I, like the rest of most exhausted mothers over the age of thirty, didn’t watch the VMA’s in their entirety last Sunday night. I obsessively watched clips and read reviews after I was able to finally put our children to bed.
By then, it had started — the backlash against Taylor Swift and her new video ‘Wildest Dreams’, which premiered at the VMA’s. The video, which seems to be a Natalie Wood-esque shattered love story of betrayal, takes place in Africa on a movie set with Scott Eastwood as her leading man. Swift’s critics voiced ‘concerns’ that this video about heartbreak was a step back in her progress of being a feminist icon. I started to read more, and the articles rebuking her feminist ways were rampant.
Whoa, whoa, WHOA. Back the fuck up.
So, because she doesn’t subscribe to your type of feminism, it doesn’t qualify her as a feminist? And because she dared show vulnerability she couldn’t dare be a feminist?
Let’s refresh our memory, shall we? Webster’s defines a feminist as ‘the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.’
Yep. No mention of how one should go about that. Nor does it mention whether or not you can be heartbroken and still qualify as a feminist.
Just because she has had heartbreak, and sings about it (her profession, for God’s sake), makes her no less of a feminist or badass than the woman who chooses not to tell the world about her broken heart.
There is some little girl, teenager, or grown woman out there with her heart broken, trying to gather strength and rise from her ashes. Maybe she doesn’t have a support system, and the only symbol of strength she has is through music, perhaps Taylor Swift videos? Let’s think back to when we were young and nursing heartache. We belted Madonna, Debbie Gibson, and Tiffany. They were glamorous, our version of what strength on the other side of it looked like. Do you remember other feminist icons for you at the time? Doubtful. Unfortunately, the others were mostly in textbooks and out of reach.
I think about my two little boys and whom they will grow up to marry. I want them to believe that the women they marry and fall in love with are strong because of what is, what they experienced collectively, not some hardened, cold version of what people think feminists should look like. I want my niece and all of her friends to grow up and know that whatever this mean, awful world can throw at them, it makes them, well, them, and will help them gain strength to do anything that they want to do, and no heartbreak, betrayal or trauma will stop them from that. And, in reality, they will get some of this strength early on from music icons, MTV videos, belting out ballads with their friends in their rooms, whether you like it or not.
If they are watching Taylor Swift, they will also see things that they also need to see — apologizing when wrong (in her Twitter feud with Nicki Minaj) and the ability to forgive and move on (who can forget her famous feud with Kanye West?), and doing all of it graciously. Things that every growing human (and grown ones, too!) need to learn and master themselves.
Show me any badass woman, and they are not strong because of what didn’t happen, they are strong because of what did happen. I consider myself to be quite a badass and guess how I got here? Betrayal, trauma, and heartbreak. Guess where I got my strength from? Other survivors— through their words, stories, and yes, music.
Because we are strong, not hardened. Showing vulnerability does not make one weak, it shows others who are not yet to their strongest point yet, that anything is possible. The very basis of what every feminist needs to learn in her crusade for equality.
So, play on, Taylor Swift, the feminist of our ‘wildest dreams’. And yes, I played her new video on repeat while I wrote this.