Taylor Swift’s Squad Is ‘Obnoxious Nazi Barbie’ Stuff, Says Feminist Author
Taylor Swift maintains highly-visible friendships with many famous women. Her social media accounts are proof of this, stocked with photos of Taylor and her genetically superior model-singer-actress pals doing various Pinteresting things like baking Christmas cookies and jumping in the air in bikinis while holding American flags. It's enough to make people think she's the reason the term #squadgoals was invented (she's not). But two high-profile feminists from different generations recently took a closer look at Taylor's vision of girl power, and they didn't entirely like what they saw.
Camille Paglia, a renowned professor and social critic who's books focus on pop culture, politics and feminism, has written an interesting essay for the Hollywood Reporter that questions Taylor's squad-flaunting intentions. Noting the constant group selfie stream from female celebrities including Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne, Paglia wonders, "Do girl squads signal the blossoming of an idealistic new feminism, where empowering solidarity will replace mean-girl competitiveness?"
Paglia welcomes this veer away from the traditional girl-vs-girl catfight narrative, and examines some positive pop culture examples of such. But later, she zeroes in on Taylor:
"In our wide-open modern era of independent careers, girl squads can help women advance if they avoid presenting a silly, regressive public image — as in the tittering, tongues-out mugging of Swift's bear-hugging posse. Swift herself should retire that obnoxious Nazi Barbie routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props, an exhibitionistic overkill that Lara Marie Schoenhals brilliantly parodied in her scathing viral video "Please Welcome to the Stage."
The author offers a constructive next step, saying "Girl squads ought to be about mentoring, exchanging advice and experience and launching exciting and innovative joint projects." To be fair, Taylor may do these things already in real life, but advice-giving doesn't quite "read" on Instagram. Still — the majority of Taylor's collaborations are with men, and a joint project with friends such as Lorde or Hailee Steinfeld would be a great thing, right?
Meanwhile, Girl Meets World star and feminist blogger Rowan Blanchard agrees that the "squad goals" celebrity selfie craze can actually send a message of "you can't sit with us" exclusivity — particularly if all of your friends, by some wild coincidence, are all physically flawless by society's standards like Taylor's are. "It makes feminism look very one dimensional," Blanchard told Just Jared Jr. "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."
Taylor employed her ever-growing squad for an art project earlier this year with her mega-successful "Bad Blood" video. She and her gorgeous cohorts prepared for battle with a foe widely thought to be a stand-in for Katy Perry, who herself once suggested Swift was a "Regina George in sheep's clothing" in a subtweet. The video itself received some criticism for posing as a feminist manifesto while the subtext is actually "you didn't play my way, so now I'm turning my minions on you."
The "Style" singer's brand of sisterly love is certainly a shifting and often self-serving one — in earlier videos and songs such as "Better Than Revenge" she cast women not as friends, but as romance obstacles. Earlier this year she tweeted Nicki Minaj to suggest that the rapper was being un-feminist by questioning Taylor's MTV VMAs nomination, ultimately minimizing Nicki's valid race-related issues with MTV's nomination process. To her credit (and facing a backlash) Taylor apologized to Nicki, and the two put a pin in the feud when Taylor joined Nicki Minaj's opening number at the August awards show. Maybe SNL was right, and we'll all be absorbed into Taylor's #squad eventually.
Read Camille Paglia's (very interesting) essay over at the Hollywood Reporter.