Point: Taylor Swift sets a bad example, puts other girls down

Anna Schwartz, Graphics and Layout Editor

Taylor Swift represents the ultimate girl-next-door: she’s tall, blonde, sweet, pure, and full of talent. Since her debut album in 2006, she’s been writing and performing music for an ever-growing number of fans, releasing songs that guide many of her teen fans through the emotional ups and downs of family, friends, and relationships.  However, she’s also been releasing songs that set a bad example for her fans.

“She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.” “No amount of vintage dresses gives you dignity.” “Was she worth this?”

It all sounds like a scene out of “Mean Girls,” but these are all lyrics from Taylor Swift’s songs, most of which she wrote herself. These lyrics exemplify the problem with the image Swift presents, including her lyrics.

Swift has meticulously created the sweet, virginal image that she has become so well known for, and this in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, in many of her lyrics, Swift brutally takes down girls who appear to be her rivals by talking about their sexuality, setting her young fans a poor example.

In her song, “You Belong With Me,” Swift sings about a boy who’s involved with a different girl, the enemy, who wears short skirts and high heels. The song revolves around why the boy would be better off with Swift, who wears t-shirts and sneakers. The idea is that one “type” of girl is inherently better. It continues in her music video, where a blonde Swift appears in a white dress, and defeats the Swift in a short red dress and brunette wig. The problem with the idea that the virginal Swift being better than other girls is that it promotes slut-shaming.

Slut-shaming is attacking women for expressing their sexuality. Swift knows this concept intimately, as she uses it constantly in her songs. The prime example of her willingness to slut-shame is in the lyrics of her song, “Better Than Revenge.”

The song’s lyrics sound like a gossipy, high school attack on another girl who has “stolen” Swift’s boyfriend – but Swift released it when she was 20. The song includes lyrics such as “she’s not a saint and she’s not what you think,” and “no amount of vintage dresses gives you dignity.”

The song, which is full of anger towards the unnamed girl, doesn’t focus on the betrayal by Swift’s boyfriend, but is a personal attack on the girl and her sexuality.

Swift’s slut-shaming contributes to an issue that is arguably one of the biggest problems among young women today: girl hate. Girl hate is, as Tavi Gevinson wrote on her blog Rookie, “is not hating someone who happens to be a girl, it’s hating someone because we’re told that, as girls, we should hate other girls who are as awesome as or more awesome than ourselves.”

Taylor Swift is a prime example of this. So many of her songs take down other girls. Take “Better Than Revenge,” again. The song is supposed to be based on the fact that her boyfriend left her for another girl. However, the entire song is bashing the girl, attacking her sexuality and personality. Swift seems to have forgotten entirely about her ex, who presumably was also a consenting adult, and seems just as culpable in the situation.

Essentially, the problem with Taylor Swift is not her image, or her innocent purity. If Swift wants to sing about white horses and fairy tale endings, she should go ahead. There is no right and wrong lifestyle to want, and Swift has clearly found a market for her songs. That being said, her songs become problematic when she comes down hard on other girls for wanting something different.

Swift is a standout in the music industry. She’s a young woman who seems to be in charge of her career, and she’s writing most of her music. In May 2012, Swift was known by 90% of consumers, according to The Marketing Arm’s Davie-Brown Index. This is so important, and can only be empowering for her huge fanbase of young female fans to see. However, it’s crucial that she takes the visibility and opportunity she’s been given to make her music a better example. We are given so few of these female role models in pop culture that we have to make the ones we have count.

Swift writes most of her lyrics, and knows how to maintain her image in public. She has the control over her career that she needs to make changes to her songs in the future. She has the ability to affect young women, the way we treat each other, and the representation of women in the media. And she can do it all from her fairy tale castle.