opinion

COLUMN: Taylor Swift is problematic



“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, 'cause she’s dead.” That was the line of “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift that made me turn, look at my friend and say I’m done. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I love pop music. I have a One Direction poster, know every word of Kesha’s new album, and I regularly bop to 1980s and '90s pop music. Pop isn't something I take lightly.

So, I was a little off put on why I hated this new Swift single so much. But you know, it’s not just “Look What You Made Me Do” that made me dislike Swift, but rather her recent actions. 

Swift has been problematic, and her inability to acknowledge this turns me away from being a Swift fan.

To start off, cultural appropriation is not unique to Swift, at all. All pop stars do it to some extent. And generally, I think many accusations of cultural appropriation are over-exaggerated. 

However, Swift’s portrayal of Africa in her “Wildest Dreams” music video went beyond appropriation and straight into the land of romanticizing imperialism. 

The video shows two white lovers and their relationship as they are surrounded by African wild life. Honestly, it’s a beautifully done video, yet there are no people of color. 

Additionally, it ignores how destructive imperialism and colonialism were for the African people and the continent. It led to the rape of thousands of African women, the subjugation of native populations for a European minority and has left the majority of the continent unable to be fully self-sufficient even now. 

The only reason a woman like Swift could have had the luxurious life depicted in that video would have been off of the backs and work of the African people.

And while I am mad her video romanticized imperialism, I was even more annoyed that she never apologized or admitted any faults with the video.

Moving past the “Wildest Dreams” music video, there is also a problem with the type of feminism Swift continues to promote. 

When Nicki Minaj called out the music industry for celebrating slim women and white women in particular, Swift responded that pitting women against each other is bad.

In the entertainment industry, women in general are underrepresented. However in popular culture, women of color are severely underrepresented. 

Swift’s own music videos, which frequently show women, have very few, if any, people of color. Her feminism does not acknowledge the swaths of other women who do not have the same level of privilege she does. 

I want to like Swift. I do. Her music is catchy. She’s an amazing businesswoman who is great at selling her brand. But a buildup of bad feminism and genuine cultural appropriation gives me no choice but to dislike her.

npatwari@indiana.edu

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