Undergrads, start your theses. Once again, Taylor Swift has publicly commented on her personal relationship with feminism, and, for most of us hopefully, what she says is illuminating.
"As a teenager, I didn't understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities," the "Shake It Off" singer told The Guardian's Hermione Hoby in an interview published on Friday, August 22.
"What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means. For so long it's been made to seem like something where you'd picket against the opposite sex, whereas it's not about that at all."
Swift continues: "Becoming friends with Lena [Dunham, the creator and star of HBO's "Girls"] -- without her preaching to me, but just seeing why she believes what she believes, why she says what she says, why she stands for what she stands for -- has made me [realize] that I've been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so." The 2014 MTV Video Music Awards performer is probably referring to songs about not getting hung up on some ex like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," her strong history of supporting other young women like Lorde, Dunham, and Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson, or -- you know what? Those are enough examples. We could literally be here all day.
Though, longtime Swifties might recall what she told Tthe Daily Beast when asked if she considered herself a feminist in 2012 ("I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls."), which sites like Jezebel pointed out was a fundamental misunderstanding of what feminism's all about. Others might remember the less-than-feminist content found in "Better Than Revenge" off of Taylor's 2010 album, Speak Now, a song that takes aim at the woman a certain past suitor left her for: "She's not a saint/ And she's not what you think/ She's an actress, whoa/ She's better known/ For the things that she does/ On the mattress, whoa."
Reflecting on those lyrics, which some might argue tend toward slut-shaming, Swift explains: "I was 17 when I wrote that... That's the age you are when you think someone can actually take your boyfriend. Then you grow up and [realize] no one take someone from you if they don't want to leave." It's a thoughtful and mature observation from an artist who's grown as a woman and songwriter.
The feminist wisdom doesn't stop there. Along with shouting out the importance of maintaining a strong network of non-romantic relationships in your life, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter calls out one of the ways in which gender bias affects how her music is received. "I really resent the idea that if a woman writes about her feelings, she has too many feelings," she tells The Guardian, and rightly so. If Taylor were a young man, this "excessive sentimentality" would no doubt be perceived as "vulnerable honesty" or something more positive. I've noticed something similar with the way people often discuss Sam Smith's work, labeling his songs "whiny" when what they might really mean is "This is not how men are supposed to express their feelings." Anyway, right on for bringing this up, Taylor.
Let's see, that means that Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Miley Cyrus -- among others! -- all publicly self-identify as feminists. As a pop fan and a feminist, this was a pretty great way to start the weekend -- and an important dialogue.