and long dresses because she refuses to be seen as a sexual being. When at a social gathering, a lady sits around as a bored designated driver while her husband drinks thirteen Budweisers. Above all, a lady is passive, quiet, desperate and a doormat.
She goes on, my friends:
"Our society holds conservatives to a higher moral standard."
Let me repeat that, because the first time I read it, I choked on my water in a fit of laughter.
"Our society holds conservatives to a higher moral standard."
No wonder the Bush administration tortured prisoners, Larry Craig solicited a man for gay sex in an airport bathroom, Ted Haggard did meth with his hustler boytoy, Tom DeLay laundered campaign money, Mark Foley sent lewd messages to teenage Congressional pages, Jim Bakker served jail time for fraud and Jimmy Swaggert hung out with a prostitute at a hotel in New Orleans.
Really living up to that standard, let me tell you.
"I have heard many of my male peers place women into three categories: 'the ones to mess around with, the ones to date, and the ones to marry.' Though this is a rather crude way of categorizing women, it shows that men do recognize and value the qualities that make a woman a lady. Ladies are the kind of women that men can take home to Mom and Dad and that most men want to marry."
Sweetheart, he might want to marry you, but he's sure as hell not going to want to sleep with you. It doesn't matter if he puts a ring on your finger, you'll sit home barefoot and pregnant while he's sleeping with one of those women who's there 'to mess around with.' Sorry, but party girls always win. Get a grip.
What all of this boils down to, essentially, is this: Women are supposed to be perfect, happy, attractive helpmeets at all times. Any incidence of women showing INDEPENDENCE, any self-actualization, any time women show dissatisfaction with their lot in life or desire to change said lot, we are being "unladylike." And naturally, it's all OUR fault that society has changed and we've been labeled "sluts." It has nothing to do with the fact that men have been responsible for the hypersexualized female image in modern media. It isn't related to the fact that our society is entirely focused on the male gaze. And, in Molina's world, it's up to us to change in order to be respected by men - of course, it's not the responsibility of men to progress past patriarchy's "fuck them, date them, or marry them" axiom, and change to earn OUR respect. Get off the floor, Eva. Have some dignity.
^above right, the hot guy I'm marrying.
at left center, a guy who has trouble getting laid because his eyes are way too close together.
I have a hobby. it involves reading, watching and listening to things that make me furious. usually Bill O’Reilly gets my blood boiling when I want to raise my blood pressure, but I’ve also become a big fan of reading the blogs of pick-up artists. I’m sure you’ve all, by now, heard of “the game,” a series of tactics that men who consider themselves “alpha males” use in attempts to get into women’s pants. I would hope these men would figure out that women are onto their bullshit games, but they keep on trucking, regardless.
one of their biggest proponents is a Washington, D.C. blogger by the name of Roissy. Roissy has developed a “dating market value” test, in which he lets us know that the ideal woman is: 17 to 20 years old, needs little makeup, is within the IQ range of 80% of people in the world, with D sized firm breasts, long legs, a round ass, flat stomach, toned arms, small hands, essentially hairless, small waist, smooth skin, plump lips, big eyes, is helpful, not competitive, doesn’t swear, smiles often, and who loves wearing sexy lingerie, giving blowjobs and doing anal and will try every sexual position. if this man isn’t mainstream media’s consumer darling, I don’t know who is. he’s after some essential virgin/whore that doesn’t exist, a stereotype of a woman within a heteronormative sphere, a youthful little wife-type with no opinions of her own and total reverence of men. he wants a submissive mail order bride because he’s so insecure that he can’t bear to be with a woman who might disagree with him or decide she doesn’t need him (PUAs are even more afraid of lesbians than they are of outspoken women).
one of his loyal followers: “But one can’t escape one’s genes, not even liberated moderns. Now unshackled, women are not inherently polyandrous. Rather, they tend towards serially [sic] monogamy.”
not only do these men fail to understand that women are human, they also choose to put 3 billion people in the world into one category. see the Zoe tribe of the Amazon, the Nepalese & Tibetan polyandrists, and the fact that you have never taken an anthropology class in your life.
Roissy is classic for contradicting himself.
“If she’s the gossipy, backstabbing, conniving sort who drips with sarcasm and generally disdains everyone around her, you can bet her black soul will seek sustenance on a carousel of cock.”
two paragraphs later…
“You want to be on the lookout for manic depressives and girls who can’t make it through a ten minute conversation without screeching in phony excitement.”
the message: a woman should never be cynical. nor should she feign niceness. she should be nice, all the time, despite the fact that on an almost daily basis there are pick-up artists breathing down her neck and hoping they can get her panties off, while she routinely faces discrimination in work and pretty much every other avenue of life.
and lastly, the fucking insanely racist piece de resistance:
“Sorry, folks, hate to say it, but going by my personal experience and what I’ve heard from friends, black chicks seem to sleep around more. Don’t blame me, I’m just the Deliverer Of Truths Best Left Unsaid But I’m Going To Say Anyhow.”
buy into socialized bullshit much? I bet he also believes everything Billy Mays ever told him, and that we’re winning the war in Iraq. also, Asian women are submissive, black men have huge penises and I’m a fat unattractive man-hating lesbian feminazi who needs a good fucking.
ultimately, Roissy and his ilk are merely men who use misogynistic and racist stereotypes as a means to explain whatever they’re not secure enough in admitting exists outside of the sphere of white male middle-class existence. a woman isn’t nice to you and thinks what you say is stupid? she’s a big fat whore! A woman is annoying? also a whore! she’s black and therefore has no common experience with me or interest in sleeping with me? total backdoor slut.
from the comments on a post:
“It seems that the betas would want to team up with the alphas and try to get better against our natural nemesis – women.”
the magnitude to which these men hate women is obvious, but what I’ve found more glaring is the fact that all of them hate themselves. they are obsessed with women – spending hours “practicing” even how to approach women, before even attempting to bed them. they assume “game” as their personalities because in reality, none of them are interesting, clever, intelligent or attractive enough for women to actually want to sleep with them. by becoming someone else, they can trick women into falling for them, though the women are actually falling for the psychological bullshit unloaded upon them, since the women they prey on are generally not smart or self-confident enough to see through it. the entire lives of these men revolve around women – whom they hate. they hate women because they can’t get over their obsession with vaginas; and, by extension, the keepers of those vaginas. Roissy advocates acquiring a nice car and a good job – not because they improve the life of the man, but because that’s what women like. I don’t understand how someone can be an “alpha male” when they’re actually living their lives entirely in a sad attempt to impress women.
ah, the good old days. when I was young, carefree. when I dated complete morons.
as I get ready to embark on this crazy journey you kids call "matrimony," I can't help but be reminded of my expansive and often frightening romantic history. I find this to be a good time to reflect and put it all behind me as I get ready to start life with the only person I've ever been in a relationship with who can actually deal with all my bullshit.
I put forth, for your examination: three of the most screwed up couplings of my 23-year-old life.
Exhibit A: Chelsea's Traveling Circus, featuring The 180 Degree Man
when I was 18, I was probably the most miserable person on the campus of Northeastern University. I was also the biggest mess. I smoked far too many cigarettes. I ate horrifyingly fattening cafeteria food every day, I wore way too much glitter for my own good, and I drank Southern Comfort religiously. after screwing around with a misguided emo kid, an actor, a software peddler, a pagan and a hipster, I fell for - you guessed it, or, actually, probably not at all - a long-haired World of Warcraft player English major who pretended to play bass. who was a virgin. pro-life. and a Republican.
not a very long story short, we dated for a year and a half. I took my second v-card. he broke with me over the phone right after my mom got out of the hospital, where she almost bled to death. not that there's any ill sentiment remaining. it appears that after we split, he cut all of his hair off and voted Obama. how charming! I like to think it was my bold, overtly feminist ramblings, but it seems to me now that he was either 1) naively under the political direction of his overbearing Catholic mother, who continued to buy him action figures for Christmas when he was 19. or 2) claiming to have voted for Bush and and against abortion simply to irritate me. I wish him all the best, regardless of the fact that I actually have no idea who he ever was to begin with.
Exhibit B: Work Relationships are a Bad Idea, Even if One of You Doesn't Work There Anymore
fresh on the prowl in January 2008, I admitted to a former coworker that I had a crush on him following an inebriated night in the city. we had worked together as co-ops and had spent most of the 6 month period making fun of each other. he admitted the feeling was mutual. things are supposed to progress grandly from there, are they not? we met up in Allston for drinks. drinks turned into hanging out at my friend's friend's house until 3 am. that turned into an awkward sleepover on my parents' couch. we made out in a stairwell at Jillian's during a work party. he took me to lunch and left me on the stoop of my office building, and he didn't call me again. until he found out I met someone else. turns out he was "cleaning up the mess" of his psychotic meth-addict ex-girlfriend, who has her eyebrows tattooed on. last I heard, they had a beagle together. mazel tov.
Exhibit C: I Thought I Did a Dead Guy
I just want to preface this story by saying: when I was 17, I was an idiot.
I met a guy on the internet. I'm not going to go into my internet rant, and I'm not going to discuss how the internet has led to two engagements of people I know. including my own. all I will say is, I met a guy on the internet. and he was a lot older than me.
seven years older, to be exact. I invited a guy seven years older than me to come to my house. and he did. and he brought pot. and I hooked up with him.
we went for a walk around my neighborhood and he invited me to go "camping." now, we all know about "camping." "camping" is not cooking on an open fire, sleeping under the stars and enjoying nature's pleasures. "camping" is going somewhere so you can have sex in a tent. and foolish me, wanting adventure and more of this guy's pot, agreed. I met him at a forest in Taunton. he regaled me in stories of jam band festivals and sleeping with a woman in her forties so he could get unlimited use of her Cape Cod beach home. he told me all about the trailer he lived in while we sat in my Jeep to avoid mosquitos. I was bored and he was an asshole. I drove home the next morning and never saw him again.
one day, curious about the hippie douche I went "camping" with, I Googled him. much to my surprise, I found an obituary for a person of the same name, and approximate same age, from New Bedford, where he claimed to be from, but the obituary was dated 1999. I convinced myself the loser I met assumed a dead man's name so he could screw high school chicks from the North Shore, and fell into a miserable shame-slump about it.
recent Facebooking has refuted my initial conclusion. the guy I met from the internet did provide me with his real name. he only used his weed to bed me. and his about me says it all: "you could never understand this shit." I think I do, Brian. I think I do.