Reporting Shannon Carlin
For those who feel Taylor Swift’s lyrics are a little antiquated in their view of romance, a new Twitter handle is giving them a feminist upgrade. Going by the name FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift), the parody account started re-writing some of the singer’s biggest songs on June 12th.
In just 20 days, the account (whose photo is Swift done up like Rosie The Riveter) has posted 184 tweets that attempt to break the glass ceiling by redefining a few pop songs. With nearly 111,000 followers at press time, the account seems to have struck a chord.
No longer is “Love Story” about a girl pining for a guy. Instead it’s about a woman finding her own strength.
You were Romeo, you were throwin’ pebbles / And my daddy said “Stay away from Juliet” / But I’m a grown woman who can make her own decisions — FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) June 16, 2013
A new version of “Today Was A Fairytale” plays with the idea of happily ever after.
Today was a fairytale / You were the prince / I was a beautiful submissive girl with no personality / It was kind of a terrible day actually
— FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) June 27, 2013
I don’t know about you / But I’m feeling 22 / cents underpaid on the dollar — FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) June 13, 2013
You throw your head back laughing like a little kid / I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ’cause / People often say women aren’t
— FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) June 23, 2013
And “You Belong With Me” addresses the narrow-mindedness that revolves around women’s fashion.
She wears short skirts / I wear t-shirts / Neither of us is asking for it
— FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) June 12, 2013
But does this anonymous Twitter handle — whose bio, “Happy. Free. Confused. Oppressed by the patriarchy. At the same time,” is a feminist play on Swift’s song “22” – prove once and for all that Swift is bad for feminism?
Though Swift’s ability to stay out of jail is to be commended by parents everywhere, many women wonder if the Red singer’s penchant for all things girly is sending the wrong message to all the mini-Swifts out there who hang on to each and every one of her words. Words that may or may not feature heart-dotted I’s.
Last year, noted feminist writer and social critic Camille Paglia wrote an essay for The Hollywood Reporter, which took a look at the Taylor effect. Paglia accused Swift of being a product of a “terrifying time machine” that had taken us all back to the ’50s when women had to be “simple, peppy, cheerful and modest.”
“Her themes are mainly complaints about boyfriends, faceless louts who blur in her mind as well as ours,” Paglia wrote. “Swift’s meandering, snippy songs make 16-year-old Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit ‘It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry if I Want to)’ seem like a towering masterpiece of social commentary, psychological drama and shapely concision.”
Admittedly, Swift lose some feminist points for trying to start a fight with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who while hosting the Emmy’s this year poked fun at Swift’s dating track record. Swift told Vanity Fair, “You know, Katie Couric is one of my favorite people, because she said to me she had heard a quote that she loved, that said, ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’”
Poehler later talked to The Hollywood Reporter about Tay’s comments, saying, “Aw, I feel bad if she was upset. I am a feminist and she is a young and talented girl. That being said, I do agree I am going to hell. But for other reasons. Mostly boring tax stuff.”
But even that unnecessary jab aside, Swift has admitted to The Daily Beast last year that she’s not really interested in feminism. Or at least the idea of pitting women against men.
“I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have,” she said. “I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”
Swift’s definition of the term seems a bit archaic in comparison to most women’s idea of it now, which is the fight for equality not a competition against men. Especially when no matter how hard a woman works in 2013 she on average will earn 77 cents to every dollar a man makes.
Taylor should probably just let feminist hero Kathleen Hanna speak on her behalf on these sorts of matters. Hanna, formerly of Le Tigre and Bikini Kill, told The Daily Beast in March that she was a fan of Taylor’s, saying her lyrics are “super-clever” and that she wished there was a singer like Swift out there when she was in high school.
“I’m so happy she really cares about her female fans,” Hanna said. “She’s not catering to a male audience and is writing music for other girls. I don’t care if she calls herself a feminist or not. There is something that she’s doing that feels feminist to me in that she really seems to have a lot of control over what her career is doing.”
Hanna brings up a good point. Does it matter what Taylor’s talking about if it gives strength to other women? Her music may be among the most saccharine out there, but Swift’s certainly not some pushover. As evidenced in the three-part documentary Taylor Swift: Journey To Fearless, Swift routinely runs meetings with people at least 20 years her senior. In this pow-wows, Swift let everyone know that she was going to make sure everything was done her way, specifically when it came to the design of the sets on tour. Should it really matter that the design included a Romeo and Juliet balcony scene? No.
As for now, the verdict is still out on whether Swift is good or bad for feminism. If Taylor can move away from the rom-com love scenarios of some of her more naive songs and edge closer to the poetic accounts of heartbreak on tracks like Speak Now highlight “Dear John” and Red‘s “Begin Again,” which makes good use of Taylor’s innocence, FeministTaylorSwift might have to call it quits.
That said, there’s enough inspiration among female pop stars to power an entire army of parody Twitter accounts. FeministRihanna anyone?