13.11.17

woman's reputation is always on the line

I remember seeing the video for Taylor Swift's Shake It Off and thinking it was funny and catchy, but I didn't pick up 1989 until after I saw Look What You Made Me Do a few years later. I have a love-hate relationship with American country music, and while Dolly Parton and Miranda Lambert can leave me singing and sobbing simultaneously, Taylor didn't grab me, probably because her music was more girly than womanly, until now.

As a pop music fan (ever since I ice skated every Saturday night to The Smiths, early U2, Michael Jackson and Duran Duran when I was 8) and despite the various alternative, hip hop and R'n'B tunes featuring heavily on my playlists, I am a sucker for a catchy melody which invariably catapults a song of any genre into the pop stratosphere, alongside accusations of the artist "selling out". So I loved Taylor Swift's new album Reputation, which, apart from excellent string of songs on par with brilliance of 1989 and I daresay Britney's Blackout, is a uniquely political record inasmuch the personal is political and in it, Taylor Swift has ditched the damsel mentality to become your average pissed off woman who is no longer prepared to tolerate sexist bullshit, whether it comes from men, the music industry, media or society. The fact that the album is accompanied by a lot of sexualised imagery is a regrettable consequence of being misinformed about female empowerment by identity-politics snowflakes like Lena Dunham, rather than being enlightened by a true feminist analysis. So I guess if I had one criticism it would be that kids don't read nearly as much as they should these days, or rather, their attention is so fully occupied by distractions such as catch phrases, memes and 140 character limits on deep thought, that their heads are full and minds are closed. But kids will be kids and I still have hope that this generation of young women will prevail, somehow, in this gaslighting mess our world has become. It is in that "gaslighting mess" category that I also lump all the accusations of cultural appropriation and white privilege that are desperately trying to attach themselves to this album. Like the piece I read recently that was lashing out at Taylor Swift while valiantly glorifying Cardi B's desperately limited choices in life that lead her to sex work (insinuating some sort of "cat fight" between the two, despite Taylor Swift congratulating Cardi B on her no. 1 with a bunch of flowers and a lovely note) these latest theories read like a sexist backlash written by pornsick men posing as neutral observers in male-owned media. Perhaps they are reacting preventativelly to the lyrics such as "I want to wear his initial on the chain around my neck, not because he owns me, but because he really knows me"?

I guess what I'm trying to say is, women these days are on the rise, and so much of this success we owe to the internet, but we are still confined to our cages. The fact that nowadays a houswife can earn a living by opening a free blog with pictures and recipes of her home made food, and a talented teenage girl singer-songwriter can side-step egomaniac boys in bands and become a millionnaire by uploading her videos on YouTube has to be a good thing, but the old problem remains - she is still only taken seriously if she is self-obsessed, singing about love, looking very genetically blessed or promising a full belly. Still, it's a small price to pay for hopes of freedom.


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