America's pop-fairie-dust-glitter-rhinestone-sweetheart Taylor Swift released her new album Red this week. Her love life takes center stage on the track listing like it does in the media, and it's the kind of girlie pop millions of fans have come to love her for. While many of her (mostly male) peers in the music industry have made political statements this election year, we would never expect something so serious from our bubblegum queen.
This is partially because Swift has cultivated an image of the forever 16-year-old. While lots of guys want to see Swift "grow up" in a Britney Spears, sexually-provocative-equals-mature kind of way, I'd much rather see Swift show her maturity by talking about something real. Hopping down off of that noncommittal white picket fence she is spritishly perched on in her cowboy boots and taking a stand. For something.
The Daily Beast recently gave her several opportunities to do so in an interview previewing the new album. But she shied away from even the most innocuous questions, saying that if she has empowered women, that wasn't what she set out to do. Not only that, but she didn't even intend for her hit Mean to have an anti-bullying message. She wrote the song about a snarky music critic who made her feel bad. While that's a valid point of view to write a song from, it seems that while her fans have the ability to take her personal struggles and apply them to her own lives, she is unable to do that for them in return.
Then she was asked point blank if she considers herself a feminist. You can almost hear the ultra-conservative Bible Belt that makes up her fan base hold its breath. And Swift was surely afraid they'd hold on to their purse strings as well. She answered:
"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."
This would be appropriate (it does, after all, describe gender equality) if "working as hard as guys" didn't mean earning only 82% of what they earn. But she makes this statement as if her message refutes the idea of feminism rather than defines it. I don't expect Tay-Tay to go all Norma Rae and actually use an icky phrase like "gender wage gap" — OMG that's so not adorable guys — but it would be cool if she'd at least speak out for her fans, mostly girls and women, and have a little backbone.
I can imagine the waves it would make if Swift had said, "Yes, I absolutely consider myself a feminist." Surely she would get heat from conservative groups and likely her management and record label, all of whom benefit from the idea that Swift is some 1950s Sandra Dee-type innocent ingenue. But she is a powerful woman in the industry and they'd all get over it. Plus, we know better than to think Swift is just a little girl spinnin' yarns and playin' guitar. (Two words: John Mayer. No judgment, girl.) Swift is a confident, self-possessed young woman, a savvy business person and talented artist who obviously enjoys boys and dating as much as the next 22-year-old.
One thing she's not? A feminist.
image: Ivan Nikolov/WENN.com