Contemporary culture has given feminism a massive rebrand. Gone are the days of the man-hating feminazi stereotype. Instead, to be a feminist is to be cool. This new ‘trendy’ feminism can be seen everywhere; slogans such as ‘girl power’ and ‘girl gang’ are flooding high street stores and instagram hashtags alike. Notably, there was the ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirt campaign, which included a range of celebrities from noted feminist Emma Watson to the less trendy Nick Clegg. The t-shirt epitomizes the current trend in feminism where what you look like means more than what you do. This is aesthetic feminism.
Enter Taylor Swift. Whether it’s on instagram, on stage or her Bad Blood music video. Swift is typically surrounded by her ‘girl gang;’ a group of women made up predominantly by tall, white, beautiful, rich models. With names including Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid among the chosen few, it’s not a coincidence that Taylor’s friends also happen to be amongst the most followed on instagram – it almost seems like a requirement.
So why is Taylor Swift calling herself a feminist an issue? Take a look back at Taylor accepting her Grammy awards in 2016. She was surrounded by her team and not a single one of them was a woman. Sure, Taylor can wheel out her conveyor belt of hot models when she needs to look great, but when it comes to who she works with, there’s not a woman in sight. Amy Odell summed it up quite well when she wrote, ‘There is a difference between an artist who actually employs women to further her feminist message and one who seems to expect them to surround her as though bounce boards simply there to magnify her limelight.’ Taylor appreciates the aesthetics of having a girl gang, but god forbid working with any of them.
There’s also the troubling element of her lyrics, which can be, at times, questionable. Back in 2010, Swift wrote the song ‘Better than Revenge,’ about ex-boyfriend Joe Jonas moving on with actress Camilla Belle. She sings, ‘she’s an actress, she’s better known for the things she does on the mattress.’ Or back in 2008, she released ‘You Belong With Me,’ which included lyrics like, ‘she wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts.’ Taylor has repeatedly slut-shamed women who might have ‘stole her man,’ and has torn down women who appear less ‘pure’ than herself. However, the epitome of her girl gang-style of feminism has to be her ‘Bad Blood’ music video. Naturally surrounded by an army of Victoria’s Secret models, Taylor is armed and ready to fight… Another gang of gorgeous, white supermodels.
Sixteen year old Disney actress Rowan Blanchard has said, ‘feminism and friendship are supposed to be inclusive, and most of these squads are strictly exclusive. Squad goals can polarize anyone who is not white, thin, tall and always happy.’ If a woman as young as Blanchard can see right through this phenomena of so-called ‘Squad Goals,’ and how detrimental it is to the feminist movement, Swift has no excuse in perpetuating this unattainable, non intersectional version of feminism that she seems to be so proud of.
It’s almost impossible to call out Taylor on her faux-feminism. When Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joked about her at an awards show, Swift later tweeted, ‘there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’ The hypocrisy is almost as palpable as it is frustrating. Using ‘feminism’ as a defense against criticism is a low blow. Feminism is not a tool to use to further your own cause. It should be used to further the feminism movement universally, not held as a commodity exclusively sold to young, white, privileged women with an instagram account.
It’s important to echo Amy Stockwell when she said, ‘there is nothing feminist about insisting that women should not criticize other women.’ If Taylor were to read this article, I’m sure she’d say I’m going to hell. Though not before she releases a revenge track tearing me down for seeing through her phony feminist persona. I don’t appreciate Taylor’s spin on the feminist movement. Not once has she spoken up about women’s rights, or donated to charities. Perhaps her only redemption was donating to Kesha’s legal fees, though even then she did not speak out about sexual assault.
Taylor has a massive 104.4 million instagram followers. If only she could turn her insta-feminism into something more productive than posing on a yacht with only her most aesthetically pleasing friends. To summarize the privileged, white aesthetic feminism that Swift is selling, I’ll conclude with a quote from Melissa Fabello, ‘Anyone who calls themselves a feminist for learning about the movement from, of all people, Lena Dunham, is not to be trusted.’