I Hate Your Brand of Feminism, But I Guess We Can Still Be Friends (?)

By Meg Zulch

So I have some beef with Taylor Swift. I don't know her personally, of course. She hasn't set a curse on my house or stabbed me in the back or "stole my boyfriend" (as ridiculous as that concept is). But for as long as I can remember, I've disliked her. I'm not saying I'm immune to her super catchy songs, or am so bold to say that she isn't a good artist. I acknowledge that she's a hugely talented songwriter that sometimes offers something valuable to the cultural conversation and to girls all over the country. Girls making music about guys who treat them badly definitely has its empowering aspects. She's arguably responsible for giving agency to the teen girl population, a group that is so often trivialized and written off. And that's no small accomplishment.

But of course, as an out of touch "white girl feminist," her indiscretions are not few and far between. She has repeatedly plotted revenge against and bashed girls for stealing boyfriends in her songs ("Better Than Revenge" is probably one of her most disturbing songs ever), as well as pitted girls directly against each other (see: "Bad Blood" music video).

Additionally, the issue of racism completely goes over her head as she calls out Kanye West and, most recently, Nicki Minaj when they try to take a stand against the under and misrepresentation of black people in the media. And her "girl squad" seems to be limited to thin, white, and cisgender bodies (see: her IRL "girl squad" via Instagram, and the Bad Blood video, again). Even after all of this clearly problematic behavior, the most troubling aspect of it all to me is this: my hatred for her. Why do I, a self described feminist on their high horse of superior morals, put so much energy into hating Taylor Swift, a fellow feminine person and feminist?

There is nothing that makes me madder in this world than girl hate. No matter how much a feminine or female-identifying person gets under my skin, I refuse to talk badly of them. And if I catch myself or others participating in conversation this way, I'm quick to scold. As a feminist and concerned human, I'm aware that feminine people internalize some damaging things our lovely patriarchal society teaches us. Like skinny is beautiful and fat is ugly. Or being sexually active is slutty and being celibate is prudish. There are a million different ways that society and the media attack our identities and self esteem. And so the first place to start in eradicating this all-consuming monster of self loathing and societal pressure is by removing the things from our vocabulary and behavior which perpetuate the bad stuff within our own feminine community in the first place.

My "girl hate" for T-Swift stems from my need to critique cultural icons, and make sure to set the record straight on what is helpful for a better world of intersectionality, and what isn't (especially for her younger, more impressionable fans). It sometimes scares me to think that young women (like my little sister) could revere her as a feminist icon, when she has done little to nothing for the cause itself. Since she came out as a feminist, changing her mind about her former denouncing of the concept, she's not done much beyond whining about her former friendship with Katy Perry and "girl squad" photos on Instagram. For this reason, it's important to call her out on her transgressions, and be critical about her lack of understanding or care for intersectional feminism. But you don't have to hate her.

It's as easy to call Taylor Swift a "bad feminist" as it is to call yourself out on your own transgressions. I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm not politically correct all the time. Shocker, I know! I listen to Childish Gambino, excusing him for his often misogynistic lyrics. I've  often underrepresented people of different races in photos I use for articles, blaming my lack of choices (really, I'm just lazy). I have described gay men as being "sassy," applying a silly stereotype to a person I've just met. I'm aware of and sometimes pretty embarrassed about these things, as I should be. But I'm working on it in the best way that I can, trying not to be angry with myself in the process.

I probably "hate" Taylor Swift because she reminds me of how problematic my own voice can and could be within the feminist community. Watching her brand of feminism be respected, and blocking out of the voices of queer people, fat people, women of color etc. is frustrating to say the least. But it's the world we live in. White lives and voices are valued over black and brown lives. Cisgender lives are valued over queer and Trans lives. Straight-bodies are valued over fat bodies. Taylor Swift, and all white feminists, live in a broken system in which we benefit more from than other more marginalized identities. But instead of hating each other individually and calling out one another on our "fake feminisms," we can simply critique one another's problematic ideologies instead. We can offer support when a fellow feminist is in need of education or just someone who's willing to listen.

Taylor Swift is not a horrible person (see? I've come so far since the beginning of this article!). She is just a person who experiences certain oppressions as a woman, and is in need of our support, recognition, and constructive critique when she's problematic.

Going forward, let's resolve to hear out the "bad feminists" in our lives, and be willing to forgive ourselves for our own less-than-perfect ideologies. In the end, that is the only way we can grow, learn and thrive as a successful change-making community.