Writing About Taylor Swift Ruined My Friendship!

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This is a version of a post that originally appeared on Writer’s Bloc as part of their May series on balance. Republished with permission.

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about Taylor Swift’s anti-feminist lyrics. Perhaps ill advisedly, I used an example from my friend’s love life to illustrate my point about Swift’s detrimental view of gender roles in her music without my friend’s consent.

This friend has a soft spot for Taylor Swift, along with Twilight, Glee and young adult fiction, and I believed these biases informed her actions when she started hooking up with my roommate. When their courtship fizzled out a short time later, she revealed to me that because they were friends first, she didn’t feel that as lovers their relationship was any different: where were all the grand gestures on his part, she wondered?

Now, at the time I thought this observation would perfectly prove my assertion that Swift’s lyrics and anti-feminist rhetoric in interviews enforced an ideal that heterosexual relationships must take the shape of fairytale romances that are performed primarily by the guy, while the woman is just a passive receiver of surprise weekend getaways, jewellery and flowers.

In hindsight, perhaps my opinion about my friend’s love life wasn’t something I should have published on my blog, or even passed judgment on in the first place. Needless to say, she didn’t think so either as we’re no longer in contact.

Funnily enough, after that shit went down, I suffered a bout of writer’s block that lasted the better part of a year. Karmic retribution, perhaps?

This is not the first time I’ve gotten into trouble with a friend for airing their dirty laundry in my prose. About a year and a half before the post that ended a friendship, I wrote about how I thought one of my friends wasn’t very socially adept due to a sport-focused sheltered upbringing and how this informed my broader point that sportspeople shouldn’t be held up as heroes (a topic that was doing the rounds in the news that week). Understandably, he was very hurt that I used personal details he’d told me in confidence to further my agenda and that I had those opinions about him. He’s a bigger person than both myself and my former friend, though, as he was able to see both points of view and hash it out with me like an adult and our friendship has since recovered. (Yes, I ran his inclusion by him prior to publication!)

The irony is that the singer herself is all too familiar with mining her and others’ personal lives for her work. I’m not trying to equate my writing with Swift’s or that using other people’s stories is the same as using your own, but I’d like to think she could relate. Either way, we both wrote and write about people who are no longer in our lives, a feat some writers are more adept at that others.

But how much of the personal anecdotes of the people in our lives do writers have the permission to share? Obviously, I had permission to share neither experience, but in the absence of anything happening in my own love life and the desire to act as therapist to another friend, respectively, I crossed a line.

And it’s a fine one to write on when you’re crafting memoir. Increasingly, I’ve been delving into the personal essay and wondering whose stories and lives I share I have the permission to make public.

How specific can you get when using identifying details in your writing? At the time of publishing the pieces in question, only a few of my friends were reading my blog and would have realised who I was writing about. The majority of people who read my work are unknown to me. But just because only a handful would recognise the subject in question doesn’t necessarily mean writers have free reign over how they’re represented.

Writers such as Lena Dunham and Janet Mock share that problem on a global scale. Dunham’s memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, drew controversy last year when she wrote of her curiosity about her sister’s body parts and an alleged date rape in college. Though names and other details were altered, a fellow student of Dunham’s alma mater was falsely identified as her attacker. Mock shared concerns about the portrayal of her family in Redefining Realness, her memoir about growing up trans in Hawaii. When the stakes are that much higher—being perhaps the most influential millennial in a decade and coming out as a gender identity much of the world is yet to accept as legitimate, respectively—there’s an increased likelihood that your audience and subjects take issue with your words.

Call it the life of a writer or chalk it up to my own narcissism or lack of imagination but it would seem that I haven’t learned my lesson as I’m still writing about the people and situations that caused friction in my personal life in the first place.

Related: Taylor Swift—The Perfect Victim.

In Defence of Mia Freedman.

Elsewhere: [Writer’s Bloc] Writing About Taylor Swift Ruined My Friendship!

Image via Blank Space.

TV: Catching Up on Women-Friendly Media.

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Summer is usually a time when I catch up on TV shows I’ve neglected throughout the year.

In Australia, (when I owned a TV) all the shows would be on hiatus and in its place tennis and cricket as far as the eye can see. Likewise, American TV comes to a halt usually from about Thanksgiving which gives me ample time to keep up with the Kardashians or, in a more high brow vein, Breaking Bad, which I finally watched in its entirety this time last year.

Recently I lamented to a friend that this summer I’ve been watching more movies and, like, reading instead of catching up on shows like I should be. There’s so many on my list: The Good Wife, Orphan Black, Parks & Rec, House of Cards. I didn’t even watch American Horror Story: Freak Show when it started a few months ago and, low and behold, it just aired its season finale.

So what better time to catch up on it than this past (long) weekend? (And yes, I am well aware that AHS cannot be construed as women-friendly, but stay with me.)

I also have ample days off from my day job in the next week so, in addition to more freelance work and my side gig at OCW, I should be able to finish the 13 episode season by the next weeks’ end.

I intend to work just as hard throughout the year, but I also need to make sure I engage in self-care to keep the momentum up. So when I’ve emptied out my brain onto the page and filled it again with the words of others, what better way to unwind with some TV that functions as a hug?

I’ve been very vocal about my love for Grey’s Anatomy: when I was sick a few weeks ago, I knew I should have started one of the abovementioned shows but I just needed comforting in a way that no one but Meredith Grey and co. could do, so I rewatched the first half of this season. It, along with its Shondaland cohorts Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, return this week and I’ve got a hot date with the Middleton Law School kids and President Grant on the weekend.

From there, I intend to either dip into The Good Wife or House of Cards as research for a piece I’ve been ruminating over for months. While the beauty of many Netflix-based shows is their short seasons allowing quick consumption, there’s a good six seasons of The Good Wife, so who knows when I’ll emerge from Alicia Florrick’s law offices?

In contrast to the abovementioned shows, it was only a few years ago that many of the books, movies and TV shows that I was drawn to were about men. My favourite authors were men, the movies I was interested in seeing at the cinema were about men, and many of the TV shows I watched were all about men. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favourite authors are still men (Dominick Dunne and Mick Foley), and I’m hanging out to see Foxcatcher at the movies. But on the whole, I’m so fucking sick of only learning about men’s lives—either real or fictional.

That’s why, this year, I’m making a conscious effort to consume media about women and other minorities. What started out as something I was completely unaware of has blossomed into a newfound appreciation for the voices of women I may not have seeked out before. I’ve slowly started to realise that all the shows I watch are about women—OITNB, Total Divas, Girls, Revenge, 2 Broke Girls, The Mindy Project—as are the shows I intend to. I’ve only recently started watching movies again, and I started with Nora Ephron’s cannon over Christmas and New Years. Wild is the next movie I intend to see at the cinema. And my reading list from the past month has consisted of Roxane Gay, Janet Mock, Donna Tartt, Lena Dunham, Brigid Delaney and Amy Poehler, amongst many others.

Which shows—and other media—are you looking forward to consuming this year?

Related: Hustle, Loyalty & Respect: Where I’m Taking My Career in 2015.

The Golden Age of Television.

Physical & Mental Health on Orange is the New Black.

Girls: A Season Two Retrospective.

Revenge is a Dish Best Served by a Woman.

2 Broke & Tampon-less Girls.

Elsewhere: [Bitch Flicks] The Choice to be a Total Diva.

Image via InStyle.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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I interviewed From Parts Unknown: Fight Like a Girl‘s director/producer Daniel Armstrong ahead of the movie’s seven-years-in-the-making premiere last weekend. [Outback Championship Wrestling]

I also did a little write up on OCW’s newest tag team, the Loose Bastards!

And just to top off my week of wrestling writing, I’m talking about choice on Total Divas. [Bitch Flicks]

Do home invasion movies help women work through our fears of real-life in-home violence? [Bitch]

Further to that, what about Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and sexual assault survivors? [The Hairpin]

When is the right time to carry a pregnancy to term? And when is the right time to abort? [Talking Points Memo]

Bill Cosby’s infuriating arrogance allows him to get away with everything. [Role Reboot]

Is it time for Girls to separate Hannah Horvath from Lena Dunham? [Junkee]

Rappers rule Instagram (and they also post the most drug- and alcohol-related content). [Addiction-Treatment]

Feminism won the Golden Globes. [Cosmopolitan]

But diversity lost in the Oscars nominations. [Daily Life]

Further to that, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Cosby–rape joke got it right because it skewered the (alleged) rapist and rape culture, not the victim. [Feministe]

The class politics of Gilmore Girls. [The Baffler]

Sex workers don’t need to be rescued. [Vice]

Taylor Swift’s Girlfriend Collection. [Buzzfeed]

An interview with Caitlin Stasey about her new body-positive website, Herself. com. [Daily Life]

Filmme Fatales interviewed Beyond Clueless director Charlie Lyne before they present the doco at the Rooftop Cinema on 27th January.

Janet Mock on self-care. [The Hairpin]

Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and Sia’s latest chart-topping albums are trading in sadness. [The Village Voice]

The story of V: abbreviating “very”. [The Atlantic]

Image via Strongman Pictures.

80th Down Under Feminists Carnival.

Sex & Relationships.

Men find us more desirable when we’re incapacitated. [Reuters]

Rachel Hills on sex then and now. [Time]

Three former sex workers tell their stories. [Cosmopolitan]

Sometimes human bodies are just human bodies; do we have to sexualise them all the time? [SBS]

Race & Racism.

People of colour can be racist, too. [Daily Life]

“Every 28 hours a black person is killed by police or vigilantes”: what Aboriginal deaths in custody have in common with America’s current protesting of the murders of unarmed black people by police. [Daily Life]

Please don’t act so surprised that Indigenous children are 5.2 times more likely to die than non-Indigenous children. [The Koori Woman]

“When is anthropology going to start taking Indigenous theories seriously instead of subjecting them to their own analyses and theorising about them?” [Fieldnotes & Footnotes]

A guide to therapy for Asian Australians. [No Award]

Is two upper-middle-class white guys agreeing about the fate of Indigenous Australians in the constitution really the best way to go about it? [New Matilda]

Punjabi migration to New Zealand. [Stargazer]

The cycle of poverty and homelessness continues for one West Australian Indigenous family of women and girls. [The Stringer]

Reflections on #illridewithyou from the woman who started the hashtag. [Silence Without]

Australia’s racism problem in ten incidents from 2014. [The Koori Woman]

Racism in Australian media: some choice examples. [No Award]

Pop Culture & The Media.

The Australian ran a photo of Christmas-ruiner and Greens senator Larissa Waters’ young daughter wearing pink because journalism. [Junkee]

“Dear Mark Latham, Mothers Are Not the Natural Enemy of Stay-At-Home Dads.” [Daily Life]

Sarah MacDonald called the Australian Financial Review to complain about Mark Latham’s column. They called her husband back. [Women’s Agenda]

Lena Dunham and the Slenderman attempted murder both make us confront our fears of women and girls not behaving in socially prescribed ways. [Bitch Flicks]

Further to that, we’re still as captivated by witches in popular culture as we were during the medieval and Salem witch inquisitions.

What does Miss Julie have in common with Gone Girl? [Flaming Moth]

The responsible reporting of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. [Women’s Agenda]

On that note, Junkee published a guide on responsible social media use in the wake of Sydney’s hostage situation.

Why did The Guardian give a platform to an allegedly falsely accused rapist when alleged victims of rape are so rarely afforded the same? [Women’s Agenda]

“The Best Misandrist Films of 2014.” [Brocklesnitch]

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is in dire need of an update. [Hoyden About Town]

How many times do we have to read news reports on sexual assault that focus on the victim’s actions not the perpetrator? [The News With Nipples]

Ju’s Australian Women’s Writers Challenge wrap up. [The Conversationalist]

Girl-friendly video games. [On the Left]

Violence Against Women *trigger warning*.

Has 2014 been the year of the stalker?

“The Worst Time I Was Street Harassed.”

“Why Rape Jokes Are Never Okay”. [Feminaust]

We don’t need to ask why Man Haron Monis perpetrated the Sydney siege. His miles-long rap sheet of sexual and physical violence towards women speaks volumes. [Women’s Agenda]

And in the wake of the siege, a dissection of the Change.org petition calling for stricter bail laws and the impact that might have. [Hoyden About Town]

This is what happens to women who fight back against street and sexual harassment. [Daily Life]

Reproductive Rights.

Abortion should be safe, legal and be performed as often or as rarely as the woman who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy wants and needs it to:

“We are a society that can land a rocket on a comet, splice fish genes into strawberries, and invent cars that reverse park all by themselves; we’re people that fight for marriage equality, dig deep during natural disasters and legislate overnight against ‘coward punch’ violence in the street. And yet our attitudes to the simple procedure of discontinuing a pregnancy remain shrouded in misconception.” [Daily Life]

We can’t forget informed consent when it comes to medical procedures. [On the Left]

Politics.

Tony Abbott plays that “gender card” he so often accused Julia Gillard of. [Women’s Agenda]

Further to that, it’s “too little, too late”. [No Place for Sheep]

Women lawyers have a fat chance of being considered for appointment to High Court judge. [Women’s Agenda]

A Very Tony Abbott Christmas. [Brocklesnitch]

Just like the Labor government they said they’d be nothing like, the Coalition has had their fair share of surprises and excuses since taking office. [No Place for Sheep]

The way we report on politicians’ personal lives proves that “understanding and empathy aren’t dependent on one’s relationship status or parenthood”. [No Place for Sheep]

Prime Minister Tony Abbott misses the mark on why the repealing of the carbon tax is good for women. [Curl]

Why don’t our politicians have any personality? [No Place for Sheep]

Miscellaneous & General Feminism.

Depression around Christmastime (trigger warning: suicide). [Brocklesnitch]

On identity politics: “You’re Not Really X”. [The Rainbow Hub]

“Adventures in Free-Boobing.” [Jessica Hammod]

“How to Be a Good Parent to Your Bisexual, Lesbian or Gay Child.” [Opinions @ BlueBec]

The history of cyberfeminist group VNS Matrix. [Motherboard]

How to be alone as a woman:

“To be alone is to be eccentric. To be alone and a girl is to be nuts.” [Spook Magazine]

Rachel Hills has just started a newsletter: sign up for updates on her blog, book and more! [Emails of an Inappropriate Woman]

How personal feminism evolves. [Skud]

“Pregnant Refugees Left in Sun, Denied Food & Water, Removed with Force: Advocates.” [ABC]

I said goodbye to friend and colleague Stella Young.

More farewells to Stella, from Maeve Marsden and Brocklesnitch.

On Old Fartism: “a position of social insecurity… Old Fartism can be found in people of any age or gender, but it is most prevalent among those who have lived in a world where their viewpoint and interests were reflected by default, to the exclusion of other subject categories.” [Junkee]

Critiquing modern motherhood doesn’t equate to being anti-children:

“It is indeed the opening of these doors that has rendered work-family balance problematic in the first place since it is the entry of women into the public domain, and specifically into paid employment, that problematises liberal-capitalist conceptions of the ideal worker, which presupposes a wife at home.” [Online Opinion]

Who are the top game-changing women medievalists? [Australian Medievalists]

Rosie Batty is Daily Life’s Woman of the Year.

The ugly girls club. [Daily Life]

On the Rest of the) Net.

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Taylor Swift could change the way we think about dating and casual sex:

“Sex without commitment is what you do before commitment, no matter what your gender. If more girls like Taylor made it okay we wouldn’t be so fucking precious about when and how girls are allowed to fuck.” [Lainey Gossip]

Bad Feminist Roxane Gay on being a bad victim. [The Butter]

Gay also writes that “2014 was the year we stopped worshipping at the altar of monsters. It was the year when we saw predators for who they really are, even if justice eludes them.” [The Guardian]

The white rappers who appropriate hip hop. [Complex]

Crafting a costume while fat. [This Ain’t Livin’]

Speaking of costumes, I went as Beyoncé standing in front of the feminist sign at the MTV VMAs to a work Christmas party last week. Check out some of the photos here.

The sexual black man in music videos. [Pitchfork]

Why aren’t we talking about the sexual assault scene in Beyond the Lights? [Shadow & Act]

Rosie Batty is Daily Life‘s well-deserved Woman of the Year.

Women ain’t got time or means to shave when the apocalypse is nigh but Hollywood would have you believe differently. [Sociological Images]

I asked what Lena Dunham and the Slenderman attempted murder have in common: they both challenge the way we think women and girls should behave. [Bitch Flicks]

ICYM them, I’ve been publishing some year-end posts throughout the week, on the prevalence of stalking, “The Year of the Witch”, Scarlett Johansson’s banner year, and not a year-end post per se but a short piece about probably the worst time I was street harassed.

Have a happy holiday season and I’ll be back this time next week with the links I loved from over the Christmas break. I’m going back to my home town to relax and have my mum round around after me, so I should have ample reading time. I hope you do, too!

Image via Buzzfeed.

The Year of the Witch.

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One could rightly argue that the witch renaissance began in 2013, with American Horror Story: Coven and The Witches of East End debuting last year.

But that revival has certainly carried on into the year of our Lord 2014, with both seasons (and series, in East End’s case) culminating at some stage this year. The ultimate witch movie, The Craft, came of age in May while The Blair Witch Project turned 15, and The New Inquiry, The Lifted Brow and even Teen Vogue all published stories about our fascination with magic and the women who perform it.

In the screen world, The Worst Witch is returning to TV; Sleepy Hollow continued its second season featuring the witch Katrina; WGN America broadcast the god awful Salem, their interpretation of the 1692 witch trials starring Shane West and Ashley Madekwe of Revenge fame; Frozen and Maleficent dominated the box office and Into the Woods, featuring Meryl Streep as The Witch, opens in the U.S. on Christmas Day (with a January 2015 premiere in Australia to follow).

And, of course, every year around Halloween time we get nostalgic for all things witchy. I continued this nostalgia by musing about Wicked for Junkee and writing a couple of things about Charmed for Bitch Flicks, and they also championed Practical Magic in a piece that made me giddy for the summer between primary and secondary school when I first saw it.

This is not to trivialise the still very real belief in witches in some developing countries. Recently, a woman was burned at the stake in Paraguay after being accused of witchcraft and this article about prevalence of the belief of witchcraft in Papua New Guinea published last year will stay with me for quite a while. In the first world, Wiccans took to social media to voice their outrage at their portrayal in a recent Time magazine article.

While witches hold a certain otherworldly charm (so to speak) from another time, the reality is that women are called witches (and many other choice descriptors) for deigning to exist outside of the narrowly and socially prescribed notions of how they should. The Salem witch trials began when young girls in the town began acting strangely in quick succession (also known as puberty), and we can hear echoes of a similar panic when modern girls and women act out of turn (see: the Slenderman attempted murder and Lena Dunham). While there’s still more room for movement for women than there ever was in Salem and medieval Europe, an appreciation of witches is one way in which we’re furthering the varied representations of women.

What other representations of witches come to mind this year? Sound off in the comments.

Related: Revenge Is a Dish Best Served by a Woman.

ElsewhereL [Jezebel] Spellbinding Witch Move The Craft Turns 18. Let’s Have a Gif Party!

[The New Enquiry] Vol. 21 Witches.

[The Lifted Brow] Witchin’ Ain’t Easy.

[Teen Vogue] Witches Are Real, And You Might Know One: An Inside Look at Girls Who Practice Paganism.

[Metro] The Worst Witch TV Series in Coming Back for the BBC.

[Junkee] The Musical Wicked is as Much About Feminism as it is About Witches.

[Bitch Flicks] The Power of Work/Life Balance in Charmed.

[Bitch Flicks] She’s Possessed, Baby, Possessed!

[Bitch Flicks] Practical Magic: Sisters As Friends, Mirrors.

[The Daily Mail] Paraguayan Woman Accused of Being a Witch Burned Alive.

[SMH] Witch-Hunt.

[International Business Times] Time Magazine Witches Article Outrages Wiccans, Pagan Community.

[Time] Why Witches on TV Spell Trouble in Real Life.

[Bitch Flicks] Lena Dunham, Slenderman & the Terror of GIRLS.

Image via American Horror Story Wikia.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

ICYMI: Little girls swearing is not the worst thing in the world.

Sex & the City makes me feel bad about my life. (Reminds me of a similar piece I wrote about Gossip Girl.) [It’s Okay for Intellectual Feminists to Like Fashion]

Sex and consent on Scandal‘s underaged-Eiffel-Tower sex tape episode. [Feministing]

Still with Shonda Rhimes’ creations, is How to Get Away With Murder the most progressive show on TV? [Vanity Fair]

On relatability (“To appreciate [art] only to the extent that the work functions as one’s mirror would make for a hopelessly reductive experience.”) VS. likeability (“If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble.”) [The New Yorker, Buzzfeed]

Tyra Banks is a feminist. [Mic]

Lena Dunham has tweeted and Instagrammed in support of Tom Meagher’s blog post earlier this year about the rape and murder of his wife Jill Meagher two years ago. [Buzzfeed, White Ribbon]

Wendy Squires wrote on the weekend that Eddie McGuire is leading the charge of male feminists because he built a change room for women runners to have a safe space after exercising at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. That’s great, but here are four reasons why McGuire isn’t the feminist Squires thinks he is. They highlight why language is just as important as action. [The Age, Daily Life]

Speaking of language, stop calling sex workers “pr*stitutes” and “wh*res”. [Junkee]

White privilege is alive and well in 2014 if the recent nostalgia for Friends is any indication. [The Globe & Mail]

Anne Helen Petersen on Renee Zellweger’s changing face:

“… Zellweger’s picture personality has been about the striving performance of femininity—and a striving performance that’s rooted, always, in the appearance of twenty- and thirtysomething youth. To see her at the age of 44, amid a long period without acting work, with plastic surgery seems yet the latest attempt, and failure, to conform to the ideals of femininity, the sad second act in the latest Bridget Jones. Only this time, as the book tells us, Mr. Darcy is dead, which means there’s no man to validate her and thus save her from self-punishment.” [Buzzfeed]