Taylor Swift On Slut-Shaming, Feminism & Her Female Friendships

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It’s no secret that Taylor Swift has dated a lot of famous men: Jake Gyllenhaal, John Mayer, Harry Styles and more. It’s also no secret that the press have had a field day (or a field couple of years, more like it) pointing it out and making fun of her in an attempt to somehow discredit her as a person.

But does anyone stop to examine the amount of women John Mayer dates and brand him with a label that is somewhat shameful? Or do people not care that there is a double standard still at play in the media?

The uber successful country-rock-pop singer and Grammy winning artist has been branching out of her sweet songwriter girl image lately and speaking out about some important issues in the press.

Taylor is the December covergirl for Cosmo magazine in the UK, and is part of a Cosmopolitan takeover where she appears on not just one but 23 covers of the popular female magazine, including France, South Africa, Hungary, Poland, Italy and Brazil.

She has admitted more recently that it was her celeb friend Lena Dunham who introduced her to what real feminism is about, and Taylor immediately was on board.

The other thing she has been vocal about is the treatment of female celebrities by the press. She isn’t alone in thinking that it is ridiculous how the media wants to pit women against each other by reporting on false rumors of feuds, arguments, etc. It is probably why feminism has become her closest ally lately, and we hope it will have a massive influence on her young female fans.

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In Cosmo UK she talks about how the press love to report on her love life, saying it is essentially slut-shaming.

“My girlfriends and I talk a lot about feminism and the inequality between the way men and women are talked about. The kind of things we say are: ‘Why is it mischievous, fun and sexy if a guy has a string of lovers that he’s cast aside, loved and left? Yet if a woman dates three or four people in an eight-year period she is a serial dater and it gives some 12-year-old the idea to call her a slut on the internet?’ It’s not the same for boys, it just isn’t and that’s a fact.”

Her new-found independence is something that is already reflected in her new music, as you can hear from tracks including ‘Shake it Off’ and ‘Blank Space’ from her new album 1989. She spoke more in depth about women in the music industry, the album and feminism (it’s her new fave topic) with Time magazine. (Yep, that same Time magazine that nominated “feminist” as one of their “worst words of 2014” and then editor Nancy Gibbs took it back with this apology.)

Taylor talks about how we as young women are taught to find examples and role models to look up to in life, but she can’t really find anyone who has done what she’s doing right now.

“I do have female role models in the sense of actresses like Mariska Hargitay. I think she has a beautiful life, and an incredible career, and I think she’s built that for herself. She’s one of the highest paid actresses—actors in general, women or men—on television, and she’s been playing this very strong female character for, what, 15 years now, something like that.”

But when it comes to the music industry, she’s hard pressed to find someone she can respect.

“In other industries, I have female role models. I just struggle to find a woman in music who hasn’t been completely picked apart by the media, or scrutinized and criticized for aging, or criticized for fighting aging—it just seems to be much more difficult to be a woman in music and to grow older. I just really hope that I will choose to do it as gracefully as possible.”

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However her own role model status is something she takes quite seriously, especially in light of her new-found feminist status.

“I don’t find a struggle with that balance, being looked at as a role model, because I think it’s a very obvious and natural thing for people to see you as, when you’re a singer. I’ve always felt very comfortable with it, for some reason. That in particular hasn’t been one of my struggles. I’ve struggled with a lot of things, but the idea that you’re living your life and it’s impacting other people, some of whom are very young, some of whom are in their most impressionable times and they’re discovering the music that tells them how they are going to live their lives and how they should feel and how it’s acceptable to feel, I think that that’s kind of exciting…I’m trying to live my life with some sort of thoughtfulness put into my actions.”

She was quizzed on how she feels when critics claim she doesn’t write her own music (which she does, let the record state) and Taylor thinks this is an inherent gender issue.

“We all know it’s a feminist issue. My friend Ed [Sheeran], no one questions whether he writes everything. In the beginning, I liked to think that we were all on the same playing field. And then it became pretty obvious to me that when you have people sort of questioning the validity of a female songwriter, or making it seem like it’s somehow unacceptable to write songs about your real emotions—that it somehow makes you irrational and overemotional—seeing that over the years changed my view,” she said.

“It’s a little discouraging that females have to work so much harder to prove that they do their own things. I see Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea having to prove that they write their own raps or their own lyrics, and it makes me sad, because they shouldn’t have to justify it.”

Taylor expands on that thought a little and says the predominant topic that gets thrown around in terms of women in music is the cat-fighting and feuds.

“I refuse to buy into these comparisons, because you don’t see it happening to men. All you seem to see is “Which New Mother Is Sexier?” “Who’s the Hotter Mama?” “Who’s Got The Better Booty?” If we continue to show young girls that they are being compared to other girls, we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice as a society. I surround myself with smart, beautiful, passionate, driven, ambitious women.”

Instead of the competitive spirit which is often what gets portrayed amongst women in the media, therefore influencing women in real life, Taylor believes we should learn to celebrate each other’s successes as women.

“Other women who are killing it should motivate you, thrill you, challenge you and inspire you rather than threaten you and make you feel like you’re immediately being compared to them. The only thing I compare myself to is me…You just try to lead by example, and you hope, someday, that if we talk about feminism enough, maybe we’ll start to actually see it make a difference in the way young girls perceive themselves and each other.”

It’s super important to have role models in the media, at the very top of the industry (like Taylor) who are spreading messages of empowerment to young women, and also starting counter-culture conversations that challenge the status quo. Unfortunately we still live in an age where the media, and therefore society, like to put women in boxes and aren’t used to seeing them as complex beings who defy stereotypes.

Thank you Taylor for not being afraid to say something different and use your fame for good.

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5 Comments

  1. Slut (AKA a woman with the morals of a man): how you punish a woman for saying yes. Friendzone:how you punish a woman for saying no.

  2. The reason it’s not the same treatment for men and women is because men and women are NOT the same, no matter what Lena Dunham or any other feminist says. In most animal species one of the sexes has to do the most work to get the other sex. There are all kinds of tactics, and humans do most of them…well men do, men are the persuers in this species. That is a fact. Because of this men are biologically designed to be “on,” so it means nothing for a guy to be “slutty”. All men are required to be sluts or women wouldn’t even respond to them. Women on the other hand are the choosers. They don’t have to do anything except choose from all the men offering themselves. So the only work they have to do, while men do everything else, is be selective. When a woman fails in this ONE SIMPLE TASK, she is labelled a “slut.” Look at any other species in nature and wonder why the gender that has the burden of child care has the pick of the opposite sex. What would happen in nature if all women were as slutty as men are? Do you think we would have the highest level of fitness the species is capable of? Slut shaming is simply the instinctive reinforcement of natural selection.

  3. Pingback: Celebrity roasts are part of our bullying problem - The FulcrumThe Fulcrum

  4. she is going to be my Girl next !

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