Nothing makes me feel less sorry for a well to-do woman than when she essentially begs the public to feel bad for her when someone makes a joke at her expense. A funny joke, no less.
In an interview in Vanity Fair, Taylor Swift talked about her feelings about the joke Golden Globes hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made. (Fey stood on stage with Pohler and said that Swift needed to “stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son.”) Swift blathered on about how her feeeewings were hurt by the joke, and she made some pretty double-sided feminist statements.
“For a female to write about her feelings, and then be portrayed as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend in need of making you marry her and have kids with her, I think that’s taking something that potentially should be celebrated-a woman writing about her feelings in a confessional way-that’s taking it and turning it and twisting it into something that is frankly a little sexist.”
She added a line she says she heard from Katie Couric, originally from Madeleine Albright. ”There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Admittedly, women who are mean to women, simply to cut them down, are the worst kinds of women. They’re vindictive, and set out to compete with their fellow women instead of trying to build them up so we can all do better.
But Swift is a prime example of the other worst kind of woman: a self-proclaimed non-feminist who throws a temper-tantrum when her own product—those weepy love songs and victorious break-up anthems—are later used against her, and claims that women who aren’t kind to women are the real problem. Feminism isn’t about burning bras and hating men—it can be as basic as disagreeing with the double standard set for women. For her to initially reject a feminist title, and then double back and try to use it in her favour is hypocritical and condescending to anyone listening. It can’t be used simply when it appeals to you, when people say something you don’t like.
You do not get to write songs with hardly subtle references to ex-boyfriends and then get huffy when someone references those exact songs and suggests, gently, that maybe you cut it out. Moreover, you don’t get to decide who has the right to talk about your life when you put it out there. Writing about yourself is equal parts brave and self-serving: once you let it go, it isn’t up to you who gets to interpret it for themselves.
The solution isn’t that women need to be kind to all women. Being vicious and competitive is no winning formula, but being “nice” for the sake of being nice is nearly as bad. Boys get to fight. They get to have arguments and be mean to each other and tease and rib without it being construed as more than what it is. Girls, however, are expected to be nice, delicate, genteel. Sisterhood and solidarity is great, but not all women deserve decency.
It’s here where Swift makes a good point. While your garden-variety male celebrity is praised and lauded for running through women like paper napkins, females like Swift are characterized like desperate, clawing, obsessive ex-girlfriends who love too deeply and invest too deeply. Single girls can’t get away with anything: they can’t date casually, they can’t be detached. (Just Google “Jennifer Aniston desperate” and see what glory comes up.)
It’s frustrating then, that instead of owning her love life, and saying that she can date as many boys as she wants, thank you very much, it was about how two adult women were mean to a little girl. Swift is no Gloria Steinhem, but she does have a flock of teenaged girls looking at her for cues on poise and maturity.
It was just a joke, but Swift turned herself into a victim.
That’s the third worst kind of girl: the self-proclaimed chump.