Ladies, gentlemen: it is time to discuss the pernicious influence of Taylor Swift on our society today.
Oh, I know. I've heard all the pro-Taylor propaganda - about how she's a "good role model," and an antidote to your Lohans or your Hiltons or your Gagas or whatever other female celebrities are being held up as examples of Moral Decay this week. Taylor is so SWEET. Taylor is so CUTE. Did you SEE that video where Taylor was insanely obsessed with that one boy but could not possibly be with him because she had GLASSES? Unlike that slutty mean POPULAR girl, who had the temerity to date a dude and disagree with him at times and be more socially adept than Video-Taylor! Clearly, Taylor speaks for us all!
Except, um, not really. Actually, I would argue that "You Belong To Me" song and/or video is a triumph of girl-on-girl sexism. Starting with the first verse ("She's going off about something that you said / She doesn't get your humor like I do") - I mean, a girl EXPRESSING ANGER? To her BOYFRIEND? Because he MADE A JOKE THAT SHE FOUND INSENSITIVE OR MAYBE JUST ANNOYING? How DARE SHE - it put my hair thoroughly on end, with Taylor pleading over and over again for a boy to just go ahead and dump a girl (who apparently has goals in life outside of obsessively working to please this one dude), in favor of Taylor (who doesn't). I mean, I know we're supposed to be rooting for Taylor, because GLASSES, but this whole thing whereby girls who do not conceive of themselves as traditionally attractive deal with this by hating on girls who they think are prettier is just really repulsive to me, and I can't stand it, especially when it's framed as "empowering" rather than just insecure and gross. You have a problem with how limiting the mainstream beauty standard is? Fine. TALK ABOUT THAT. I will agree with you. But slamming "ugly" girls and slamming "pretty" girls both amount to slamming girls. So, you know. Less of that, please.
ANYWAY. Taylor has a new video out now! And it has sort of crystallized all of the many things about her that I dislike so intensely. It has her wandering around in a white dress, barefoot and doe-eyed, looking like a little cartoon lamb that was magically given human form a la The Last Unicorn, and reminiscing about her awesome friend Abigail that she met in high school. Oh, the times they had! For example: they didn't like the other girls at the school! ("They think they're so cool." Ugh. Taylor. Again. REALLY?) Oh, and they both had boyfriends. And their relationships with their boyfriends worked out so as to provide a Moral Parable For Our Times!
"Abigail," as you can see in the video, goes on a date with a boy. Everything is going wonderfully, with the little CGI fireflies and the CGI full moon and the disturbingly CGI-looking Taylor cavorting in the pastoral landscape with her White Dress Of Virtue And Innocence while she waits for all her woodland friends to show up and help her with the chores or whatever Disney Princess business Taylor Swift gets up to in her off hours. Oh, but THEN! Things take a dangerous turn! With Boyfriend trying to take things TOO FAR, from chaste and romantic close-mouth kissing to
unprotected sex conducted atop piles of cocaine whilst they take turns spitting on a Bible FRENCHING. Abigail cannot take this assault on her purity, and so the relationship MUST END. And there is sadness, and rainstorms, and Taylor being a little too gloaty about how well things have worked out in her own life.
I mean, I have no doubt that young women are often pressured to go further, sexually, than they are comfortable with. I get that, and it is sad, and it is scary! But I also have no doubt that some girls have sex because they want to. And that's not a narrative that gets told here. The narrative here goes as follows: there's a girl who gets semi-sexual and regrets it (because BOYS want SEX, and GIRLS DON'T) and a girl who doesn't get up to much of anything sexual and ends up wise and happy.
Oh, but also, if you listen to the lyrics too closely, it gets EVEN WORSE! "In your life, you'll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team," Taylor opines Mom-ishly, which begs the question: WHY DID YOU HAVE AN ENTIRE SONG AND/OR VIDEO IN WHICH DATING THAT BOY WAS PRESENTED AS AN ACCOMPLISHMENT ON PAR WITH CURING CANCER, THEN, TAYLOR? But never mind, because the point is that Taylor is a pop star now. A boring, boring, abstinence-y pop star, who pretty much credits her success not to having had sex. "I've realized some bigger dreams of mine," Taylor girlishly confesses. (Oh, wow, she is so humble, you guys! It's like her success is my success, too! Quick, let's go spend some money on her various merchandise!) Meanwhile, "Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind." Meaning, I think, that she fucked him. And they broke up. (Unless she literally gave him all of her possessions, like, in garbage bags or something? Because that WOULD be a bad decision. What is your boyfriend going to do with a canopy bed and several Jonas Brothers posters?) And this was a TRAGEDY, really, SO MUCH WORSE than having an appropriately asexual relationship and breaking up anyway. (I've heard this can happen!) But fundamentally it was avoidable, because it was her (bad, tragic, awful) choice to have sex, and this has of course resulted in her not being a pop star like Taylor. Teen Girls of America, here are your choices: have sex and wind up broken and sad and feeling as if you've lost "everything you had," or wait until your untouched vagina accumulates enough charge to make you rich and famous. Because your sexuality should never be an end in and of itself; it should be something you strategically employ to get what you want. Which isn't sex, because who ever heard of a girl wanting that? This TOTALLY WHOLESOME MESSAGE comes courtesy of Taylor Swift.
I mean, if people want to listen to Taylor Swift, fine. I personally can't stand the whole cartoonishly innocent and pure (and white-dress-wearing! Always with the virginal white dress!) blonde blue-eyed white girl thing; it strikes me as just as artificial and calculated as any other pop star's personal brand, with an added noxiousness due to its edge of moral superiority and '50's-style coy submissiveness. But don't pretend Swift is a "good" role model, or even an "attainable" one. Telling girls stories about how being too sexual will make them broken hollow sluts who can never succeed at life isn't new, and it isn't cute. Not even coming from sweet little Taylor Swift.