4:46 pm - 01/17/2013

Does Taylor Swift Hate Other Women?

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Here's everything you need to know about the growing feminist backlash against the country pop star and her music. (Contains quotes from tumblr so get ready to whine about real journalism, everyone!)

Taylor Swift may be best known for writing songs that portray her as a wholesome, virginal sweetheart who is victimized by sexualized, boyfriend-stealing "other women." Within this, there has been increasing critical discussion of the role gender-based stereotypes play in her music.

This Her Campus article sums up the issue neatly:
"Part of Taylor Swift's shtick is to slut-shame in her lyrics. In 'Better Than Revenge', she takes a swipe at a girl who apparently stole her boyfriend, 'She's an actress/But she's better known for the things that she does on the mattress.' The Queen of Wholesome often employs guilt-mongering tactics to put down the mean girl/cheerleader types who, she assures us, are more sexual than her."

Tumblr users have also noticed that Swift's lyrics frequently villify the sexuality of other women, as in this post by Sherlocks:
"As shown through her songs that feature comments about 'the other woman' this other woman is always sexually available, dresses provocatively, and is DEFINITELY NOT A VIRGIN. Because obviously, a woman's worth is based purely on the amount of sex she has had."

Sady Doyle, for the feminist magazine Bitch, says Taylor Swift organizes the women in her music into two camps:
"Teen Girls of America, here are your choices: have sex and wind up broken and sad and feeling as if you've lost 'everything you had,' or wait until your untouched vagina accumulates enough charge to make you rich and famous. Because your sexuality should never be an end in and of itself; it should be something you strategically employ to get what you want."

Here's every song Taylor Swift has written about having a romantic rival:
"Teardrops on My Guitar"
I'll bet she's beautiful, that girl he talks about
And she's got everything that I have to live without
She better hold him tight, give him all her love
Look in those beautiful eyes and know she's lucky 'cause

"Should've Said No"
I can't resist
Before you go tell me this:
Was it worth it?
Was she worth this?
You should've known that word, with what you did with her
Get back to me... (get back to me)

She can't see the way your eyes
Light up when you smile.
She'll never notice how you stop and stare
Whenever she walks by.
She don't even know you,
She's never gonna love you like I want to.
She's never gonna see the light
No matter what you do.
She don't even know you.
Baby, let me love you,
She can't see the way your eyes
Light up when you smile.

"The Other Side of the Door"
And I broke down crying, was she worth this mess?
After everything and that little black dress

"You Belong with Me"
You're on the phone with your girlfriend ‒ she's upset,
She's going off about something that you said
'Cause she doesn't get your humor like I do.
I'm in the room ‒ it's a typical Tuesday night.
I'm listening to the kind of music she doesn't like.
She'll never know your story like I do.
But she wears short skirts
I wear t-shirts
She's cheer captain
And I'm on the bleachers
Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find
That what you're looking for has been here the whole time.

"Speak Now"
I sneak in and see your friends
And her snotty little family all dressed in pastel
And she is yelling at a bridesmaid
Somewhere back inside a room
Wearing a gown shaped like a pastry
She floats down the aisle like a pageant queen
But I know you wish it was me,

"Better Than Revenge"
She came along, got him alone and let's hear the applause
She took him faster than you could say "sabotage"
I never saw it coming, wouldn't have suspected it
I underestimated just who I was dealing with
She had to know the pain was beating on me like a drum
She underestimated just who she was stealing from
She's not a saint
And she's not what you think
She's an actress, whoa
She's better known
For the things that she does
On the mattress, whoa
Soon she's gonna find
Stealing other people's toys
On the playground won't
Make you many friends
She should keep in mind
She should keep in mind
There is nothing I do better than revenge
She looks at life like it's a party and she's on the list
She looks at me like I'm a trend and she's so over it
I think her ever-present frown is a little troubling
And she thinks I'm psycho 'cause I like to rhyme her name with things

"I Knew You Were Trouble"
And the saddest fear comes creeping in
That you never loved me or her, or anyone, or anything, yeah

The "other woman"-as-enemy trope is visually represented in many of Swift's music videos, as well. Tumblr user Sexistculture points out the recurrence of villains played by evil brunettes:
Taylor Swift the Product (who I'm sure varies a great deal from Taylor Swift the Person) strikes again with "Mine" which will no doubt be played 12 times an hour on every friggin' station from now until the next time she comes out with another single about being pure and innocent while wanting a boy who is an angelic being filled with light and winning his heart from the evil girl who wears colors and probably fucks.

Seven out of 15 of Taylor Swift's music videos feature brunette bad girls who use their feminine wiles to steal Taylor's Prince Charming. And what's even weirder is that sometimes, the "other woman" in a video isn't even mentioned in the accompanying song's lyrics.

"The Story of Us" — A brunette makes out with a guy in the library, unrelated to anything else in the video.
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"Teardrops on My Guitar" — The boy Taylor likes makes out with a brunette in the hallway.
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"Picture to Burn" — The boy Taylor likes is now dating an edgy-looking brunette.
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"White Horse" — The woman who tells Taylor about her boyfriend cheating is a dark-haired girl who is later implied in the video to be the "other woman."
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"We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together" — Taylor's boyfriend is being groped by a brunette at a bar.
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"You Belong With Me" — The mean, popular girl is played by Taylor Swift in a black wig.
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"I Knew You Were Trouble" — There's a montage of Taylor's boyfriend making out with dark-haired girls in a nightclub.
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It's important to note that Swift doesn't think of herself as a feminist. When asked whether she considers her music empowering to women in an interview with Ramin Setoodeh of The Daily Beast, she said this:
"When people say things about me empowering women, that's an amazing compliment. It's not necessarily what I thought I was doing, because I write songs about what I feel. I think there's strength when you're baring your emotions."

In a follow-up question, Setoodeh asked whether Swift thought of herself as a feminist. This was her answer:
"I don't really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life."

Swift might not think of her songs as "guys versus girls," but many of her songs make much of "girls versus girls." And that's much of the source of the backlash against a singer who actively presents herself as a role model for young women.

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Receipts and Transcript
Let's get ready to rummbbbllleeeeeeee
wownow 17th-Jan-2013 11:14 pm (UTC)
what's damaging about her 'image'? it's a bit of a stretch to say all her music is harmful to women - just one song.
saturdaysinbed 17th-Jan-2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
there are plenty of her songs that are harmful to women, her interviews are harmful to women, most of what comes out of her mouth in general is harmful to women. i can't believe this article doesn't point out the time where she said women shouldn't ever drink alcohol because it's "not cute"
traversant 18th-Jan-2013 02:26 am (UTC)
Agreed, plus even if this is "not that significant" this attitude coupled with other prevailing attitudes upheld by media and other cultural outlets combine into something very real and very toxic. See Marilyn Frye's birdcage analogy; this is one wire in the cage.
daffneygillifin 18th-Jan-2013 06:12 am (UTC)
Have you seen the tour performance of Better Than Revenge? It's horrible, I'm surprised no one has brought that up.

And there's zero "but she was young" excuse because she performed that song last March at the age of 22.
beatlesluv 18th-Jan-2013 07:34 pm (UTC)
WOW did she really? That's ridiculous. I came in to say that what troubled me the most about her is this:

"I don't really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life."</big>

So this girl/woman who considers herself to be a role model to younger girls thinks feminism is 'girls vs. boys,' and that she was taught to 'work as hard as guys.' So problematic and offensive in a lot of ways.
thirteencands 17th-Jan-2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
lol did u even read that article ? damn
wownow 18th-Jan-2013 12:29 am (UTC)
yes, i did read the article but obviously am not as enlightened as you because i don't see any hatred or slutshaming in the taylor lyrics quoted, bar 'better than revenge'. since when is singing about unrequited love evidence of 'hatred of women'?
crystalzelda 17th-Jan-2013 11:18 pm (UTC)
The post has like, lyrics from 10 songs that talk about this issue, and features screencaps from 7 more? It's all right there.

She's often talking about how other girls are thieves, harpies, don't get you, and the videos just reinforce that even when the actual lyrics don't. It pretty much says, "if another girl has designs on the guy you like then she is a HORRIBLE HUMAN BEING AND YOU SHOULD NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT TRYING TO BREAK THEM UP". I mean look at Speak Now, You Belong With Me, etc
wristtattoos 18th-Jan-2013 12:05 am (UTC)
'should've said no' is reallyyyy reaching.
crystalzelda 18th-Jan-2013 12:15 am (UTC)
Some are more relevant than others, but again it's a recurring trope she specifically uses in her music and videos that there was an other woman involved, and saying "was she worth it" hardly sounds complimentary either
joe_pwnz_pete seriously?18th-Jan-2013 06:05 am (UTC)
...the song is about a guy cheating on her, her finding out about it, and the guy begging her to take him back

the "was she worth it" part is reference to "was your fun worth losing me over"?

i'm sorry but what part of that is slut-shaming. i'm not going to defend taylor's lyrics because i absolutely see where some of her lyrics can be kinda problematic. but this comment really kinda makes it seem like you're taking everything this article says at face value when the majority of these lyrics are brief mentions of girls who taylor got cheated on with with no derogatory statements to really be inferred.

"teardrops on my guitar" is about a guy she was really in love with. there's literally nothing uncomplimentary about the other girl in that song. she even laments that the other girl is probably more beautiful than she is which is a common sentiment in a unrequited high school love. she hopes that the girl will treat him well because taylor thinks he deserves that and because if she can't have him, then at least she hopes he will be happy? what's wrong with that exactly?

and in "invisible" she's referring to liking a guy who doesn't know she exists while the guy likes a girl who doesn't know HE exists. like seriously wtf are people just taking any song that mentions another girl and saying it's slut-shaming?

i've documented my thoughts on the "you belong with me" lyrics but there's nothing in "i knew you were trouble", "the other side of the door", and "speak now" was written from someone else's point of view.

jesus christ, i just way too worked over this. imma drink some hot tea and make a sandwich.
albeit_ 18th-Jan-2013 12:12 am (UTC)
lol have you listened to these songs this is the definition of reaching
crystalzelda 18th-Jan-2013 12:16 am (UTC)
I have, and while I personally don't think they're all slut shaming, they aren't, it still is part of the issue that in many of her songs and singles and videos she releases, she feels the need to include a third party upon which to shift the attention.
soma910 17th-Jan-2013 11:21 pm (UTC)
Many of her fans are young girls, who are impressionable and look up to Taylor Swift. Her music's message is harmful in the way it perpetuates a girls against girls mentality. The way her songs talk about this isn't as bluntly as, say, "Mean Girls," but it does blame another girl for all of Taylor's misery.
wownow 18th-Jan-2013 12:43 am (UTC)
her music really doesn't perpetuate a girls v girls mentality, bar 'better than revenge'. (i reread all the lyrics posted above) you have never listened to one of her albums if you think she blames other women for "all her misery"
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