Ever since tears dropped on her guitar in 2008, Taylor Swift has become a staple of mainstream country and pop music. However, those harmless tears have transformed into something much more sinister in her later albums. Instead of pining over a crush who does not reciprocate her love, Swift's songs have a taken a turn for the worse. Now, her songs perpetuate the girl vs. girl mentality that has already taken over middle school friendships across the country. Furthermore, she views boys as property: property that she doesn't want to be stolen by other thieving girls. Add to this a dash of slut shaming and you have a poisonous mixture ready to drip into the ears of her young, predominately female fan base.This is not to say that Taylor Swift is a bad person. My hometown is near hers in Tennessee, so many of my friends have met her. They all describe her as warm and gracious, echoing Swift's own views about the duty of a celebrity to appreciate and be kind to her fans.
I want to like her, and I can see why so many parents view her as a role model for their children. The problem with Swift being a role model, however, is that children shouldn't lead children. In many respects, Swift's persona in her songs betrays a mentality well below her 23 years. It is one that obsesses over boys and despises any girl who gets in the way of her probably-already-planned wedding with the boy of her dreams.
Honestly, this persona reminds me of me, circa seventh grade. And trust me, my middle school self is the last person young girls across the country should be emulating.
Although Swift considers herself to be a role model, she does not see beyond what the typical teen girl focuses on boys. Her hits revolve almost exclusively around boys and relationships the pining, the first date, the falling out and the breakup. Instead of advocating independence or self-respect that is not based on the opinions of others, Swift seems to place her self-esteem on the shoulders of her many and fluctuating crushes, shoulders that are precarious at best.
In doing so, Swift is reinforcing what many girls already thinkthat having a boyfriend should be their first priority. If a boyfriend is priority number one, then it follows that everything that comes in the way of a happy-ever-after with the cute boy from chemistry class should be sacrificed and, in the case of the "other woman," vilified. This is exactly what Swift does in her songs. In "You Belong With Me," Swift's persona feels no remorse when she professes her love to him, causing him to leave his girlfriend for her on prom night, or when she causes the groom to leave his bride for her on their wedding day in "Speak Now."
In addition to slut-shaming and "othering" the women who get in the way of her relationship with men, Swift seems obsessed with vengeance and having the last word. Her song "Better Than Revenge" clearly hints at this tendency, implying that humiliating both her ex and the woman he is currently dating is better than being in that relationship anyway.
Swift seems to relish the popularity of her songs and the efficacy with which they can expose her victims. In "Mean," for instance, Swift uses her song to sound off against a music critic who poorly reviewed one of her live performances. In retaliation to the critic who "pointed out [her] flaws," Swift resorts to ad hominem attacks, saying about the blogger, "all you are is mean and a liar and pathetic and alone in life." These arguments, while hurtful, are middle school-caliber attacks. Instead of engaging in mature dialogue or looking inward to solve her problems, Swift name-calls and glorifies revenge.
These sorts of messages are not what young girls need to hear, however much Swift tries to be a role model. Though parents may not appreciate their young girls looking up to celebrities who wear tight skirts and smoke cigarettes, Swift's immature, harmful mentality is just as detrimental, if not more so.