On Taylor Swift, Bad (Blood) Corporate Feminism and Superficial Pop Politics

full_Beyonce

Feminism is having a bit of a moment right now. It’s bright, shiny and new. It’s so profitable a belief system that you can probably look forward to things such as Feminist-Crunch: the new sugary, sassy cereal for girls which bites back! and the Feminaz-heels: the new trend for S/S 2016, sky scraper heels designed to be tall enough so you can comfortably intimidate whatever male model you’re preaching down to in your next music video!

The new feminism is a wearable brand. It’s the Ed Hardy of political ’causes’ – a ubiquitous, superficial failure as garish and hollow as the latest oversized IT bag. It’s a cool girl cult which preaches inclusivity and equality from a pedestal way up high in an exclusive stratosphere where Amazonian, statuesque goddesses with bodies so beautiful they’re probably insured tell us all about being ‘body positive’ (let’s be fair here, even supermodels have a right to feel insecure about their bodies just as much as the rest of us, but you understand) and where young, successful starlets who make more in a day than you cashed in last year tell us how vital a movement feminism is because, as Taylor Swift put it: Feminism ‘is basically another word for equality’.

Which, like, I don’t know – something about equating equality with Taylor Swift and her girl gang of (predominantly) super rich, beautiful white women just doesn’t sit right with me.

Just sayin...

Just sayin…

But anyway, lets take a moment to show our appreciation to these beautiful, rich, young women who are fighting for our civil rights! Without them we’d be right back in 2013, when feminism was such a dirty word that female superstars publicly distanced themselves away from it quicker than an entire school turns on the kid who shit himself in class. Where interviews with any female artist felt poised to prove that feminism was not only out of date, but downright evil. Where pop stars such as Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Little Mix and yes, even Queen Beyonce denied being feminists or even needing feminism (hell, who truly needs feminism when you’ve got a cool couple of million in your savings to liberate you from male oppression, eh?) because men are not bad people. Like, just stop hating men, feminists! What’s your damage?!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I fucking love Taylor Swift. That woman snares earworms like Buffy slayed vampires, but she needs to calm the fuck down. I can also hear you through the screen, here: But isn’t it a good thing that these women are aligning themselves with feminism rather than against it? It is when it’s more than just an idea. But in this case? No. And here’s why.

bad blood car smash

Firstly, Pop music and politics do not mix. When I want to feel better about my life, do the dishes to something that doesn’t make me want to break a glass and jam it in my own throat or simply dance drunkenly on a table at 4am then I’ll turn to my sweet sister pop music. When I wake up from that bubble and get serious about wanting to change things, then I don’t fucking listen to a Taylor Swift album for inspiration – I’ll open a book or watch an online lecture or attend a community meeting (I know. I’m a laugh a minute).

I could care less what my pop stars actual, real life beliefs are because, for the most part and with the exception of Britney Spears who will forever be my #1-Badass-Kween4eva, pop stars aren’t real. Everything from their look, to their style, their sound, their lovers, their public identity and even their sexualities are carefully constructed and controlled by an expert behind-the-scenes team who anticipate the upcoming Zeitgeist and build their superstar accordingly to wow it.

shake it off

Whatever ’cause’ a pop star aligns themselves with becomes hollow and cynical because every action by these personifications of hype is a marketing opportunity. These causes become a brand name without a product: All words and no action. Feminism currently has it’s name in lights but nobody is looking at what’s happening on it’s stage.

So whilst I can appreciate that Taylor Swift may well be a great role model for young women and inspire a whole new generation to invest their minds into feminist academia, I honestly don’t think that’s a reality. Thinking that Taylor Swift will inspire young women to become actively engaged in a feminism which is more than just co-ordinating outfits with your best girlfriends and throwing shade at boys in the street (both terrifically fun past times, can’t lie) is like thinking that watching Celebrity Rehab will cure you of your alcohol habit.

Hell, I was intrigued as anyone when Ms Swift started teasing her new video for Bad Blood with Grindhouse style posters of her best celebrity friends with funny pun names like Slay-Z and that killer tag line ‘Band Aids Don’t Fix Bullet Holes’ (you’ve got to tip your hat to that line if nothing else. It’s cute as hell) but just as Taylor Swift’s feminism is all talk and no action, so was her video.

*as a side note here, can someone in Taylor Swift’s gigantic sphere of beautiful friends – and of course you guys read this blog – please tell her to A) Stop trying to be Lady Gaga? And B) Stop Trying to be Britney Spears. You are sticking size 3 feet into size 12 shoes, sister. 

Like, SERIOUSLY

Like, SERIOUSLY

Yes, I know, it has ‘action’ but it’s mostly just an assortment of incredibly beautifully supermodels and actresses in an assortment of black leather snapping compact mirrors as fighting tools and flipping their hair at the camera.

compact 2

It would be one thing if the final ‘battle’ was actually against the people that feminism actively challenges like the white, male, corporate elite or evangelical pro-life protesters but if anything Bad Blood only reinforces that tired, archaic opinion of a woman’s worst enemy being other women (which, if you believe the rumours, would square up nicely to the idea that the song is about Swift’s rivarly with Katy Perry. Yawn). The video starts with Selena Gomez double crossing Taylor Swift and snatching a briefcase out of her hands (like two women brawling over Prada at a Black Friday sale) before kicking her out of a window. The video then ends with Taylor Swift’s most beautiful female supermodel elite coming head to head with Lovato’s very own (faceless) female posse in a battle so explosive (LOOK AT ALL THAT FIRE!) that presumably all that survived was Cara Delevingne’s eyebrows.

Give me a fucking break.

The fight is for nothing anyone cares about. It’s for an object. The feminism of Bad Blood is as consumerist as it’s gets: battling over an object rather than for rights. It’s the feminism of Theresa May and Louise Mensch, the Tory MP’s who believe that true feminism is via financial liberation. That many of the problems women face, and those that feminism actively challenges, can be solved very easily if women simply get their shit together, start their own business and become financially independent to men.

Terrific! Problem solved, ladies. Now go and validate your self worth with a pricey Net-a-Porter binge – you’ve earned it, champ!

compact things an tings

The new hype of pop-feminism can be easily traced back to Beyonce who was the first to – quite literally – put feminism’s name in lights, on stage at the 2014 VMA awards. Which is powerful, yes, and a stunning image to use as your Facebook cover photo should you be so inclined but at the end of the day is little more than arranging bulbs into letters. It’s as instrumental to feminism as a slogan t-shirt. It’s a terrific re-branding exercise, sure and a great step towards removing the multiple stigmas that the word ‘feminism’ has garnered over the years but the fact still remains that it’s all sparkle and no dress. All dress and no body. All body and no spirit. It’s a complete void of a statement.

The fact is, feminism isn’t glamorous. Many of the things modern feminist’s are campaigning about, from raising awareness about female homelessness and setting up centres where women can get free hygiene products so they can comfortably have their period every month to simply trying to keep rape crisis centres and domestic abuse shelters open amidst the myriad of government cuts that are being made, are not things that can be lit up on stage, put into a music video or which look good on a t-shirt. But it wouldn’t kill them to use their position to try.

miley smoking armpits

Taylor Swift would NEVER dye her pits. Or smoke. Or like, I don’t know, pose with a dude she wasn’t pretending to date.

Feminism is about action rather than words. Even a pop star like Miley Cyrus – who I’m loathe to support because dear fuck has she done and said some terrible things in the past few years – knows that showing up to events with unruly armpit hair and her bare tits out and proud with only a couple of pasties on her nipples is a far more subversive and powerful statement than simply standing in front of a wall of light bulbs or hiring all of her famous female friends to hold some weapons in a video with her.

Not to mention the vastly underestimated Nicki Minaj who made a subversive, venus fly trap of a feminist statement with her video for Anaconda in which she snarls as she shakes, looks fucking flawless, owns every last measure of her sexuality and deep throats a banana before dismembering the thing in various ways. That’s subversive as fuck! That video not only took back the way in which women have been objectified in male music videos for decades but also committed a tamakeri kick to every man who dared be aroused by it. That feminism is interesting. That feminism can stay the course.

So, I beg of you: Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Beyonce and whoever else – start doing instead of saying. Actually be the change instead of merely promoting it. If feminism is something you care so deeply about then use your influence and your money for tangible effect and reach out to the less glamorous roots of the cause rather than the great, big, money making PR machine. Because otherwise it’s little more than a backing track. And that record has been played to death, honey.

AWKWARD

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5 thoughts on “On Taylor Swift, Bad (Blood) Corporate Feminism and Superficial Pop Politics

  1. Pingback: Lesson #1 | Calling Out, Welcome In

  2. Right first things first this blog is amazing.

    Is anyone who needs ‘feminist’ in big lights behind them an actual feminist. Did Shirley Manson or Skin need anything like that?
    No, you just knew.

    • Thanks for the blog love, David! Funny you mention Skin – I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately and how ground breaking she was. I don’t think she gets even half the appreciation she should for being not only supremely talented (that voice!) but also a strong, black, extremely vocal presence in pop music who was not only openly bisexual but also openly feminist. She completely subverted the gender binary and was extremely confrontational with all aspects of her identity. Maybe it’s time we dedicated an entire article about her…

      • I remember Skin! She was GREAT! Great voice, a proper artist.

        When fake super-hyped boring mediocre (reactionary…) ‘singers’ jump onto the ‘feminist’ band wagon just because they need to pretend they support something it makes me sick…

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