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It’s great that Miley Cyrus is combating the outdated idea that young women shouldn’t express their sexuality.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.