Lately, there’s been a trend of publicly denouncing female pop stars as affronts to feminism. The most obvious example of this phenomenon was this fall, as celebrities and journalists alike attacked Miley Cyrus for the way she presented herself on stage and in music videos. Websites such as Buzzfeed responded quickly, calling these criticisms “garden-variety slut-shaming.” In the same article, Buzzfeed’s Summer Anne Burton hit the nail on the head when she said, “It’s part of institutional misogyny: worried about how the our society treats young women’s bodies as objects? Blame the young women for having bodies in the first place.

This instance was certainly not the first time a pop star was called out for undermining feminism. In 2010, Dodai Stewart gained quite a bit of publicity for her rant on Jezebel about Taylor Swift being “A Feminist’s Nightmare.” This sentiment brings us to a big problem with modern feminism that is rarely discussed in the media. Some brands of feminism have begun to send out the message that it is neither acceptable for women to want heterosexual romance, nor to behave in the way that women have historically been expected to behave. It’s certainly true that a woman should never feel dependent on a man, but these feminists are taking that opinion too far, telling women that falling in love makes them weak.

It’s great that Miley Cyrus is combating the outdated idea that young women shouldn’t express their sexuality. Most feminists seem to agree with this, yet somehow many of them believe that it’s wrong for Taylor Swift to choose not to sing about sexual themes, dress in revealing clothing, or twerk onstage. In her article in Jezebel, Stewart argues, “[Taylor Swift’s] image of being good and pure plays right into how much the patriarchy fetishizes virginity, loves purity, and celebrates women who know their place as delicate flowers.”

Isn’t blaming Taylor for society’s obsession with female purity the same thing as blaming Miley for society’s objectification of women? So Taylor Swift isn’t overtly sexual, so she gives off the image of a “good girl” – if that’s who she is, then what’s wrong with that?
Feminism is about empowering women to make their own choices, to be who they are, to be treated with respect and to respect themselves. It certainly isn’t about pressuring young women to behave or present themselves in a certain way.

Miley Cyrus made a great point when she said, “There’s absolutely no contradiction at all between being a feminist and taking your clothes off and being comfortable about displaying your sexuality.” But what we need to recognize is that there is also no contradiction at all between being a feminist and keeping your clothes on, and choosing not to display your sexuality either.

There’s nothing at all wrong with being traditional. If what you want is to someday get married and have children, that’s great, so long as you have the power and information to make these choices. People have said that Taylor Swift promotes medieval gender norms; painting herself as a helpless victim in need of saving. However, this is most definitely not the case, as exemplified by her lyrics, where she refuses to make herself into an incompetent damsel in distress. Sure, she has a good number of breakup songs, but it’s obvious that she has quite a bit of power in these relationships, and she isn’t willing to let herself get pushed around. Just listen to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” It isn’t even true that she only writes about boys. Some of her best songs aren’t about romantic relationships at all; take a look at “The Best Day,” “Never Grow Up,” and “Mean.”

The idea that Taylor Swift is teaching her preteen fans to focus their lives only on chasing boys is completely false. She is actually a fantastic example of a strong, professionally-independent woman: she writes all her own songs, she’s smart, she’s creative, and she is completely unashamed to be who she is. We need to remember that being girly or wanting to find romantic love does not make a young woman weak or somehow inferior. It’s ok to be Miley Cyrus, it’s ok to be Taylor Swift, and it’s ok to be yourself.


  1. If I remember correctly–Dodai Stewart went on her “feminist nightmare” rant after Taylor Swift won her Best Album Grammy, am I right? But the thing no one mentions is the reason Ms. Stewart went on her rant was because she was of the opinion that Lady GaGa and Beyonce were her favorites. She would probably argue that the two were better representatives of the feminist “ideal”.
    I found Stewart’s rant immature, and I was at first surprised, then appalled, that Stewart’s comment would be used as a frequent accusation against Swift, never acknowledging where the slur came from, or fact, neither Swift nor Swift’s album was a feminist’s nightmare. It was roundly applauded by critics, one saying that the only antecedent of Swift’s was Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys when it came to expressing the teenage experience. It’s odd, the whole “fairy tales and unicorns” criticism Swift sometimes receives. I think this may be based simply on Swift’s huge hit, Love Story. Forgotten is another song from that album, when she is leaving a guy, and leaving town, as she sings “I’m not a princess, this is no fairy tale, I’m not the one you’ll sweep off her feet, lead her up the stairwell, this ain’t Hollywood, this is a small town.” Lorde rightfully praises Swift, that they both are songwriters who write from the teenage girl’s point of view.
    Speaking as a long time feminist, I can say that Ms. Bishop’s observations are spot on. The very word “feminist” seems to have been co-opted in recent times. When Beyonce was asked once if she was a “feminist” she stumbled for a bit, indicating it was a confining term, finally saying she was a feminist, but continued that she was also a wife, mother, etc But of course she would be hesitant! Years ago, a woman could say she was a feminist and it was understood–she was for equals rights for women, equality and all that meant. That didn’t mean that Gloria Steinem couldn’t present herself as the beautiful, feminine woman who she was. Sexual as well as smart, a woman who left Johnny Carson a bit smitten. Feminism was about equality and freedom, the right to be who and what you wanted to be, live your life as you chose. If a performer is asked today if she’s a feminist, she has to hesitate, wonder if she will run up against judgments and scrutiny by today’s feminist police, of the Jezebel school such as Ms. Stewart. She will wonder if she will be scorned, or smeared as anti-feminist because someone decided Lady GaGa and Beyonce were more fitting their feminist tastes.
    All this nonsense about whether a female performer is too “girly”. Of course Taylor Swift is a feminist, and if she is too “girly” ( as if the word is a pejorative!) so be it. Of course she is aware of the criticism Yet she is true to herself, and that’s what feminism is supposed to be about. She feels no need to explain or defend nor, as she said recently, as a performer, she feels no urge to take her shirt off. Some teen performers make the transition to adult performer through a change of image. Swift stays true to herself, the transition to adult marked by her growth into a more accomplished and mature songwriter. To paraphrase Lillian Hellman–she does not change her hem to suit the latest fashion….
    As far as what she teaches her preteen fans–as some reviews in England show, Swift has fans in her 20s and 30s, too.
    Ms. Bishop’s final paragraph sums up quite well the strong, independent woman Swift is, the feminist who writes her own songs, performs and puts on what is supposed to be the best concert of the year. Just to see Swift in concert would be empowering to any preteen–a woman who can fill stadiums with the power of her words and music. And no, her songs aren’t all about boys and breakups. If Swift’s Red album was simplistic, I doubt if the New York Times would name it second on their list of best albums of 2012.

    The “smear” campaign against Taylor Swift began with the immature piece of tripe written by Stewart in 2010. I’m very disappointed that women who consider themselves to be feminists would waste their time and energy writing about, and judging, female performers in the first place. There was a thing called “sisterhood” in reference to feminists many years ago. Now we have these snotty, nasty little girl attacks such as Stewart’s. Women attacking and judging other women.
    My hat is off to Taylor Swift. A fine songwriter. A strong woman. A true feminist.

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