A Favor for Taylor Swift

by susanedotcohen


Once again, Taylor Swift is part of the pop cultural conversation this week. Then again, when is Ms. Swift not part of the conversation. She wants the attention and the media likes to give it to her. This particular moment in the spotlight is thanks to a quote featured in Vanity Fair in which Ms. Swift shares her thoughts on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler making light of her dating life at the Golden Globes.

Since the media likes to keep tabs up on Swift, her thoughts spread quickly through the pop cultural grapevine. I have not read the article, but I have heard and read about it in several sources. Additionally, Vanity Fair offers a summary of the article on its website, which includes her thoughts on Fey and Poehler.

““You know, Katie Couric is one of my favorite people,” Taylor Swift tells Vanity Fair contributing editor Nancy Jo Sales on the subject of mean girls in general and in response to an incident at this year’s Golden Globes, where Amy Poehler and Tina Fey mocked her highly scrutinized love life. “Because she said to me she had heard a quote that she loved, that said, ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’”” (Vanity Fair, March 5, 2013)

In response to Ms. Swift’s quotes, two excellent articles have been written. The first by The Cut, a blog on NYMag.com, explained that the quote Ms. Swift thought was Couric’s was actually said by Madeline Albright and went on to provide its history as it has moved from one woman to another. The second article is a piece by Patricia Murphy in The Washington Post’s She The People with the appropriate title “Taylor Swift, lighten up!!

In asking Ms. Swift to lighten up, the piece examines how Fey and Poehler’s joke was by no means sexist and that perhaps Ms. Swift needs to recognize this fact. To assist her, Murphy writes, “Taylor Swift certainly doesn’t need advice on writing a hit song, but she does seem in need of guidance about what sexism is, what it isn’t, and how to know the difference.  So I offer Taylor a few tips on navigating a society that remains sexist in many ways, but is less so today because of women like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, not in spite of them”. (The Washington Post, March 7, 2013) 

Murphy instructs Swift on how to change her modus operandi with four suggestions, which are listed below:

“1. Know who the good guys are.”
“2. Know your role in a situation.”
“3. Lighten up!”
“4. Read Bossypants.”

The suggestion Murphy provides are excellent and to the point. If Ms. Swift wants to be taken seriously, she should read this article. I would like to offer one correction to the article and madke one addition. The correction is that the article should not say “good guys” since the subject of the piece is women. I know this is an expression and one, I, a Barnard grad, might even use. Instead, it should say, “Know who your sisters are” or something to that effect.

The addition I would like to make to this piece is that Fey and Poehler are actually doing Ms. Swift a favor. Murphy touched on this point, but did not address totally it when she said, “A list of Taylor Swift songs reads like a broken-hearted teenage girl’s text message log.  “Should’ve said no,” “I knew you were trouble,” “We are never ever getting back together.”  In exchange for chronicling the ruins of her love life, she won over legions of young girls and made $35 million last year alone.  But she also opened herself up to jokes about making a career out of breaking up with boys, even if those jokes come from other women.” 

Murphy indicates that Ms. Swift positioned herself to be made the butt of many jokes, but did not say that the jokes are actually a wake up call. Fey and Poehler are basically telling her she needs to ship up or ship out. Through their joke, they told her that she is making a fool of herself and she needs to get her act together. They have done her the greatest favor anyone can do for her right now. The fact that Ms. Swift misses the subtleties of the joke shows that she sees nothing wrong with her behavior. As a result, she is sure to find herself sitting at an award show listening to more jokes about her choices.