Taylor Swift is a cultural icon who describes herself as a feminist, but there’s a major issue with how she practices and represents feminism: It is white.
Now, I don’t mean that she’s a white feminist because she’s literally a white woman, there’s more to it than that. White feminism means ignoring intersectionality and representing feminism from a place of blind privilege.
Contrary to popular belief, feminism is not just about women. Yes, the core definition of feminism revolves around equality and equity of the sexes, but to fully practice that we have to consider the intersections of identity including race, class, orientation, gender, disability status, age and basically anything else that makes up how we describe ourselves.
So Taylor Swift takes the world by storm as a pop star and she claims to be a feminist, but all the while she’s making some major mistakes and not owning up to them – all of which point to white feminism. Here are just a few examples of Swifty’s white feminism.
- Cultural appropriation – Taylor Swift’s video for “Shake it Off” is a perfect example of cultural appropriation as a clear parody. Cultural appropriation is basically taking another culture’s practice and using it as your own without giving any real credit – sort of like plagiarism. In this particular video, T-swift appropriates and essentially makes a joke out of hip-hop culture and elements of black culture. A lot of people called her out on this one, but no apology or even acknowledgement ever came which perpetuates the notion that it isn’t an issue.
2. Ignoring race – Taylor Swift’s public feud with Nicki Minaj over artists of color being excluded from awards and being viewed differently was a perfect example of her just ignoring that racial inequality even exists. She accused Minaj of “pitting women against each other,” without even addressing the original concern that women of color or of a certain body type were viewed differently. Of course the incident became all about drama, but the conversation was never meant to be personal and it wasn’t even about who should win a certain award. The issue was that black women are viewed differently in our society and in entertainment and held to different standards. Acknowledging that doesn’t “pit women against each other – denying it does.
3. Representation – Taylor Swift has a squad and creates media that only really, genuinely portrays white women of a certain status. Now, that’s her experience so it makes sense that she would best appeal to that intersection. However, she toys around with other areas without properly representing others which directly goes against any claims of intersectional feminism. Her video for “Wildest Dreams” was set in Africa and it was white-washed. First of all, jungle safari was the only visualization of a broad, dynamic continent which perpetuates the version of history that keeps progress away from countries that aren’t predominantly white. Second, the video was set in Africa and there were no people of color. White people everywhere. That’s unrealistic and not intersectional.
4. Binary views – Lastly, on Taylor Swift’s journey through feminism, she has gone through a lot of changes for which I give her the utmost credit. In general though, her views on feminist issues have been very simplistic and perpetuate the old-school, binary idea that it is just about men an women. She’s ignoring the bigger issues that make society need feminism. It’s not just about men vs. women. It’s about institutional privilege and oppression that affects people of all races, genders, sexes and backgrounds differently. She won’t get away from problematic white feminism until she acknowledges that.
Sometimes when feminist use the term “white feminism” people assume we are pushing for white guilt, it is really more about realizing the problematic, exclusive way we spread the message. If your message excludes any intersection of identity, then you’re not really practicing feminism.