Taylor Swift's fourth album, Red, is out today. The bubbly blonde is expected to sell millions of copies with her now-standard girlish, diary-like lyrics. As Ramin Setoodeh writes for The Daily Beast:
The catchy song "22," titled after Swift's age, opens with the irresistible line: "It feels like the perfect night to dress up like hipsters/and make fun of our exes, uh-huh."
This time around, Swift worked with Swedish producer Max Martin, who wrote power pop hits like Britney's "Baby One More Time," Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," Kelly Clarkson's "Since You Been Gone," and KatyPerry's "I Kissed a Girl." Yep, a41-year-old man co-wrote Taylor Swift's hit "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."
Of course, Swift does write her own songs, generally about boys, love, and falling in and out of love with boys. There are women younger than she is — Rye Rye and Azealia Banks, for instance — experimenting with new sounds and sexually charged lyrics; Swift has stuck to a formula and carefully curated image: The patriarchy-friendly, virginal, good, pure, feminine, pretty blonde girl that has been an American ideal for decades. She's basically a cross between Shirley Temple, Doris Day and the Sunbeam bread mascot.
Still, she is a powerful woman in the music industry; her latest single set a record for digital sales and went to Number One on the Billboard Hot 100. In his interview, Setoodeh asks a simple question: "Do you think your music empowers women?"
Taylor Swift's answer is a non-answer, missing the point:
I write from a place of my personal feelings about things. It's funny when you write a song and you don't expect it to turn into what it turns into when it goes out in the world. I wrote a song called "Mean" about a critic who hated me. I put it out, and all of a sudden, it became an anthem against bullies in schools, which is a refreshing and new take on it. When people say things about me empowering women, that's an amazing compliment. It's not necessarily what I thought I was doing, because I write songs about what I feel. I think there's strength when you're baring your emotions.
Not only does she not think she empowers women, she doesn't intend to, and can't manage to at least turn the conversation towards some kind of cliché along the lines of "You can do anything you put your mind to" or "if girls are using me as an example to get out there and play guitar and sing, that's great."
Next, Setoodeh asks: "Do you consider yourself a feminist?"
Taylor Swift replies:
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.
Yes, what you're describing is equality, and equality is what feminism is all about! Except we live in a country where, when you work as hard as guys, you make less money if you're a woman, or worse, a woman of color. It's like she doesn't understand what a feminist is. Is this what happens when you're homeschooled after the age of 15?
Some may argue that Taylor Swift is a role model, a class-act in the drugged-up, sexed-up music industry. But do we need another photogenic cisgendered carefree white girl singing heteronormative songs about mooning over boys?
As Jessica Wakeman writes for The Frisky,
[Taylor is] 22 now and has been exposed to a lot in these past few years. I do not expect that Taylor Swift would have the politics of Kathleen Hanna, India.Arie, Ani DiFranco or even Alanis Morrissette. But I do wish she could correctly identify what a feminist is - even if she does not want to identify as one.