OPINION Why Taylor Swift’s discourse is damaging for young women

Taylor Swift’s new song Look What You Made Me Do (LWYMMD) has already been viewed more than 230 million times on YouTube. Considering roughly half the population is female and Swift’s targeted demographic is tweens, the song has likely been watched by more than 100 million young women. If you haven’t seen it, the song and video is a rather immature attack on all the fellow celebrities who have burned her over the last couple of years, from Katy Perry and Kimye to Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston.

The context and content of the song is troublesome to young women for numerous reasons, not least because she repeats the same discourse of petty celebrity spats and plotting that she has been repeating for years now. She is also one of the very few hugely influential celebs who has failed to condemn the most dangerous and arguably powerful person on the planet – Donald Trump. In fact, she distances herself from any discussion that really matters, and any discussion that could also lose her fans and subsequent fame and money.

In a world where Americans have become more and more woke to their political and social environments, Swift seems to be decidedly fast asleep. Yet still, she cluelessly chooses to make herself into a punk poster girl (thanks to the punk style artwork and images that accompany the single release), that’s right – a punk taking down one fellow celeb at a time.

The bigger problem is that she is doing this under the guise of ‘strong female who won’t take no shit’. Please Taylor – you wouldn’t know what shit smelt like if it hit you in the face.

LWYMMD mainly works to show just how self-centred and out of touch to the world she is, especially given that the US is living in such a precarious socio and political environment at present. Real punks fight oppression, they fight for the outsiders and they fight for social and political advancement, usually against the government or other social and political institutions. They don’t fight other rich, spoilt celebs over telephone calls and back up dancers.

The use of punk imagery is not the only time in the clip and marketing where Swift uses something questionable, the video itself looks eerily similar to the title sequence in 1960s Hollywood show Feud, a drama about two women who are pitted against one another by their male puppet masters for their own personal gain. Nice. Real feminist. Real punk.

That’s not to say that all musicians and celebrities have a duty to make political or social statements, there is definitely always room for escapism, romanticism and fun. But Swift doesn’t even go down these paths, instead she chooses to go down the same old trodden track she has been going down since 2006. That track being one of playing the victim, throwing blame, plotting and generally preferring self over other.

You can’t help but ask the question – why does Swift always sing about the things that play out in the media? Is it that Swift has nothing else going on in her life? No personal, external, emotional, social or intellectual developments worthy of writing about or fighting for?

Or is it because this narrative works to keep her current, on topic, and well, famous? Maybe it’s all a ploy, maybe they are all in on it together and they are all bouncing off each other to help cling to what  relevance they have left as they realise the days of reinvention geniuses David Bowie and Madonna are over. If this is the case, it won’t be long before the public catches on and they will be forgotten, because the only thing that keeps you relevant in this world is genuine talent, creativity and intellect. All of which, if LWYMMD is anything to go by, Swift seems to be running low on – “I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined. I check it once, then I check it twice, oh!” – enough said.

Another gripe with LWYMMD is that the whole thing is so steeped in hypocrisy, it’s just plain boring. Because nothing says “I would like to be excluded from this narrative” less than creating a dramatic and hugely un-unoriginal million dollar video clip re-living every single little moment from said narrative. So please Swift – stop insulting our intelligence.

All of this is even more irritating as Swift has been marketed since day dot as being ‘normal’, ‘accessible’; as ‘one of’ the 100 million plus young girls watching the film clip, she is thought to be representative of all them. This is a problem, because she is not normal, her ‘problems’ are in fact luxuries. I mean, it must be so awful to co-write a number one hit and receive your due pennies for it, or to be referenced by Kanye West, or to have some of your backup dancers “stolen” from your multi-million dollar world tour. But none the less, these young women may still see her and her problems as normal and therefore figure that her bitterness, malice, conniving, plotting, selfish, anti-female, anti-political and narrow minded ways are also normal, or even worse – cool, because she makes sure she looks cool and sexy doing all of this.

Don’t we want young women to think bigger than themselves? Think about what they can bring to the world, what they can change, what their minds and hearts can create? Too often we put too much emphasis on women’s looks and their bodies, and too often women’s clever, creative, original minds are disregarded.

You can forgive the media parade, and the poor me discourse, and the insulting of intelligence, you can even forgive her warped idea of feminism and punk, but what you can’t forgive is her message in LWYMMD to young women, or lack thereof, no matter how playful it is intended to be.

Swift’s tireless discourse teaches women that nothing is ever her fault. She is always innocent, and everyone else is always wrong. In fact, throughout Swift’s career she has repeatedly laid the blame on others through her lyrics, and if she does point the finger at herself, it’s just cute and fun when she does it. Self-auditing, problem ownership and other over self are apparently not high on the agenda for Swift. You can forgive this shallowness for the first three records, but not now. Swift is 27 years old, five years older than Amy Winehouse when she put out Back to Black,  the same age as Janis Joplin when she put out Pearl and a couple of years younger than Patti Smith when she released Horses.

But if all that wasn’t bad enough, the song teaches young women to drag each other down, not to hold each other up. It puts personal grudges before social progression and it reinforces so many negative stereotypes of women that all you can really do is laugh and hope the young women watching it are not as silly as Swift herself.

In short, the clip teaches young women how not to evolve.

Just to add the cherry to the top of her shit pile, she also demeans and trivializes violence by referencing Kim Kardashian’s assault by calling it a “perfect crime” and laying around in a bath tub of jewels (apparently $10million worth – yep that’s real normal and accessible) insinuating that Kardashian could afford it or even worse, deserved it. Whether this was ok’d by Kardashian or not, it’s not a great message to be sending tweens.

Contradictions in people are what can make them interesting. But Swift is so full of inconsistencies and paradoxes that she has become completely fabricated, and not in an interesting way, just in a please go away now way.

All of this wouldn’t hurt so much if Swift didn’t lauder herself as a punk and a feminist. And that is why it is dangerous to young women; they are being taught that feminism is about self, not about all. About looks, not about brain. About fame, not about originality. About kicking everyone else down in order to get up in this world.

And all of this – every last little bit – could have all been forgiven had the song and clip actually had  any artistic merit,  but it doesn’t,  it’s just all so, so crap. The last original thought Taylor Swift ever had died from loneliness years ago.

It’s time for her to go away now and make room for someone with something real to say.

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