Sometimes you come across something on the internet so brilliant, simple, and well-executed all you can think is, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
That’s how I felt when a friend first showed me the FeministTaylorSwift Twitter account. It’s a prime example of smart social media usage, and of humor used to make something real and profound–all by a twenty-something woman. My love for this little corner of the internet is unchecked. The genius behind the account, Brown College student Clara Beyer, takes Taylor Swift lyrics and alters them into feminist critiques.
When you're fifteen and / The media is already telling you your body is shameful / You're gonna believe them / That's why we need feminism
— FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) July 3, 2013
Taylor Swift has received a fair amount of criticism from the feminist community, at first for her songs that focus on male approval, and often depict slut-shaming virgin/whore dichotomies. This can be excused by the fact that she started her career young and continues to be very young. Boys and jealousy tend to be a big deal. But then this comment happened. In an interview with the Daily Beast, in response to the question, “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” she said:
“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.”
That was a pretty major facepalm moment from the feminist perspective. There has been an long-standing misrepresentation of feminism as a battle of the sexes, of “man-hating,” which, the longer it prevails in our culture, the more it disenfranchises. It hurts causes that affect all women, such as equal pay and overcoming rape culture. And it’s tough to see a major female figure in pop culture not only distancing herself from the feminist label, but also misrepresenting it, perpetuating the status quo in a male-dominated industry and beyond.
But you keep my old scarf / From that very first week / Cause it reminds you of innocence / And society fetishizes female virginity
— FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) June 17, 2013
And Clara Beyer navigates this uneasiness expertly, as both a Taylor Swift fan and a feminist. “I’m not the only one who enjoys her music but feels uncomfortable with some of the messages,” Beyer said in an interview with ABCNews.com.
I bet you think I've either moved on or hate you / 'Cause people assume feminists hate men / Even though everyone has a stake in equality
— FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) June 20, 2013
Taylor Swift also suffers from the very discrimination that feminism seeks to overcome. She’s dually characterized as both too virginal and a slut in the media. She’s a young, successful women, and thus she is constantly attacked through her sexualization–in ways her male colleagues would never be. Beyer astutely picks up on this and addresses these issues in her tweets, showing that she’s not attacking Taylor Swift through this project, but instead the underlying gender assumptions and problems in our society.
You were Romeo / I was a scarlet letter / Because I've had like, 6 boyfriends / Which isn't even that many / Slut shaming is a real problem
— FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) June 17, 2013
Feminism has a bad rap these days, but issues of gender equality still affect all of us. Clara Beyer’s Twitter project makes feminist ideas accessible. Her tweets dissect the embedded assumptions in our culture around gender through a recontextualizing of one artist’s pop songs. It’s a light-hearted and approachable way to get people thinking about ideas of gender equality and long-standing issues of a sexual double standard–things that if you’re not used to looking for, you may not see. She chooses a public platform; a means of potentially attracting and engaging a diverse audience (and with almost 115,000 followers, you can consider that a success).
And my daddy said "Stay away from Juliet" / But my daddy doesn't weigh in on my brother's sexual decisions / Does he?
— FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) July 2, 2013
The juxtaposition of light-hearted and shallow pop song lyrics with critiques of issues such as male privilege, female sexualization, adolescent socialization, strength in femininity, and equal pay is hilarious in execution. But it also makes you think–why is this so funny?
Using social media as a platform for social critique is an innovative approach that our generation brings to the table. I hope to see more of it.
@feministtswift is definitely worth following. Beyer also has a thought-provoking and engaging blog as well. Be sure to check it out!
I'm thirteen now / And don't know how my friends / Could be so mean / I come home crying / Because society pits girls against each other
— FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) July 9, 2013
- Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)
- Click to print (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
hey! thanks so much for this article! I’m totally a fan!
(aka feminist taylor swift)