Imagine you’ve scored an interview with the planet’s most visible, popular songstress. Imagine that, over the course of that interview, said songstress makes criticisms, veiled or otherwise, of two of the planet’s most visible, popular comediennes. Girl-on-girl griping of the most malleable, provocative, sales-rocketing degree.
That’s the teapot that Vanity Fair contributing editor Nancy Jo Sales held in her hands when she got Taylor Swift to:
- Prophesy that there’s a “special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”
- Protest that she’s had far fewer boyfriends than are attributed to her; and
- Proclaim that it’s “frankly a little sexist” to portray a female songwriter who confesses her feelings surrounding her relationships “as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend in need of making you marry her and have kids with her[.]”
These expressions of frustration from Ms. Swift would be enough, standing alone, to spark debate over her perspective on her public persona and the reception of her songs. But there was more. Ms. Swift made these remarks in some connection with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s comments at the 2013 Golden Globes. Comments that warned Ms. Swift to keep away from Michael J. Fox’s son, who was assisting at the awards show, and urged her to take some “‘me time’ to focus on herself.”
Harrumph, thought Ms. Swift. Boom go the magazine sales, thought Vanity Fair.
Whether or not the ensuing tempest has been editorially manufactured or is naturally occurring will likely never be known; it’s doubtful that Ms. Sales will release a transcript of the interview. When everyone from Fox News to the Huffington Post is reporting that Taylor Swift has told Amy Poehler and Tina Fey to go to hell, though, there are only two options: Ms. Swift is ready to throw down, or Vanity Fair is doing its publicity job exceptionally well. Indeed, the brouhaha over the angry threesome
erupted before the issue in which the interview appears even hit newsstands.
It therefore has become almost irrelevant that perhaps Ms. Sales took Ms. Swift’s statements out of context, or that perhaps the feeder media outlets did. The entertainment world is now abuzz with the news that three of its normally-untouchables are in a tiff. A tiff that includes charges of sexism and
insinuations that Amy and Tina aren’t the good feminists they profess to be.
Putting aside the questionable journalism that has gotten us here, what to make of all the fuss?
Taylor Swift has a fair complaint, but if she packaged it as Vanity Fair has portrayed, she picked the wrong box. Sure, it’s unfair to assume that Ms. Swift has had as many boyfriends as she has had hit songs about boyfriends. Neither math nor science indicate there’s a strict one-to-one correlation in music between a song and its subject; one man, or one idea about men in general, could certainly spawn several chart-toppers.
It’s also unfair to assume that a young woman whose art focuses on love and relationships is boy-crazy (or girl-crazy). There are plenty of women who root their music in those very same topics, but are never labeled nit-witty or middle-schoolish; just look at Adele, or Alanis Morissette, or P!nk. The fact that Ms. Swift is a doe-eyed blond with a bubble-gum pop quality to her doesn’t permit the rest of us to judge her as the love-crazed-and-starved starlet she is sometimes cast as being.
Ms. Swift has to acknowledge that her career stands on the shoulders she has cried on. She has crooned about hook-ups and break-ups and every up-and-down in between. Of the sixteen tracks from her most recent album, there are exactly two that could arguably be summarized as addressing a subject other than love: “22” is about being, well, 22, and “The Lucky One” is about walking into and then stepping out of life in the spotlight. She protests just a bit too much when she feigns alarm and disgust that the
public at large should be so interested in, and aware of, her love life when she professionally depends on the fact we’re all interested in, and aware of, her love life.
Indeed, many have expressed disappointment that Adele is happily paired up, and their tongues are only partly in-cheek. If she’s happy in her union, what on earth will she sing about on her next album? Will she be able to deliver a song about the simple joys of a Friday date night with the same raw emotion she used to set fire to the rain? It’s two sides of the same coin, and each woman has coffers full of ‘em.
As for the “special hell” assignment, that is a notion Ms. Swift borrowed from Katie Couric, who borrowed it from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Much as there is respect due to each of those messengers, it seems a bit counter-intuitive to argue that if women want to be treated equally, they should give each other special assistance and be punished for all eternity if they fail to do so. Don’t women stand to receive – and prove that they can deliver – just as much if we agree that people should help people?
And this is where the rubber meets the road, at least in the context of this story. The jokes the Amy-Tina team dished out during the Golden Globes were meted out equally to young and old, people and places, male and female, presenter and audience member. The hosts poked fun at James Cameron, Lena Dunham, the City of Boston, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, themselves and more. Yes, they did a bit where they riffed on Taylor Swift’s boyfriend-mongering. A bit in which they also pretended they were drunk, and in which they delivered the otherwise empowering message that a woman doesn’t need a man in her life at all times.
Maybe you’re angry, Taylor. Maybe you’re tired and frustrated. Maybe you feel misunderstood. Or maybe you’re the one misunderstanding. This is a love story. Yes, this love is treacherous. But wipe the teardrops off your guitar. Let’s get back together.
Abby Diaz is a mother, wife and lawyer who shares her opinions and her sarcasm while blogging about current events at What’s Left Over. Hailed by readers as “hilarious,” “insightful” and “related to me,” she is sure to cover a subject that resonates with you. Assuming you care about things like life, entertainment, and/or family. If reading full paragraphs is too much for you, enjoy Abby over at Facebook or Twitter.