(Un)feminist Guilty Pleasures: Taylor Freaking Swift

Anyone who has ever been foolish enough to entrust me with the creation of a playlist intended for public consumption knows that I have terrible, terrible taste in music. I pretend to like country ironically, and I act like I only listen to bubblegum pop to keep up with the zeitgeist, but that’s because I’m a filthy liar. I am a filthy liar with horrendous taste in music. My Grooveshark playlist currently contains Miley Cyrus, Ke$ha, Justin Bieber and of course, Taylor Swift. And yes, in case you were wondering, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself.

I’ve been hearing Swift’s new song “Mine” a lot on the radio here in Sydney, and I’ve been bopping along to it while remaining totally aware that it’s, well, completely in keeping with my usual taste. The song is typical Taylor: true love (heterosexual, monogamous and blonde love, I should say) is tested and ultimately prevails. Despite the hardships, Taylor and her One True Love make it work and make it last and have two adorable blonde babies because their love is, like, so strong. Some observers have noted that instead of daydreaming about a prom date, Swift is now singing about a husband and father to her children,  a sign that she might be attempting to grow up in the public eye without taking the “sex it up” route that aging teen starlets are so prone to. All the same, this song doesn’t deviate from her tried, tested and very popular formula. Jamie Keilies at Teenagerie has been listening, too, and she doesn’t like what she hears:

This song is rife with freaky-deaky, weirdo language that frames Swift as someone perpetually under the ownership, or at least care, of a male authority. The lyrics describe her as not a woman, but as a “careless man’s careful daughter” that her new boyfriend has “made a rebel of.” This is problematic to me, in the sense that it implies a transfer of her ownership from one man to another. I think it’s weird in this song that she doesn’t seem to have any sense of her own identity away from the love interest, or her father. I do, however, give her props for the use of the line “we got bills to pay.” Though grammatically incorrect, it implies that Taylor will be helping to pay the bills though some means of gainful employment. Let’s go back in time 50 years so that I can congratulate her on being progressive!

When you’re a feminist who believes in the power of pop culture to reflect and shape our values, it can be really hard to just sit back and enjoy pop culture. It can be so difficult to switch of the voice in your head that says, “this is really sexist!” long enough to watch a so-bad-it’s-good reality TV show or grind to reggaeton. There are lots of critiques to be made of Taylor Swift’s message and branding and yeah, Beyonce really did have the best music video of all time. But I do hereby declare: despite all this, despite my suspicion that it’s rotting my brain, despite the mockery that it earns me from my friends and family, that Taylor Swift is my (un)feminist guilty pleasure.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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