Taylor Swift Is Right, Degrading Women Under The Pretence Of Humour Is No Laughing Matter

Lilith Hudson

‘Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back. How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse shit as FuNnY. Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you. Happy Women’s History Month I guess’.

This was the sassy Tweet posted by Taylor Swift on March 1st. The subject in question: the season finale of Netflix’s comedy-drama, Ginny and Georgia. But what could a Netflix episode possibly have done to be labelled as ‘horseshit’ and trigger such a public emotionally charged outcry from Swift? The answer: a fictional character’s snide remark to her mother; “What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift”.

But surely this is just a tongue-in-cheek punchline that is supposed to elicit a few laughs in the name of comedy. What’s so ‘deeply sexist and degrading’? Is that the reason the privileged billionaire is so offended? I certainly found the joke funny; she needs to lighten-up.

This is the public discourse in response to her Tweet.

The thing is, as a ‘Romantic TV comedy’ (as labelled by Netflix), the show is surely targeted towards a predominantly young, female audience. Presumably, this is what writers and directors think we ought to find amusing.

The worst part? The script was written by a woman. What’s more, two thirds of the series’ producers were female too. Scriptwriters, producers, directors, actors and Netflix regulators all legitimised this. Perhaps even more tragic is the fact the line is used by a daughter to insult her mother. What happened to women supporting each other? The irony of course is the significant backdrop of Women’s History Month.

As Swift makes clear, maybe Netflix would’ve gained a few more laughs a decade ago. But a lot has changed since.

Thankfully, the last ten years have been progressive when it comes to women’s equality. Feminist efforts of the last century haven’t been for nothing, but it doesn’t stop at the right to vote or live independently of a husband.

we’re fed up with being the brunt of casually sexist jokes about our driving, our clothing, or, in this case, our dating history

From Cardi B’s WAP to the #MeToo movement, and exposing gender pay gaps within esteemed institutions like the BBC, we’ve made it damn well clear we’re fed up with being victimised, degraded, objectified, infantilised and sexualised with derogatory remarks. We’ve had enough of being made to feel inferior through mansplaining. We’ve made it clear we’re fed up with being the brunt of casually sexist jokes about our driving, our clothing, or, in this case, our dating history.

Let’s get the facts straight: these jokes aren’t funny. They’re offensive.

Yes, it’s undeniable that Swift’s so-called serial dating has become a long-running joke since her rise to fame. Pop-culture and song lyrics are littered with references to the singer’s dating history and long list of ex-lovers. And in truth, she’s had an impressive run of noteworthy men, from Harry Styles to Calvin Harris. Good on her, I say. Who can blame her?

But no-one is denying that fact; not least of all Swift herself. What’s important here is who actually cares? Is that not what we all do in our twenties? Play the field to find out who we’re most compatible with, what our type is, what we’re most attracted to in a partner?

I don’t just mean this on a fundamental level: of course people care, she’s a popstar in the public eye. She will never escape the fact that her relationships and dating choices will be scrutinised by the media for the rest of her days. But what’s absurd and unjust is the double-standard, a double-standard Swift is conscious of, all too well.

“No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says that about Bruno Mars. They’re all writing songs about their exes”

Speaking on Australian radio show, 2Day FM back in 2014 she made a profound argument; ‘You’re going to have people who are going to say, “Oh, you know, like, she just writes songs about her ex-boyfriends” and I think frankly that’s a very sexist angle to take. No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says that about Bruno Mars. They’re all writing songs about their exes, their current girlfriends, their love life, and no one raises the red flag there.’

Well ain’t that the truth.

It’s an injustice she drew upon in a recent track on her 2019 album, Lover, in the lyrics to The Man; ‘They’d say I played the ?eld before I found someone to commit to / And that would be ok / For me to do … / cause if I was a man, then I’d be the man.’

The prejudices Swift has encountered throughout her career have seen her embrace a more outspokenly feminist stance in recent years. Growing up in a Christian household in the republican state of Tennessee, then embodying the nation’s sixteen-year-old sweetheart who rose to fame after Love Story topped the charts in 2008, Swift traditionally remained the conformist, conventional and conservative young American she was expected to be.

But, as she made clear in 2017, the old Taylor is dead. As she’s grown older – particularly in light of her legal battle with Scooter Braun over the rights to her music, or her court case against DJ David Mueller for groping her at a Mississippi radio station meet-and-greet in 2013, or her ongoing feud with Kanye West after he interrupted her acceptance speech at the 2009 VMAs (need I list any more?) – she has proven herself to be a progressive forward-thinking feminist, as well as an LGBTQ+ rights activist and an outspoken Democrat. This is why Taylor feels as strongly as she does.

But alas, in response to her Tweet she’s been labelled the stereotypical woke-millennial-lefty-snowflake. Fortunately, I don’t think this is a criticism Taylor would be too displeased about.

Netflix produced her documentary. They saw her pain and they heard her struggles

Politics, sexism, lawsuits, mental health, her eating disorder: these were all struggles she spoke openly about in her Miss Americana documentary which premiered on Netflix in January last year. Netflix produced her documentary. They saw her pain and they heard her struggles. The least they could do was replace an overtly sexist line in Ginny and Georgia with something less direct, less personal, and something actually funny.

One glance at the replies to her Tweet and the crux of the issue makes itself known. One response read, ‘Lighten up Taylor. Quit being so offended by every little thing. I liked the old Taylor better.’ Since when was it acceptable to tell someone who is the brunt of a ‘joke’, to ‘lighten up’? You wouldn’t make a similar comment to a disabled person, or a person of colour, and expect them to ‘lighten up’ in response to your ableist or racist remarks.

As a devoted Swiftie, maybe I’m guilty of some unconscious bias. But I’m not writing this to defend Taylor Swift. Nor is her tweet purely a defence in her own interests. It takes a powerful and influential woman like Taylor Swift to address these uncomfortable conversations and make a stand.

By staying silent she too would legitimise sexism, and this is what recent movements have exposed. Love her or hate her, women should be uniting to applaud her for her efforts to dismantle the misogynistic, sexist attitudes that unfortunately still prevail in 2021.

Lilith Hudson

Featured image courtesy of Raphael Lovaski via Unsplash. Image license found hereNo changes were made to this image. 

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