To say I was looking forward to the release of a new Taylor Swift song would be an understatement. I seriously considered setting an alarm. My at the time 3 and 4 year old knew every word of the 1989 album. It was, hands down, my favorite Christmas present that year. Once upon a time one of my students updated the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet and replaced all of Juliet’s lines with T. Swift’s lyrics. I framed it.
I was even excited for the re-brand, because ever since the leak of the phone call where Taylor was all “OMG! SO GREAT!” after her public, “Here I am a victim again!” I had decided that I really couldn’t support her as an artist.
Let me explain. Being a white woman is a tricky space, because white women both benefit from and are hurst by the patriarchal upholding of white femininity. Huh? Let me break it down. White women benefit from playing the victim. It works for us for a long time. One of the ways that people made sure that black people were maligned was to say that white women needed to be protected from them, both men and women.
Violation of white women’s sensitivities were enough to literally kill a black man. She hollered, he was killed. And while actually lynchings are less common, metaphorical ones are still very often to the white woman’s advantage. Taylor Swift is not an idiot. She knows this. Kanye is also a ready made villain. He is clearly emotionally unwell. He says mean and ugly things and is kind of rude in public. You want to root against Kanye. You just do.
I am not trying to throw Taylor under a bus. I know this behavior because I have benefited from this behavior. As a teacher at a primarily black school, I knew that if I cried, I could get a kid suspended. And even if the kid TOTALLY deserved to be suspended anyway, I still should not have used my white tears to remove a child from my classroom. But I did. I can tell you how desperate I was, and how hard my job was, and how emotional I actually was about the situation and all of that is true. Ultimately, I did mostly because I could, and I owe some kids an apology.
Taylor Swift has been the victim her entire career, the victim of her circumstance, or the popular girls, the victim of older boys or the friends who betrayed her. She is always the victim, and when I found out the old Taylor wasn’t coming to the phone anymore I was here for it! FINALLY at 27 years old Taylor Swift is going to be someone in charge of herself, like the woman we all loved from the court testimonies. I would love to hear what the woman who counter-sues someone for a dollar because she doesn’t want or need your money anyway has to sing about. But we didn’t get her. We never get her.
At 27 years old, Taylor is smart enough to know that she can’t be the victim of another white woman forever. So, instead she goes after Kanye, mostly because she knows it will work. “Look what you made me do” is the repeat cry, because she refuses to take responsibility for her own behavior, and she knows that this will work or she wouldn’t have done it.
So how do all these tears hurt Ms. Swift? She never grows fully into herself. At 27 I had two babies, a home and a job. I was in charge of my life and myself and it was good. It was hard, and there are still days I don’t want to be the grown up, but it is good for us to be in charge of our own lives. I was so impressed this summer when Taylor Swift became a strong voice against rape culture. To hear her turn around and use a common trope in victim blaming as a hook for her song is a huge waste of momentum, talent, and this moment in our culture.
The other problem with white feminine victims is there cannot be too many of us. So, you are either the victim or the mean girl, the one who needs saving or the one who needs beaten. It puts us in a constant position of fighting against each other instead of rooting each other on.
True story, in high school a boy broke up with me because I didn’t need saving. He broke up with me because I could handle my own problems and didn’t need him to come in his car and literally rescue me from anything. It was, and is the weirdest compliment I have ever received. People don’t always know what to do with white women who don’t need saving. I would love to watch Taylor Swift model that for us.