Is Taylor Swift a “Fake Feminist”? The Divisive Rhetoric of Modern-Day Feminism

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On Sunday night, I attended the Taylor Swift Reputation Concert Tour at the Meadowlands MetLife stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. I am not a huge fan of Taylor Swift’s music, but I have always been fascinated by her immense success. When my friend got tickets, I decided to go. While her most recent album and tour are about resurrecting her reputation post-Receiptgate fiasco, what has fascinated me most about Swift’s reputation is her rap as a “fake feminist”.

When Taylor Swift started to call herself a feminist, times were simpler. It was a time when third-wave feminism was well on its way, but Obama was President and the threat to women’s rights seemed less salient. However, as the 2016 election approached and our country’s latent sexism reared its ugly head, the need for feminism became evident.

The feminist movement became more relevant than ever. Instead of focusing on an agenda of universal sisterhood, feminism began to subscribe to an evolving ideology that recognized the fact that sexism can manifest differently for women of different racial, religious, and sexual backgrounds. There is no universal feminist agenda. In America of today, expressing support for the tenets of “sisterhood” is no longer considered to be enough. Post-Women’s March feminism is about more than achieving equal pay. For today’s feminists, action and activism are expected.

Which brings me back to Taylor Swift. In recent years, she has been harshly criticized for calling herself a feminist but “not putting in the political work”. She has been labeled a “fake feminist” for not taking a public stance on a number of important issues affecting women. For instance, she has never openly supported Planned Parenthood, nor did she publicly endorse Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. The latter signified to many that Swift had labeled herself as a feminist as a means to building her brand and selling albums. Many accused her of not having earned the right to call herself a feminist due to her lack of activism and political lobbying.

Despite the fact that Swift is a successful and independent young female artist, does the fact that she didn’t attend the Women’s March negate her claims to feminism? I don’t think so. I believe that Taylor Swift has been practicing feminism on her own terms.

taylor swift
Photo: Carrie Davenport/TAS/Getty Images for TAS

At the end of her show on Sunday night, she stated that she was the first female artist to ever play Metlife Stadium three nights in a row. Additionally, she was one of the women featured on the cover of Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” issue, which featured pioneers of the MeToo movement. While some regard Swift’s political silence as complacency, I view it as a way for her to separate business from politics. As an entertainer with mass appeal, she may not be willing to alienate fans based on their political beliefs. Perhaps she sees music is a universal joy that does not have to be marred by the divisiveness of politics. Swift’s apolitical stance ultimately validates the fact that she is an entertainer, not an activist or a politician.

Still, many argue that given her immense influence, it is Swift’s responsibility to be a social and political advocate; that her decision to stay silent on hot-button issues is an abuse of her privilege and proof of her “white feminism.” While I agree that Swift’s gallivanting with her girl squad of gorgeous women does little to further the feminist cause, I fail to see how Taylor does not lead by example when it comes to feminism.

I believe we should be more accepting of the way each woman chooses to “practice” her feminism. To one woman, feminism may be working her way up to the C-Suite at a Fortune 500 company, while to another, it may be about refusing to shave her body hair. Women who publicly participate in the women’s movement do not reserve the right to bestow or withhold the title of “feminist” to those they deem worthy.

If you believe in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes, then by definition, shouldn’t you have the right to call yourself a feminist? Taylor Swift subscribes to this basic definition of feminism, but remains a target for other feminists. If the ultimate goal of feminism is to advance the role of women in society, then any type of divisive rhetoric seems counterproductive.

Given the blatant sexism of our incumbent president, does modern feminism inherently come with a political agenda? What do you think? Tell us in the comments below!

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