Does Taylor Swift Give Feminism A Bad Reputation? 

In Somalia, an eight year old girl is woken up before sunrise. She is ripped from her peaceful sleep with no warning and brought to the designated mundal for procedures. Her stomach fills with dread as she is dragged toward the shanti. She knew this day would come, but she was unprepared for it to come so soon. The little girl tries to dig her heels in the mud, helplessly squirming in her own mother’s grasp, tears streaming down her face. She is only eight years old, but today she becomes a woman. Today, she will undergo female circumcision, an extremely painful cultural practice in many countries like Somalia. She will be cut into then bound for a week after. This is what her mother, her father, and her community wants for her, but is it what she wants? 

This story is the reality for 200 million girls worldwide who are subjected to this brutal procedure. It is a barbaric violation of human rights, including the right to be free of torture, that has far reaching applications. The World Health Organization says the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has no health benefits. It can lead to complications during childbirth or, without proper medical training, the girls can bleed to death. Because of the nature of the procedure, many women who have been “cut” must get C-sections when giving birth. The mortality rate among women in childbirth is extremely high due to the limited access to proper medical equipment and training. In addition to that, they cannot urinate or menstruate properly, making daily life uncomfortable. 

FGM is a cultural practice in about 30 countries around the world. Girls who do not undergo the procedure are stigmatized because the ceremony is seen as a crucial part of “coming of age.” Simply because they are women, they are forced into impossible decisions that yield no beneficial outcomes for them. In this case, either submit to the procedure or be shamed in their communities. 

What does feminism mean to the world? Merriam Webster defines feminism as the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Feminism is the uplifting of women around the world who are in dire situations that violate their rights as human beings. Feminism is crucial to the women in Somalia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Egypt, and Sudan. They are literally mutilated, forced into prostitution, raped by powerful men in their family and community, or sold by their family based entirely on their gender. Women face this oppression on a daily basis and the possibility of help is slim to none.

Countries that have fortunately eradicated such practices or acquired modern viewpoints on gender equality have become desensitized to the prevailing struggles of women. In America, people dare to ask “why do we need feminism?” because oppression is not seen so clearly. The term “white feminism” has done immense damage to the efforts of feminists. This term is used to describe feminist theories that focus on the struggles of white women, without taking into account forms of oppression experienced by minority women. It is when women only want to talk about sexism, misogyny, or the patriarchy without any real consideration of intersectionality. 

Many celebrities in our time practice “white feminism” and do not even realize it. Someone who has stood out in recent years is Taylor Swift. In the past, feminist used to be a dirty word, and women had to fight the stereotype just to be heard. Recently, feminism has become more mainstream, especially in pop culture. Because of this, many artists have started claiming that they too are feminists. People like Taylor Swift use the word feminist to help their brand, but do not put in the political work. It is not what Swift can do for feminism, but what feminism can do for her. 

Swift’s notion of feminism is basically just “girl power’’ and women supporting women. Yet, she makes millions on her dis tracks about other female artists, including Katy Perry, and gained notoriety from her petty feud with Nicki Minaj over the 2015 VMAs, when Minaj made comments about the award show excluding black artists (which Swift took as a personal attack). Her “girl squad” consists of paper-thin, white models that do not reflect diverse body images of women. She has never spoken out against Donald Trump’s misogyny, attended a women’s march, or publicly supported Planned Parenthood, all feminist staples.

Taylor Swift speaks out against misogyny when it is convenient to her. In Kanye West’s hit single “Famous,” Swift was addressed as a “bitch.” The two artists have had a decadelong feud starting with West interrupting Swift’s speech at the 2009 VMAs. West claims that he and Swift had an hourlong phone conversation about the line, and she deemed it funny, giving the song her blessing. After release, Taylor Swift’s representative said that she never knew the actual lyrics, including the curse word. It all culminated in the release of Swift’s album Reputation that debuted her single “Look What You Made Me Do,” a clear shot at West. The trope of her entire tour was a snake emoji. 

In any situation, Taylor Swift somehow takes on the victim role. Her countless million dollar songs she writes about her exes and spurned friendships might make for a good tune, but always appear to come off in bad taste. Her dis on Kanye perpetuates the stereotype of the dangerous black man going after the unsuspecting white woman. She creates harmful perceptions all while preaching in the name of feminism. 

Anyone can sympathize with her experience with sexual assault; no one should undergo that sort of trauma. The problem lies within her response to such pitiful actions. Swift never spoke out against sexual assault until it was her own trial. 

Swift was included on the cover of Time Magazine as a “Silence Breaker” within the #MeToo movement. The “Silence Breakers” are a group of women who stepped forward and spoke out against powerful men who have committed acts of sexual assault against them. So why was Taylor Swift on the cover? Yes, she did speak out against DJ Mueller for sexual assault and won her case. However, people who are central to the #MeToo movement have been sidelined for Swift. Rose McGowan, who began the trials against Harvey Weinstein, Tarana Burke, who actually founded the #MeToo movement, and Kesha, who has become the face of women abused in the music industry, were nowhere to be seen. Her presence on the cover seemingly places her at the center of the movement, when in reality she had no previous contribution beyond her own trial. It situates her as an opportunistic feminist. 

Whether she knows it or not, Taylor Swift is the epitome of white feminism. White feminism only prioritizes the plight of white, Western, middle class women, which ends up maintaining the white supremacist, capitalist structure. Taylor Swift gives feminism a bad reputation, contributing to the desensitization of the plight of women worldwide. It is when people see the shallow motives of a “feminist” like Swift that they begin to question the need for it. She reaps all the benefits from the name of feminism, while simultaneously damaging the apparent necessity and importance of its existence. The little girl in Somalia who feels alone and violated has received no help from the self-proclaimed feminist that is Taylor Swift.

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