Whether it is her Twitter feud with Nicki Minaj or her African video location for “Wildest Dreams,” there is no question that America’s most relevant pop princess has endured some heavy criticism from the feminist community.
A recent article by Melissa A. Fabello in Everyday Feminism highlighted the reasons why Taylor Swift is “problematic.”
Interestingly, the list of five objections came not from the lyrics of Swift’s songs, but instead, is exclusively derived from her music videos. This means the author either found no troublesome lyrics in her music, or is focusing her energy in one direction: visual media.
Three out of five of these criticisms refer to either Swift’s exclusion or objectification of black bodies in her music videos. This leads one to believe that this writer is falling into a trap to which many feminists are susceptible: that is, setting all experiences against a particular paradigm of thinking and then ignoring all that does not fit the established mental narrative.
Unfortunately, this approach ignores logic.
For example, in her discussion of the video for “Bad Blood,” the writer explained, “Sure, Taylor includes both Selena Gomez and Zendaya in the video, as well as other women of color, but here’s the problem: Selena, admittedly one of Taylor’s best friends, herself has been known to perpetuate White Feminism via cultural appropriation. And while Zendaya consistently says on-point, feminist things, I’m not buying the notion that her relationship with Taylor is really that close. Their relationship feels a little, well, ‘this is my black friend’ to me.”
Essentially, the argument is that Taylor Swift did not include enough people-of-color in her video, and the ones whom she did include do not count.
Perhaps this is a forthright suggestion, but I cannot accept that if Taylor rolled into her “Bad Blood” video with a squad of black women, people wouldn’t argue her use and objectification of them.
Sadly, I can already see potential responses in my mind.
“She’s using them as props to look tough.”
“Black bodies don’t belong to her.”
And while I am in no way a white feminist or a person willfully ignorant to the necessity for and cruciality of intersectional feminism, I absolutely require logical points to endorse an argument. Subjectively determining that, for instance, “they’re not close enough friends,” or having some invisible quota for black inclusion in white art is plainly unreasonable. This is getting almost to the point of hiring people simply for their color, which, in itself, is bigoted.
The writer goes on to argue, “The issue isn’t the video in and of itself (you could argue that considering his feature, Kendrick Lamar — a black man — gets plenty of screen time to offset the blizzard of whiteness). The problem is … she constantly surrounds herself with beautiful, thin, rich, famous, white women. And personally, I don’t trust fellow white people when their only friends are other white people.”
For one, this reasoning excludes very basic concepts, such as the prevalence of racial homogeneousness that exists throughout our society. People still tend to befriend those of their own race, or of the race among whom they were raised.
While the entirety of the article is not without merit, the final remark on Swift in the “Bad Blood” segment rendered me unsettled: “And has anyone else noticed that the more Taylor gets called out for her White Feminism, the more people of color are popping up as guests on her tour? That’s not friendship. That’s not authenticity. That’s not intersectionality. That’s PR.”
Did I just read that? For purposes of clarification, I will summarize that point:
She does not include enough people of color in her videos or in her personal life, and when she does it is not authentic.
Indeed, we have arrived at the place where we ask ourselves if attacking Taylor Swift is addressing a problem, or merely symptoms.
And as I stated in an earlier piece of my own, repeatedly vilifying manifestations of a larger issue is often seen as proverbially “crying wolf,” which only matters because this is social movement that demands traction in the mainstream.
She isn’t perfect, but Taylor Swift has stated time and time again that she is, in fact, a feminist. She supports equality among us all. Yet, like all of us, she is still learning. If education meant dismissing students for getting an answer wrong, nobody would learn a thing. Give the woman—and others like her—a chance before throwing her overboard and losing a potentially central and useful voice. Truly, it is in the best interest of feminism.