If you’re a diehard Taylor Swift fan, chances are you were front and center for her call out of the supposed sexist standards of Netflix’s latest original, “Ginny and Georgia.”
A joke referring to Swift's past relationships was apparently harmless enough to be included, but not so innocuous as to escape recognition from the star.
She took to Twitter — and her fans followed suit — to comment on the “deeply sexist” joke which apparently degrades hardworking women like herself. “Respect Taylor Swift” was thereafter trending online.
No, the joke isn’t particularly funny (the show itself isn’t that noteworthy either, believe me), but a powerhouse pop-culture icon like Swift lambasting jokes at her expense is, to be honest, surprising. Not only is Swift’s “outrage” the peak of elitist entitlement, but it’s also just confusing.
This Isn’t Anything New
Jokes, quips, and callbacks to Swift’s romantic history — the inspiration behind much of her work — are nothing new. Though that doesn’t make it particularly okay, this wasn’t the first time and it probably won’t be the last.
Antonia Gentry, the 23-year-old actress who plays the series’ teen protagonist, Ginny Miller, took to Instagram after the fiasco to thank fans of the show for their support. Though she didn’t mention the Swift faux pas by name, it was evident that Gentry had that in mind. In the wake of Swift’s uproar and the firestorm her fans ignited, the series’ writers and its stars, like Gentry, were targeted online.
Swift’s “outrage” at a joke is the peak of elitist entitlement.
By Netflix Original standards, the show is successful in what it sets out to do: Portray a young single mom who tries to be desperately relatable but also sets horrible examples for her kids, traumatizing them in the process, while including themes like race and gender and how 15-year-old high schoolers are painfully subject to those norms which they try to forget by experimenting with sex, drugs, drinking, and partying. It also can’t really decide what genre it wants to be exactly, but no doubt the overwhelming messages of personal discovery at all costs and racial bias around every corner were supposed to distract viewers from that.
It isn’t a great show by any means, but it’s well performed, by Gentry in particular. The core themes of the series, including female liberation (even if you have to murder your husbands to do it), blackmailing racist teachers, and moms who keep their vibrators in plain view of their young children are all par for the course of a Netflix Original. One would’ve thought that these themes, and more, would be enough to garner praise from someone so outspokenly feminist like Taylor Swift, but apparently not.
Bashing What Your Career Was Built On
Today, Swift is worth an estimated $400 million. She’s won countless awards and accolades within the industry, and even though her most recent albums are a stark departure from her earlier works, they were still very well-received. There isn’t a continent on this earth where she isn’t known or easily recognized. But apparently, a Netflix Original (and to be fair, a terrible one at that) apparently can’t make a quip at her expense without her global fanbase turning out in droves.
The inspiration behind the majority of Swift’s most popular discography is well-known and well-documented. She’s been linked over the past decade to fellow musicians and other notable male celebrities, and in a culture saturated with overt representations of feminism, it only makes sense why her most notorious break-up hits and the publicized events of her personal life are so celebrated.
Being a public figure, you can’t expect to live your life in public and not have others comment on it.
In our pop-culture-obsessed age, nothing looks more empowering to us than a woman doing (and succeeding at) what famous male figures have been doing for ages. Look at John Mayer, if you need an idea. He previously referred to his ex Jessica Simpson as “sexual napalm” and is kind of the textbook definition of a d-bag, yet that hasn’t been enough to force his career into obscurity.
Perhaps it seems unfair to tell a public figure complaining about how difficult their lives are “you asked for it.” But being a public figure, especially such an influential one for so many, you can’t expect to live your life in public and not expect others to comment on it at one point or another.
This Brand of Feminism Isn’t about Equality
Proponents of the seemingly-deserved backlash have bolstered their claims with, among other things, the theory that Swift is “forever defined” by her past relationships or that the show promoted misogyny. Others have asserted that if Swift were a man, her relationships wouldn’t be subject to this level of public discussion. But it also feels like we change and evolve the definitions of “sexism” and “misogyny” to fit which narrative is at play.
In a feminist culture, Swift is subject to this kind of criticism just as much as her male counterparts. That’s what equality means. So how is it that the inspiration behind some of her most notable chart-topping works is now suddenly sacrosanct?
Feminism doesn’t come with special treatment based on our wealth, status, or notoriety.
Perhaps it seems harsh to say that Swift has “built” her career on the backs of these relationships. But it would also be unrealistic to think that her personal life has no bearing whatsoever on the popularity of these songs.
Equality supposedly looks like this: We make as much as men, we’re treated the same, we sleep with whoever and however many people we want, and we don’t apologize for it. We never think twice about discussing the personal lives of powerful, public, influential men, and women are no different, which is a fundamental demand of feminism. There’s no exemption or special treatment clause anywhere in that kind of ideology, a mindset we’ve slowly but surely adopted in the last half-century. Asking for special treatment or not to be criticized on the basis of “sexism” doesn’t really make any sense, especially coming from a self-avowed feminist.
Maybe this isn’t really about T. Swift, and it’s not even about the cheap writing of a bad show. There’s a bigger discovery being made here — the realization that when we women are treated the same as men, it doesn’t look particularly great.
Taylor Swift is one of the most famed and successful female songwriters and performers of all time. A quip referring to her very public past relationships isn’t going to change that, or even be remembered after her career comes to an end.
Feminism doesn’t come with special treatment based on our wealth, status, or notoriety, and we would be naïve to think it should. We don’t like it when we’re as criticized as men, but we take it as an affront when we’re treated “differently” from them or held to different standards. So what do we want?
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