Music

Does Taylor Swift Hate Other Women?

Here's everything you need to know about the growing feminist backlash against the country pop star and her music.

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Taylor Swift may be best known for writing songs that portray her as a wholesome, virginal sweetheart who is victimized by sexualized, boyfriend-stealing "other women." Within this, there has been increasing critical discussion of the role gender-based stereotypes play in her music.

This Her Campus article sums up the issue neatly:

"Part of Taylor Swift's shtick is to slut-shame in her lyrics. In 'Better Than Revenge', she takes a swipe at a girl who apparently stole her boyfriend, 'She's an actress/But she's better known for the things that she does on the mattress.' The Queen of Wholesome often employs guilt-mongering tactics to put down the mean girl/cheerleader types who, she assures us, are more sexual than her."

Tumblr users have also noticed that Swift's lyrics frequently villify the sexuality of other women, as in this post by Sherlocks:

"As shown through her songs that feature comments about 'the other woman' this other woman is always sexually available, dresses provocatively, and is DEFINITELY NOT A VIRGIN. Because obviously, a woman's worth is based purely on the amount of sex she has had."

Sady Doyle, for the feminist magazine Bitch, says Taylor Swift organizes the women in her music into two camps:

"Teen Girls of America, here are your choices: have sex and wind up broken and sad and feeling as if you've lost 'everything you had,' or wait until your untouched vagina accumulates enough charge to make you rich and famous. Because your sexuality should never be an end in and of itself; it should be something you strategically employ to get what you want."

Here's every song Taylor Swift has written about having a romantic rival:

"Teardrops on My Guitar"

I'll bet she's beautiful, that girl he talks about

And she's got everything that I have to live without

She better hold him tight, give him all her love

Look in those beautiful eyes and know she's lucky 'cause

"Should've Said No"

I can't resist

Before you go tell me this:

Was it worth it?

Was she worth this?

You should've known that word, with what you did with her

Get back to me... (get back to me)

"Invisible"

She can't see the way your eyes

Light up when you smile.

She'll never notice how you stop and stare

Whenever she walks by.

She don't even know you,

She's never gonna love you like I want to.

She's never gonna see the light

No matter what you do.

She don't even know you.

Baby, let me love you,

She can't see the way your eyes

Light up when you smile.

"The Other Side of the Door"

And I broke down crying, was she worth this mess?

After everything and that little black dress

"You Belong with Me"

You're on the phone with your girlfriend ‒ she's upset,

She's going off about something that you said

'Cause she doesn't get your humor like I do.

I'm in the room ‒ it's a typical Tuesday night.

I'm listening to the kind of music she doesn't like.

She'll never know your story like I do.

But she wears short skirts

I wear t-shirts

She's cheer captain

And I'm on the bleachers

Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find

That what you're looking for has been here the whole time.

"Speak Now"

I sneak in and see your friends

And her snotty little family all dressed in pastel

And she is yelling at a bridesmaid

Somewhere back inside a room

Wearing a gown shaped like a pastry

She floats down the aisle like a pageant queen

But I know you wish it was me,

"Better Than Revenge"

She came along, got him alone and let's hear the applause

She took him faster than you could say "sabotage"

I never saw it coming, wouldn't have suspected it

I underestimated just who I was dealing with

She had to know the pain was beating on me like a drum

She underestimated just who she was stealing from

She's not a saint

And she's not what you think

She's an actress, whoa

She's better known

For the things that she does

On the mattress, whoa

Soon she's gonna find

Stealing other people's toys

On the playground won't

Make you many friends

She should keep in mind

She should keep in mind

There is nothing I do better than revenge

She looks at life like it's a party and she's on the list

She looks at me like I'm a trend and she's so over it

I think her ever-present frown is a little troubling

And she thinks I'm psycho 'cause I like to rhyme her name with things

"I Knew You Were Trouble"

And the saddest fear comes creeping in

That you never loved me or her, or anyone, or anything, yeah

The "other woman"-as-enemy trope is visually represented in many of Swift's music videos, as well. Tumblr user Sexistculture points out the recurrence of villains played by evil brunettes:

Taylor Swift the Product (who I'm sure varies a great deal from Taylor Swift the Person) strikes again with "Mine" which will no doubt be played 12 times an hour on every friggin' station from now until the next time she comes out with another single about being pure and innocent while wanting a boy who is an angelic being filled with light and winning his heart from the evil girl who wears colors and probably fucks.

Seven out of 15 of Taylor Swift's music videos feature brunette bad girls who use their feminine wiles to steal Taylor's Prince Charming. And what's even weirder is that sometimes, the "other woman" in a video isn't even mentioned in the accompanying song's lyrics.

It's important to note that Swift doesn't think of herself as a feminist. When asked whether she considers her music empowering to women in an interview with Ramin Setoodeh of The Daily Beast, she said this:

"When people say things about me empowering women, that's an amazing compliment. It's not necessarily what I thought I was doing, because I write songs about what I feel. I think there's strength when you're baring your emotions."

In a follow-up question, Setoodeh asked whether Swift thought of herself as a feminist. This was her answer:

"I don't really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life."

Swift might not think of her songs as "guys versus girls," but many of her songs make much of "girls versus girls." And that's much of the source of the backlash against a singer who actively presents herself as a role model for young women.