Washington Post’s Fred Barbash doesn’t want you to think he’s a pervert or that he might be into something teenage girls enjoy. In the Man’s World, there is no greater insult than these two accusations! But he wanted to let us all know that he’s above all that gendered crap. He’s into Taylor Swift, he’s not alone, and he doesn’t care about what you think! (He really does, but I’ll get back to that.)
1. She’s a role model for daughters — unlike, say, Miley Cyrus. “One day I was sitting with my daughter, Kim, who is nearly eight, watching a kids’ pop music show on TV,” a professional musician, Mark Hayes, wrote in the Irish Independent. “Amid the usual trendy dreck, something leaped out at me … something you’ve probably heard, something called Shake It Off. The video was fun, the song was a catchy mix of brass and vocal melodies, and I liked the message, which could be paraphrased as ‘Be yourself and don’t let the bastards grind you down.’ A fine lesson for a little girl making her way in the world, I thought.”
Does this guy write scripts for the Dove commercials? Either you don’t want your daughter to turn into a skank like Miley or she’s not supposed to care what anyone thinks even if she does want to be like Miley, but it can’t be both. Barbash’s subtle slutshaming of Miley is using the exact same sexist standards that judge all girls and women of all ages everywhere, yes, including Swift. If Barbash listened to Swift that much, then he would see that in her lyrics too.
Best of all, Miley hasn’t done anything illegal unlike her male counterparts who are judged for being an asshole first and violating the law second.
2. She’s sexy, but not selling sex — unlike, say, Miley Cyrus. A grown man can watch Swift without blushing in the presence of his children, spouse or partner. After quizzing her tattooed husband, Jean concluded Swift’s ability to “remain girl next door-ish and maintain an innocence or realness about her … makes her desirable to men, even scruffy, Vans wearing, punk rock listening men.” In other words, the singer “has managed to nail edginess without crossing over into slutty, drug-addicted, prostitute land. Miley, take notes.”
“Whether you’re looking at it from a political or a primal point of view,” Sam Parker wrote in Esquire UK, “Taylor’s unconventional insistence on keeping her kit on is rather refreshing. While her contemporaries fellate hammers, get down to some faux-lesbian writhing or just release entire songs about their backsides, the pornification of music videos extends no further than flashing a bit of leg in some cute dresses [Blank Space] or wearing totally narrative-appropriate leotards [Shake It Off] in Taylor’s world.
“And yet, of course, she is still sexy – just in way that makes you wish you could date her, rather than in way that makes you feel the need to take a cold shower and fret about the world we’ve created for our children.”
More Miley slutshaming. Wonderful. At least Parker takes some responsibility for “...the world we’ve created for our children,” but I’m not giving credit to anyone who doesn’t understand that comparing two vastly different artists is a fruitless and sexist endeavor.
Similar to “purity,” the concept of a “girl next door” only exists in the minds of men who pigeonhole women into neat little categories because taking the time and effort to know individuals, as opposed to an entire gender, is too much trouble. “Pure” women and “the girl next door” types are whoever the hell the eye of the beholder wants them to be. These women are a blank canvass for sexist, contradictory, and unrealistic expectations. SEE ALSO: the Duggar family who expects their daughters to be chaste virgins one day and then baby-making machines the next day.
Judging women’s personalities based on the clothes they wear is something rape apologists do not creepy journalists.
3. Her lyrics speak to me. Swift makes grown men think about their relationships, past and present. While her earlier albums were about teenagers living at home, by the time of “Stay, Stay, Stay,” she was writing about grownups living together in apartments.
“I’ve taken any song that relates to my life and played it over and over again,” wrote a man identified in New York magazine only as Stephen, 27. “All these songs are related to my life, to my little relationships and romances. There is this song called ‘Holy Ground,’ and it talks about everywhere [Taylor] went with this guy, where they first met and first kissed. Every girl I’ve ever been in love with, everywhere I met them or had a moment with them, is a special place to me. Taylor Swift and I, our issues aren’t exactly the same, but it crosses over gender stuff.”
“I like her because I think of past relationships,” wrote Ketin, a 24-year-old consultant, in New York. “Her perspective is told from the female side, but the dilemmas always are on both sides. I can listen to one of her songs and be like, Oh yeah, that’s like that high-school girlfriend.”
That’s perfectly legit, said Covach, the scholar of pop music. “There could be a kind of general appeal that has nothing to do with anything weird,” Covach said. “Not so much wishing to be with Taylor Swift but thinking about what it’s like to be that young, at that stage. If you look at young love or young sexuality, it’s possible to look at that and remember the good old days … without it being in any way negative or destructive.”
These statements are truly laughable, especially from the one “scholar” of pop music. Long before Taylor Swift even existed, there were and remain plenty of female artists who created and developed songs about the “female side” of relationships — good and bad. (This song perfectly describes a breakup and what it’s like to be strung along.) I’m sure these commentators didn’t mean to be so literal. After all, they were being interviewed about only one artist. But there are literally thousands of other female musicians over the last century alone that it’s dishonest and ridiculous to leave these women out of such a rich and broad topic that Swift has only been participating in for a few years. There’s a light tone of Columbusing in these men too. (The more cynical side of me thinks that these guys never paid attention to female artists until they found one they thought was hot enough.)
4. We need to spend time with our children. “If not for my seventeen year old daughter,” wrote Brett Baker in Chicagonow, “I’d probably never listen to Taylor Swift and probably never miss her either. But my daughter likes her. And last night we got 1989 and went to the basement and listened to it together. … I told my daughter I wanted to listen to the album so I could write a blog post about it. But really I just thought it’d be fun to spend some time with her, just the two of us, enjoying something she was excited about. I was right.”
Oh, yes, the children. Look, dude, if you want to spend more time with your kid, then you don’t need an excuse to do it. The only men who need “excuses” to spend time with their teenage daughters and/or enjoy the things that teenage girls like are those who are insecure. That male insecurity is something feminism has been trying to fight for decades. Much like the original Washington Post author, if you really didn’t subscribe to patriarchal expectations, you wouldn’t be doing mental acrobatics to defend your preferences, especially to your daughter. Imagine this teenager’s takeaway if her father had been honest about wanting to listen to Swift’s album.
Exactly. So if some grumpy male journalist clutches his monocle and judges a woman over a short skirt or twerking on stage, he can just fuck the hell off, right? I wish.