This year, the age-old of practice of friendship made headlines, dividing us all.
Why? Because Taylor Swift was involved. The singer strutted onto the 2015 MTV VMA red carpet in August with nine female dates, parading her girl power and showing women that, yes, we can band together to make each other stronger without being viewed as catty. But it also made others think her move was a cold, calculated decision that took advantage of feminism for the sake of her carefully crafted image. And from there, the internet split.
Her relationships with celebs like Victoria's Secret model Karlie Kloss and fellow musician Lorde, among many, many, others became the subject of tens of think pieces -- some of them calling out her "performative feminism," some labeling her escapades with her attractive friends as "exclusive."
Fans and friends of Swift applauded her decision to prioritize her female friends over the dudes that hurt her in the past. During her 1989 World Tour, she'd bring out her pals as surprise guests. The show's short video segments featured friends Selena Gomez, Cara Delevingne and Jamie King -- "It was a public service announcement for the healing powers of female friendship," wrote The New York Times' Jon Caramanica.
Because of Taylor and her network of famous friends, #SquadGoals became common vernacular. In 2015, the discussion of "squads" (originally a hip-hop term, I might add) went good, bad and ugly. Here's what people said:
'Feminism and friendship are supposed to be inclusive, and most of these 'squads' are strictly exclusive' - Rowan Blanchard on Just Jared Jr.
"It makes feminism look very one dimensional. Feminism is so multilayered and complex that it can be frustrating when the media and the celebrities involved in it make feminism and 'squads' feel like this very happy, exclusive, perfect thing. There's so much more than that. 'Squad goals' can polarize anyone who is not white, thin, tall and always happy.
"Of course female friendship is a beautiful thing. It's insanely powerful... Sisterhood is something so valid and important when you are growing up that I literally think the essence of it should be taught in schools. But, the 'squads' we see in the media are very polarizing. Feminism and friendship are supposed to be inclusive, and most of these 'squads' are strictly exclusive."
'Taylor Swift’s ‘squad’ has become a cult' - Lindsay Putnam for New York Post
"Merely wanting to be Swift’s friend isn’t enough. Celebrities who make the cut also need to possess enough social capital to offer her something in return — to add another dimension to bolster her clean-cut image. Baking cookies with Hailee Steinfeld makes Swift look innocent and down-to-earth; being named godmother to Jaime King’s newborn makes Swift more maternal; standing next to models such as Karlie Kloss and Martha Hunt reminds the world of how tall, svelte and blond Swift really is."
'I agree with having a good core group of friends, but the issue I have with squads is it creates exclusivity' - Chloë Grace Moretz for Nylon
“I was never included in those things when I was a kid. I was the weird one that chose to do movies, so now I go out of my way to be nice to people and make them feel included.”
'Swift herself should retire that obnoxious Nazi Barbie routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props' - Camille Paglia for The Hollywood Reporter
"Girl squads are only an early learning stage of female development. For women to leave a lasting mark on culture, they need to cut down on the socializing and focus like a laser on their own creative gifts."
'Leonardo DiCaprio behaved similarly in the ’90s, and everyone thought it was awesome' - Chuck Klosterman for GQ
"Because Swift’s professional career has unspooled with such precision, it’s assumed that her social life is no less premeditated. This even applies to casual, non-romantic relationships. Over the past three years, Swift has built a volunteer army of high-profile friends, many of whom appear in her videos and serve as special guests at her concerts. In almost any other circumstance, this would be seen as a likable trait; Leonardo DiCaprio behaved similarly in the ’90s, and everyone thought it was awesome. But it’s somehow different when the hub of the wheel is Swift. People get skeptical. Her famous friends are marginalized as acquisitions, selected to occupy specific roles, almost like members of the Justice League (“the ectomorph model,” “the inventive indie artist,” “the informed third-wave feminist,” etc.).
'That’s better to me than if hating other girls was cool.' - Tavi Gevinson in Vanity Fair
"You have to always be thinking about the person who is on the outside of it. So that’s where some of my squad fatigue comes in, is that it can just sort of feel sometimes like exclusivity, but I also think I’m not going to be mad that people like female friendship, or that female friendship is cool. That’s better to me than if hating other girls was cool."
'I just like real people who are living real lives' - Miley Cyrus in The New York Times
“I’m not trying to be in the squad... None of my friends are famous and not because of any other reason than I just like real people who are living real lives, because I’m inspired by them.”
'Swift isn’t here to help women—she’s here to make bank' - Dayna Evans for Gawker
"I often have conversations with my female friends about the two sides of feminism: the complimentary, bestie feminism—the kind that Swift is currently selling—and the cutthroat, realistic, we-exist-in-this-male-world-too feminism, the kind that expects women to act to standards that have already been set for us, and to do so by acting better and stronger and in alignment with each other. I think that neither are necessarily 'wrong,' though I do often find myself on the latter side of the fence. I trust that my female friends will have their shit together without me fawning all over them like they are helpless lambs, and I pray that they feel same about me."
'The minute I caught sight of myself in the Jumbotron, I knew something was very wrong' - Lena Dunham for The Film Society of Lincoln Center
"I was so thrilled to support my friend and so displeased to learn about the truth of my own height. I've been feeling pretty tall, feeling pretty sturdy, and it was amazing to me, like: 'Oh, I'm not tall. I'm chubby.' I mean, on most days, I feel really great and fine about my body, but I don't think standing next to, like, three supermodels or so is anything even the most confident woman needs to do. And when I socialize with those women, which I've done a little bit, because they're good friends of Taylor's, who is a good friend of mine, I don't feel so strange. But the minute I caught sight of myself in the Jumbotron, I knew something was very wrong."
'The way she cares about women is so adamant' - Selena Gomez in Billboard
"Taylor makes me feel empowered, like I can trust new people. All of those girls are so dope. We ran around taking pictures, changing dresses, dancing -- super-cliche girly stuff, but it rocked. The way she cares about women is so adamant. It’s pulling me out of my shell.”
'We want to be the generation and the group of friends known for supporting each other' - Gigi Hadid in Elle Canada
“‘Squad Goals’ is a big social-media thing right now, and that’s what we want to inspire in other groups of friends—to be proud of the power you all have when you’re together, which can be amplified so much by each person. That’s what has been cool about everyone’s willingness to be there for each other, and we don’t want to be like other generations who are infamous for their cattiness. That was cool and it worked for them and they were great. We just want to be the new generation.”
'A squad isn't always a source of feminist social support or an oasis of nurturing female friendship in a desert of misogyny' - Ej Dickson for Mic.
"There's an awful lot of baggage attached to the concept of #girlsquads that Swift's narrative ignores. The people who buy her music — the girls with skin problems and weight issues and social anxiety and condiment stains on their clothing — would never be allowed into a group filled with the leggy, perpetually manicured kind of girls who fill Swift's own ranks. By cloaking her #squadgoals in a veil of feminist inclusivity, Swift offers up invitations to the millions of girls watching, while blithely ignoring the painful reality of how squads truly work.
"A squad isn't always a source of feminist social support or an oasis of nurturing female friendship in a desert of misogyny. Often, it's a more subtle extension of adolescent hierarchy that puts some girls in the cool bunk and some girls in the loser bunk, a terrifying funhouse mirror-image of what it means to actually be a woman and have close female friends in a world that is hostile to women and skeptical of their friendships already."
Where do you land on the Swift squad spectrum? Tell us what you think in the comments below.