The world just can’t stop talking about Taylor Swift. With over 60 million Twitter followers, a huge number one album, and countless awards, it seems like Taylor is the most successful woman in music today. And with a platform like hers, it would be absurd to not speak out on social issues, right?
Right…but Taylor’s execution may not be so helpful. As a thin, white, conventionally beautiful woman, she has not had to face anywhere near the same kind of struggles in her business as other, more diverse artists have. Her brand of feminism is very much influenced by her societal tunnel-vision; it’s a fact that the music industry treats people of color, and more specifically, women of color, differently than they treat white artists. Taylor is fawned over in this industry, so she is blind to the harsh realities other female artists are forced to endure. Despite her favored treatment, she has tried to bring light to the gender inequality problem in our society. However, the points she makes mostly concern issues that impact her directly — unfair treatment by the media, jokes about the subject matters of her songs and how many boys she's dated, etc. Taylor struts her girl squad around, trying to make a statement that strong friendships with girls are better than romantic relationships with boys. The problem with this is that her “empowering” girl squad is made up of models and movie stars — skinny, mostly white, conventionally beautiful women. Truthfully, there is nothing empowering about this to the every-day woman; Taylor’s squad is only empowering for those who are similarly built. But the media, and unfortunately, many young girls, overlook this and praise Taylor for taking a stand and being a voice for social change.
The most recent example of this was the “Twitter beef” between Taylor and Nicki Minaj last week. Just last Tuesday, July 21st, MTV announced its nominees for the 2015 Video Music Awards. Nicki Minaj, the artist behind the worldwide phenomenon, “Anaconda”, was unfairly snubbed for the Video of the Year nomination that she so rightfully deserves. No stranger to being upfront, Nicki took to Twitter to express her opinion regarding the nominations. While Nicki was attempting to bring up a larger point about the discrimination towards women of color in the music industry, Taylor Swift saw Nicki’s tweets as personal attacks. Spinning a huge web of disaster, Taylor tweeted that Nicki was pitting women against each other, arguing that maybe one of the male VOTY nominees took the rapper’s nomination.
Sure, Taylor is talented…but so is Nicki. Sure, Taylor is beautiful…but so is Nicki. Sure, Taylor has a strong and dedicated fanbase that would vote for her in whatever category she is nominated for...but so does Nicki. The “Anaconda” video broke a huge Vevo record, with nearly 20 million views the first night it was released. Taylor’s “Bad Blood” video premiered with just half a million more views than Nicki’s video. The two women are of seemingly equal caliber in terms of talent and popularity. So why does Taylor get a nomination for Video of the Year and Nicki doesn’t? In the simplest terms, Nicki was denied because her video highlights curvy women of color while Taylor’s video depicts her squad of skinny white girls. It’s not a question of talent or popularity, it’s a question of looks.
That was the simple point Nicki Minaj was trying to make on Twitter last week, but Taylor twisted her words and made it about her instead. Nicki is intelligent and strong-willed, a feminist who advocates for her fans, and for her rights as a woman of color. But in just one tweet, Taylor Swift played the victim and made Nicki seem like the enemy — what is feminist about that? Taylor argued Nicki was pitting women against each other, but isn’t that exactly what Taylor did by posting that Tweet? But because Taylor Swift is always seen as innocent and loving, the media quickly took her side, with exclamations of “Poor Taylor!” being voiced immediately. All the while, Nicki’s point of discrimination and bias towards the skinny, white female in the music industry, and the media in general, was emphasized and ignored at the same time. The media was doing exactly what Nicki said they would — favor the girl who is the spitting image of society’s standards of perfection.
Taylor has since apologized for her ignorance, yet I am not completely convinced she really understands the larger issue. She will continue to be awarded, praised, and loved by the vast majority of the public, while Nicki will continue to be criticized. Taylor will always be nominated for the highest honors, while Nicki will be overlooked. The issue is much larger than Taylor’s misconstrued, white feminism allows her to see. Taylor’s words turned the focus onto her, instead of onto the actual issue at hand: the blatant favoritism towards whites in the media and the music industry. Swift may call herself a feminist, but if your feminism doesn't include all women, no matter what race or size, then it just isn't feminism.