Taylor Swift: The Perfect Victim.

Her songs may be catchy—even I can’t stop singing her latest, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”—but Taylor Swift is one of the most detrimental-to-young-peoples’-self-esteem artists out there in my opinion.

I know a lot of people who would beg to differ: but she’s not overtly sexy, so therefore she’s portraying a healthy message to young girls. And she actually writes her own songs and plays instruments, so that’s positive for young people to see, too. But I liken her to pop cultural phenomenons like Glee and 50 Shades of Grey: on the surface they give off the impression of acceptance for the former and empowerment for the latter. When I’ve expressed disdain for these things I’ve literally had people feed me these lines of reasoning. And just like Swift is feeding the messages of the fairytale of young love and not to settle for second best to her fans, what she’s really espousing is an attitude to the opposite sex and to relationships that is toxic.

For example, she waffles on about princes and castles and Romeo, but anyone who’s been in a relationship for more than five minutes (just how long have Swift’s high-profile partners stuck around?) knows that it doesn’t really work like that. Swift is 22 years old and is still singing about relationships and boys as if she were 17, the age she was when her first album was released.

Natalie Reilly writes in the article that inspired me to muse on Swift:

“What if he doesn’t look at you in the right way at the right time of day when the dappled sunlight is falling just the right way across your face? Well, you’re going to WANT TO DIE. Is it any wonder Swift’s songs contain so much wounded anger when her expectations are so teeteringly high? Which guy could ever live up to this Instagram-worthy narrative and still be considered a human?”

I know a girl who loves Swift, has all her albums and went to her concert in Melbourne earlier this year. Recently, she started dating her first boyfriend. I quietly observed that their relationship seemed to progress as if it were taking place on a teen soap or movie: have sex after three dates, publicly announce the progression from “dating” to “boyfriend and girlfriend” after a month… And after two months the relationship fizzled because one party apparently wasn’t making enough “grand gestures” to satisfy the Swiftian ideal of what a relationship should be.

And that’s one of my many problems with Swift: she perpetuates the notion that men are the arbiters of happiness in relationships and unless they are standing outside your bedroom window with a boombox, riding off into the sunset on a lawnmower or sneaking into your room to watch over you as you sleep then there’s some crucial romantic element missing in your union. Why must Swift insist on portraying these archaic heteronormative notions of men being the “doers” and women are just there?

Because Taylor Swift hates feminism. An article a few weeks ago asked Swift whether she viewed herself as a feminist, a key question in most interviews with successful women who haven’t already come out as a women’s libber. Here’s 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.”

Paging Taylor Swift: that’s exactly what feminism is. And as I originally commented, if Swift is about nothing else, she is about guys versus girls. Her prime song lyric generator is breaking up with men who’ve wronged the poor, innocent Taylor. You know, when she’s not slut-shaming the popular girl who’s the girlfriend of the boy she wants for herself, and if only he could look past her sluttiness he would see Swift is the one he’s really supposed to be with. See: the “You Belong With Me” video for which, handily enough, Swift was awarded best female video at the 2009 MTV VMAs in the infamous Kanye West-“Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time” incident. Poor little Taylor cast as the victim yet again.

Swift really is the perfect victim (Reilly notes Swift is a key proponent in the “‘lover as victim’ trope”), though, because she manages to hide the playing up of the victim status so well. Sure, she writes songs teens can relate to, but the self-absorbed, angsty and tormented world of a teenager is a far cry from the real world a 22-year-old should be inhabitating. There comes a time when you need to stop blaming other people for relationships gone awry and maybe look inside yourself for the cause of the problem.

As Reilly asks, is Swift’s ideal of relationships “the narrative we want for young women? For any women?” Certainly not.

Related: 50 Shades of Grey by E L James Review.

Elsewhere: [Daily Life] The Problem with Taylor Swift’s Love Songs.

[Jezebel] Don’t Go Calling Taylor Swift a Feminist, Says Taylor Swift.

Image via Jezebel.

Magazine Review: Sunday Life, 24th July 2011.

 

You’d better duck into your nearest newsagent and hope they have a spare copy of The Sunday Age/Sydney Morning Herald, as its weekly insert, Sunday Life, is a must-read.

In addition to the usual fabulous columns by Mia Freedman and Sarah Wilson, who talk about the hullabaloo surrounding the recent plus-sized (and scantily clad) cover of Vogue Italia (p. 7), and being “deliberately” and uncomfortably vulnerable (p. 10), respectively, Rachel Hills writes on classism in Australia (p. 16–17) and deputy editor Natalie Reilly ponders the magazine’s recent Kate Ellis cover (p. 19).

What with the recent carbon tax being slammed for not being affordable for lower income earners and “Wayne Swan and Tony Abbott… falling over themselves to defend the livelihoods of ‘battlers’ earning more than $150,000 a year—an income more than double the median for Australian families,” class is more of an issue in Australia than ever before, but talking about it “just isn’t cool”.

It’s a very interesting issue, one that has somewhat reared its head in SBS’s Go Back to Where You Came From, the still-to-be aired Housos, a satirical take on life in a housing commission, and the backlash against Cate Blanchett backing the carbon tax.

I have written a little bit here and there about such things, but ultimately, it’s hard to take the “cashed-up bogan” seriously when they say they can’t afford to pay the carbon tax: if they just turned off their $2000 flat-screen TV that they bought with their baby bonus, we might not be in this mess. (Harsh, yes, but it is an anecdotal example!)

Hills quotes Housos, Pizza and Swift & Shift Couriers producer Paul Fenech, who likens the uproar over Housos as “a rich wanker test. The truth is, when we show this comedy to people who live it, they love it.” This could also be applied to the carbon tax and the public reception of shows like Angry Boys: you can always count on the conservative, upper-to-middle class right to become uproarious about such things. Could it be because “talking about class makes us nervous… because it suggests that we might not be as equal as we’d like to think we are—and that’s threatening”? I’d bet it is.

I saw this first hand when I brought up Go Back to Where You Came From with a right-leaning friend. Then I told him I was going to vote Greens next election. Then he called me a communist.

But what’s so wrong with believing everyone should receive the same civil rights? Abbott would argue, “why ‘screw over… people who want to get ahead’?” Indeed; but does it mean that we have to step on the little man to do so?

In “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”, Reilly addresses the age old conundrum of serious women not being able to be taken seriously if they’re dressed in anything remotely “sexy”.

Apparently, there was an outcry from Sunday Life readers regarding the June 26 issue, which featured Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis, dressed in a pink high-necked blouse, red pencil skirt (above the knee, but I wouldn’t call it a mini) and killer turquoise heels. And therein lies the problem:

“When a female politician wears anything other than a sensible suit, outrage ensues.”

Yet, when Prime Minister Julia Gillard wears an unflattering get-up, she’s criticised for not being fashionable enough. Seems a girl just can’t win.

Related: My Response: Go Back to Where You Came From.

Does Pop Culture Glamourise Our Carbon Footprint?

Conservativism Reigns Supreme in The Sunday Age’s Opinion Section.

It’s Not Easy Being Green: The Latest Trend in Discrimination.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] $150,000 Doesn’t Make You Rich. Discuss.

[MamaMia] The Four Reactions to This Magazine Cover.

[Sarah Wilson] How Do You Get “Deliberate” About Your Life?

[Girl with a Satchel] “Carbon Cate” for T Magazine & the Prius Effect.

[Sydney Morning Herald] Go Back to Where You Came From Strictly for the Gullible.

[Heathen Scripture] The Other Reason Why Raquel Was Wrong.

Image via Sydney Morning Herald.