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Elizabeth Perie: In Defense of Taylor Swift

I’ve finally reached my breaking point. LEAVE BRITNEYTAYLOR ALONE.

To give you some background, it seems that people are especially mad at T Swizzle this month. They are upset with her for many reasons, like ostensibly being asexual, having an out-of-control interest in antique shopping, dating too many men, and not being sufficiently feminist. Let me repeat. Asexual. Antique shopping. Too many men. Anti-feminist.

First of all, judging a young person’s perceived sexual orientation? Just stop. And I’m not going to touch the antiquing thing with a 10 foot pole.

In terms of slut-shaming her for having multiple boyfriends, I think it’s pretty obvious why we shouldn’t be doing it to a 23-year-old girl, whether she’s a mega-star or just out of college from small townPennsylvania. No one deserves that. Not Taylor and not her young fans, who are probably internalizing these critiques as we speak.

Even Michael J. Fox joined the chorus this week. He said: “Taylor Swift writes songs about everybody she goes out with […] What a way to build a career.” (Sidenote: Taylor tweeted that he called her to apologize.)

Now, I have a lot to say about this “Taylor Swift is sexist” argument. There was one particularly jarring article recently published on Buzzfeed that got to the heart of the issue for me. The piece analyzed lyrics from her songs and asked us: “Does Taylor Swift Hate Other Women?

But what I’d like to know from Buzzfeed is: “Why do you?”

I’m not arguing that her songs are perfect feminist anthems that romanticize healthy romantic relationships. Few, if any, mainstream musicians today (male or female) write songs that are not problematic in that sense, and this probably says more about our preferences as an audience than their talent as artists.

Why, suddenly, do we all feel it’s her responsibility to carry our political banner for us?

It’s one thing to have a feminist analysis of Taylor Swift’s songs and to find them wanting. It’s another to dismiss her because her music doesn’t achieve feminism perfection in a vacuum where no one does. The more we focus on and disapprove of the few female singers who dare do their own writing, the more we are creating a hostile environment for empowered female artists to exist, period. Moreover, Taylor Swift has actually negotiated interesting — and arguably, unprecedented — ways to retain her agency in an industry that would rather she didn’t.

That’s what makes her a feminist role model. When any young singer writes a love song after being in a high-profile relationship, there will always be salacious speculation. Taylor Swift participates in the guessing game — she drops actual code words in her song titles to help guide her fans — and in doing so, she coopts the conversation. Some people even accuse her of manufacturing paparazzi photo-ops of public dates she has with her boyfriends.

Even though there’s little she can do to change the system that puts her private life as a young, female celebrity on display, Taylor Swift appears to have created a model where she can manipulate it. She has preemptively created a narrative for herself that she has power over and, for the most part, has benefitted her career (“Red” has broken how many sales records?).

In an industry that is known for targeting young, successful women and attempting to strip them of their agency, Taylor Swift serves as a powerful example of someone who has fought back in ways that are smart, complicated, and unapologetic. And that’s pretty badass, in my humble feminist opinion.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, for the sake of my sanity, I would like it very much if you would all take a moment to think about why it is that you hate her and other successful women in our viciously sexist celebrity culture. (Also, why you seem to think shopping for old furniture is such a reprehensible habit. Seriously, what?)

It’s also probably worth mentioning that Taylor Swift clearly doesn’t need my defense. She’s got this.

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