Like many young girls in 2006, I grew up with Taylor Swift. I enthusiastically sang along to “You Belong With Me” and “Our Song” while jumping around my bedroom. I used songs such as “Love Story” and “A Place in This World” in school projects. I connected with Taylor Swift as a writer whose songs are poetry. The lyrics she produced made me feel less alone and visible, at a time when I needed it most. I was a Swiftie, there was no doubt about that. And, I was proud to be included in a group of individuals that wanted to be “Fearless,” and reminded each other that, “you’re beautiful, every little piece love; don’t you know? You’re really gonna be someone.” I was on Taylor’s side. But, as time quickly progressed, and Taylor quickly became a superstar in the country world, my relationship with her changed.
As I aged, I realized that I felt a connection to Taylor Swift’s songs, but I did not connect to her as a human being. Who was Taylor Swift when the songs and music were stripped away? At this time, I was simultaneously struggling with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, and Taylor’s thin frame did not help me become a healthier version of myself. Instead, I wanted to be as thin, if not thinner, than her. I slowly distanced myself from the likes of Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato.
I used to be a Swiftie. Now, I sat in college classes and listened to groups of girls shout, “I’m a feminist!” solely because they heard Taylor Swift call herself one. There wasn’t any education in feminism, there wasn’t any passion, there wasn’t any advocacy, and there certainly wasn’t intersectionality.
These groups of girls donned their “We Should All Be Feminists” shirts because they thought it was cool, it was pretty, it was fashion. They wanted to follow in Taylor’s footsteps. If she was a feminist, they were. These girls didn’t even know the shirts they were wearing wouldn’t have been created without Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay. They joined the ranks of women practising White Feminism; by definition, the practicing of a feminism that assumes white (cis, straight, able-bodied, thin, middle-to-upper class) women as the default, actively avoiding critical analysis on any axis other than gender, thereby leading to a cookie-cutter feminism that can only possibly be useful to those it’s intended for: white women.
My Swiftie image became a thing of the past as I realized Taylor Swift’s use of imagery in her music videos exemplified White Feminism. Additionally, she remained in the shadows although she self-labelled herself. She wasn’t vocal on issues pertaining to feminism. She was Taylor Swift, the silent feminist. More and more young girls and women happily put on their red lipstick and perfected their winged eyeliner. They placed “darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream” in their social media bios. And, they wanted to have a squad of white supermodels. I annoyingly rolled my eyes.
January 23, 2020. Taylor Swift released her documentary, Miss Americana. It was a whirlwind of emotions, tears, and realization for myself as a viewer. In one hour and twenty-five minutes, Taylor takes off her mask and reveals her authentic self to the world.
In one hour and twenty-five minutes Taylor refused to stay silent. She discussed disordered eating and eating disorders, politics, identity, acceptance, the good girl image, sexual assault, misogyny, and feminism; just to name a few. Viewers followed Taylor on her life journey and witnessed that this superstar is still growing and learning.
After watching Miss Americana, I owe Taylor an apology. I left Taylor’s side. I judged. I assumed. Now, I’m back. As are many. And, it feels great to connect to her as a human being.
We now know who Taylor is when the songs and music are stripped away. She is strong, passionate, vulnerable, talented, honest, real, human… and that’s a beautiful thing.