Monday, May 6, 2013

Sexism and Swift

At Huffington Post there's an interesting article written by a high school senior about one of our favorite starlets: "Sexism, Feminism and Taylor Swift." It's like a grab bag of all the stuff I love to blog about.

Gearig points out reasonably enough:

Disliking Swift because of her dating habits is all kinds of awful. No one deserves to be looked down upon for who and how often they choose to date, not Swift and not that girl in your chemistry class. Furthermore, Swift hasn't even been with very many guys: the last time I checked, there have been six of them since 2008. Six! In five years! That doesn't sound bad to me; I know girls who've dated more than that in high school alone, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Thumbs up! I'm big on people dating around; it never happens anymore. We're supposed to be a far more free-and-loose society than that of our forbears, but one look at my grandmother's diary from the 1930s puts that notion to rest. Lady was going on a new date with a new guy every weekend night. Who does that anymore? Nobody, not even Taylor Swift.

Here's where it gets a little kooky:

The whole point of feminism is that women should be able to make choices about their lives without an centuries-old stigma hanging over them. If Swift wants to write songs about love and date six boys in five years and has an idea that she will one day fall in love with a boy and they will live happily ever after, why is this a bad thing? She should be able to make these choices without facing criticism from an inherently sexist society that still does not have a lot of respect for women.

Now, that's actually a fair point to make about feminism. Most militant feminists these days seem to think every woman is supposed to be out in the workforce being a power CEO or something, so much that they evince a sneering, disdainful contempt for women who choose to stay at home or only work part-time. You can't win with these people. Feminism was, and still is, about choice, not determinism.

But Gearig misses the larger point. Swift isn't met with such negative reaction by a lot of critics because of her somewhat traditional values, or even that she writes songs about her dating life and her relationships; it's because all of her songs are so mercilessly formulaic. There are essentially two types of songs Swift writes, "22" notwithstanding:

  1. "I've been hurt by a boy and I'm upset."
  2. "I was hurt by a boy, and I was upset, but I like another boy, so I'm happier."(Immediately return to #1.)

That's not to say I don't listen to and enjoy Taylor Swift, because I do. But I also recognize how trite most of her songs are. And they're not even trite because they refer to a broad kind of genre, but because they refer to every other song she has sung. She trited herself. Her dating life has nothing to do with it; it's how she sings about her dating life that gets people riled up. The first half of the Beatles' library is virtually all about love, relationships and heartbreak, but they sure didn't do the copy-and-paste thing that Swift has been doing. 

But, as Gearig also points out, Taylor Swift is insanely rich and successful. So I guess it doesn't matter anyway. Life isn't fair. 

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