Merry Swiftmas! The Swift-Off (Round 1)

A Note From E: As S and I embark on the Swiftiest of Swift-Offs, please keep in mind the following… Over the years we have debated Tay Tay to such degrees that we are able to see many sides of this shiny, blonde, leggy enigma. We could deliberate Her Swiftyness for hours, and find certain opinions overlapping. But for the purposes of these posts, we’ve agreed to go full-on Debate Class, with me taking the For argument and S taking the Against. Merry Swiftmas to all, and to all a fair fight!

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 3.21.21 PM

Dear readers, as you have probably guessed, my dear friend Elizabeth and I agree on a lot of things. Taylor Swift is not one of them. While E is on Team Swift (or Squad Swift, I guess?), I am just not, and it’s high time we hashed this thing out.

As you may or may not know, Ms. Swift was born on a Christmas tree farm (because she’s just that magical), so December seems like the perfect time of year to finally hold our Great Swift Debate. When I started working on this post, I also discovered that Swiftmas is a thing where Taylor Swift buys you presents, and that the word Swiftmas may soon be trademarked. In the spirit of the holidays, Beauty Coup presents our latest two parter: The Swift-Off. AKA The Swiftening. The Twelve Days of Swiftmas. (Realistically, it’ll probably be more like two days.) I’ll have the first word, then E will have her rebuttal in Round 2.

A bit of Swiftstory

Two years ago, right here at Beauty Coup, I pointed out that Taylor Swift hates girls with brown hair, probably because they stole her boyfriend. She didn’t know what Feminism meant, but she DID know that she looked great in virginal white. But that was 2013, baby, and we’re living in a whole new world now. 2015 Taylor Swift doesn’t hate any girls– in fact, she’s best friends with ALL of them. Just look at her having a blast with all of her female friends:

giphy
I’m not threatened by her, or her…
Taylor Swift seems to have it all figured out. Lena Dunham famously explained Feminism to her, and now she is ALL ABOUT IT. Which brings me to my first hang up on all things Swift:

This Shit is Phony and it ain’t Cute

I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. I chose those words carefully, because Taylor Swift is a savvy business woman with a well crafted brand. She didn’t make $365 million dollars this year by accident. Seems to me like there was a lot of criticism about the negativity towards other women in her earlier work, she saw the writing on the wall, and took it as an opportunity to adjust her brand– right along with her shift away from country music. SMART. Now any time another woman has something to say about her, THAT woman looks like an asshole. Even Amy Poehler and Tina Fey!

Taylor took this performative friendship act with her on the road for her 1989 tour. She may be famous, but she’s so down to earthShe’s such a supporter of women. Just look at how she brings them onstage with her to share the spotlight.  That’s what’s she’s selling– and lots are buying!

Seriously, what is this? Karaoke night in Korea Town? Haha, wouldn't it be so funny if we all went on stage together and sang No Scrubs?
Seriously, what is this? Karaoke night in Korea Town? Haha, wouldn’t it be so funny if we all went on stage together and sang No Scrubs?
Now, you may be wondering how I can really fault her for any of this. This is her job, you know? She’s good at it– and good for her. I’m just saying it’s phony and I don’t think it’s cute, cause it ain’t. Onto her real crimes.

Such as, talking in the middle of your song using words you never say. An incomplete list of words that Taylor Swift would never use in conversation but appear in her songs:

  1. Fella
  2. Hella
  3. This
  4. Sick
  5. Beat

But seriously though:

Beyoncé Really Did Have the Best Video of All Time

I should probably amend my whole jam right now by saying that I’m not against Taylor Swift, The Person. It might not be reading this way so far, but I’m having a hard time writing this because I really do feel conflicted. I will go to the mat for Taylor whenever I hear anyone trivialize her success. I think she has put in the work. She had to go on tour opening for Brad Paisley, the poor thing. Her songwriting, which isn’t to my personal taste, speaks to a lot women (and young women) and that is valuable. My beef is that I think she’s celebrated disproportionately and for the wrong reasons, and the best way to illustrate that is to point out the ways other women are not celebrated.

It turns out that the crux of my Taylor Swift-aversion is that Beyoncé really did have the greatest video of all time. The 2009 VMAS are infamous as the origin of the Kanye West “Imma let you finish…” meme. We all looked on, mouths open, as Kanye strode on stage and interrupted Taylor during her win for Best Female Video, proclaiming he was going to let her finish her “little old me?” act, but first it needed to be said that Beyoncé had the greatest video of all time. The interrupting (and the Kanye-ness of it all) overshadowed his point, but I have to say that Kanye was one hundred percent right on this one. In what universe is this shit better than the Single Ladies video? Honestly. Re-watch this.

Heavy handed, predictable, trope-laden, slut-shaming (!!!), Americana milquetoast bullshit. I can’t decide if I want to PUKE or FALL ASLEEP. Oh, Taylor’s so “ugly” in those glasses. That brown-haired girl is so mean and slutty in her red car. That football boy is so good. But she won for this, you guys! Over Single Ladies. I don’t need to post the Single Ladies music video for you. Why? Because it’s ICONIC! Never mind that Single Ladies is just a better song than You Belong with Me, this was the Video Music Awards. And Taylor’s video is better? You’re going to look me in the eye and tell me it’s BETTER? No, you’re not, and yet, Taylor Swift has SEVEN GRAMMYS. This. Drives. Me. INSANE! NO WONDER KANYE WAS MAD AT THE VMAS.

I AGREE WITH KANYE

So you may be saying, but Shannon, You Belong with Me is her old stuff, from when she was still pretending to be a country singer. According to the person who lives with me, who grew up with two country music stations on his TV, You Belong with Me is marginally better than your average country music video. FINE. She didn’t win Best Country Music Video. Back to my original point: her shit is phony. Boys didn’t like Taylor Swift in high school? YEAH RIGHT, STOP LYING. Her faux-shock face, her “humble” routine, her “I’m awkward, just like you!” shtick is still going on and it’s still ridiculous. Take the Shake it Off video. Taylor Swift can’t dance and I’m supposed to think it’s cute? Why the hell is she dancing, then?

76f3123b-027a-44f4-b3f4-13069e41b68d
I took this in Barnes and Noble yesterday. You really need this on vinyl, huh?
Oh, but she’s such a good role model for young women. Why? Because for some reason she reads “Christian”? Nary a cross to be seen, I might point out. It’s because she doesn’t “take her clothes off”. That’s her choice, and I won’t trivialize the importance of that choice. She shouldn’t have to. But valuing a woman for her “purity” is just as negative as casting her as a sex object. It’s the same thing. And if you think what she’s bringing is maturity to the table with those lyrics, you’re wrong. She’s still singing about bad boys breaking her heart and it’s conveniently never her fault. (There’s also one song about being in a fight with another girl). That’s great role modeling?

When Nicki Minaj spoke out earlier this year with a critique on racism in the music industry, Taylor made a mistake by taking it personally and accusing Nicki of tearing down her fellow woman (because Taylor was nominated and Nicki wasn’t). Taylor graciously invited Nicki to come up on stage with her if she won (wow, gee, thanks). Nicki ended up taking the opportunity to educate Taylor by sharing information on the issue. Taylor ended up apologizing and agreeing she had missed the point. Unfortunately, most of the coverage labeled it as a cat fight, belittling what it really was– a real moment between two women. Not a fake ‘get on stage with me’ performance. A real moment of solidarity about a real issue, a woman of color and a white woman illustrating inclusive feminism! That’s a headline! (It wasn’t the headline).

I love this. Honestly, this is what I want to hear from Taylor– about all of it. I wish she would stop the “lucky girl” routine. She isn’t lucky. It’s a combination of working hard, being a gifted story-teller, and happening to be thin, white, and blonde in a culture that values that. I just wish she would acknowledge this. I understand why she doesn’t, though. She is celebrated for being “humble”, read: grateful. A woman should not be too proud, lest she be considered vain and stuck-up. She can’t be sexual, unless it’s in a little innocent package. It makes me crazy. It isn’t her fault that is this way, but couldn’t she use her position to do something about it?

It seems as though things could be moving in that direction. Until that time, I guess I’m with Kanye.

xo
S

To Feminist or Not To Feminist

Hooray, it’s Friday Feminist Funtimes! Apropos of FFF, the Identifying as a Feminist debate rages on, as does the What Feminism Needs debate, the Feminism is For All debate, and the I’m An Ism You’re An Ism debate. There’s feminist debate fun to be had by all!

Many of you will recall that Emma Watson (#Hermione4Life) recently gave a killer speech at the UN. Initially it received a lot of attention, which is not surprising considering Ms. Watson’s level of celebrity. What was less publicized was the immediate threat that followed, in the form of a website that popped up, featuring a countdown clock and the implication that nude photos of Ms. Watson would be released when it expired.

As mentioned on Lainey Gossip, Ms. Watson’s fierce reaction to this (baseless) threat, her passionate feminism, and her ambitions for the He For She campaign are not sustaining headlines. Odds are far greater that you’ll come across some new form of “OMG She Lost Her Baby Weight!” than updates on the UN’s Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality, even with Hermione as their ambassador.

Sidebar: I mean no offense to Ms. Gran– um, I mean Watson, by ofttimes referring to her as Hermione. On the contrary, having just re-read the HP series (for the third time <– nerd alert), I consider it to be a form of high praise. Should Ms. Watson ever stumble on to the tiny universe of BeautyCoup, I hope she would agree.

Moving on… A breakdown of Hermione’s interview on the Guardian’s website details many of the kick ass things she had to say, and I highly recommend you take a few moments to read it. Immediately following said article, I discovered some thoughts from Roxane Gay about feminism, specifically as it relates to celebrities like Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence embracing the word, ideals, and in Emma’s case, activism.

Fewer of you will be familiar with Roxane Gay. She’s a columnist, an author, and a vocal feminist. I generally like what she has to say, due to the age-old concept of preaching to the choir. But this time around, several things about her article started to make me bristle. Feminism is a movement of inclusion, and her arguments began to sound rather exclusionary. She makes the following points in her article, which I shall address in turn:

  • Celebrity endorsements of feminism are infuriating… Hmm. Disagree. I understand her point that wrapping feminism up in a pretty package to make it more palatable is not ideal. However. Fame is not an aspect of our culture that will ever magically disappear. In this age of information and misinformation, we are more saturated than ever with celebrities – their products, their lives, their children, their relationships, and their causes. How we react to celebrity behavior says a lot about who we are as a society. As I set out to raise my own little rabble-rouser, I would much rather see tons of celebrities (regardless of their appearance, age, or gender) embracing the identity of Feminist. We should not discredit ardent feminists because of how they look. If these young, famous women who meet society’s absurd beauty standards want to use their powers for good, then I say:

amen

  • The rebranding of feminism is not a magical solution… Agree. With a small caveat. Even with the famous pretty faces waving their feminism flags, there are still so many people (so many women!) who are afraid of the word feminist, let alone actually embracing the work of feminism. Again, with all of the information thrown at us on a daily basis, a sharp way of communicating the true meaning and ambitions of feminism isn’t the worst idea.
  • This point I have to quote directly, because it’s the part of Ms. Gay’s article that I struggle with the most:

“This is the real problem feminism faces. Too many people are willfully ignorant about what the word means and what the movement aims to achieve. But when a pretty young woman has something to say about feminism, all of a sudden, that broad ignorance disappears or is set aside because, at last, we have a more tolerable voice proclaiming the very messages feminism has been trying to impart for so damn long.”

To her first point, that too many people are ignorant when it comes to the meaning and movement of feminism: Agree! It’s a huge problem that so many people equate feminist with being anti-man, and the movement of feminism as exclusionary.

To her second point about pretty young women speaking out as feminists: Disagree! Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence and Beyoncé have not eradicated broad ignorance about feminism with their declarations. They are chipping away at that ignorance by speaking out as feminists and, to make my final point, one more quote from Ms. Gay:

“We run into trouble, though, when we celebrate celebrity feminism while avoiding the actual work of feminism.”

Agree. Which is why, when we have someone like Emma Hermione Watson standing up as the face of a United Nations campaign in order to clarify what it means to be a feminist, expose those who might not otherwise hear it to the truths of feminism, and yes, do the actual work of feminism, as far as I see it, that’s something to celebrate.

emma_watson_un

Now I’d like to see this Moment turned into some Serious Action:

beyfeminist

What will it be?? Beyoncé-themed confidence building curriculum for girls in junior high? Beyoncé Love Your Body dance classes?? A Beyoncé Feminism 101 website? I have big dreams, because if anyone can do it, it’s Queen B.

Ps. An FFF Morsel: Julianne Moore stomps on the “mani cam”

RLB Slow Day Activities!

If you have no snow in sight and you’re already back at your place of employment, my guess is that your work day isn’t being filled with a lot of actual work. People are still trickling in from vacation, there are some minor tasks to do here and there, but we all know the real hullabaloo won’t start until next Monday, when everyone dives into their New Year Projects.

***Please Note: The above probably only applies to those of us with office jobs. If you work in customer service, odds are good you won’t be reading this until after work anyway. And I’m sorry. I’ve been there. Needless to say, when it comes to retail drama…

customer service
So here I am at my cushy desk job, with not a whole lot going on. What is a girl to do with herself? While I would love to take some advice from S and watch powerful documentaries on Netflix, streaming several hours of video on my work computer does not sound advisable.

What does sound like a great idea is BEYONCÉ. I bought the album and have listened to most of it, but I haven’t gone full immersion yet. This is shaping up to be an excellent plan for after I answer these three emails and have some lunch.

For the desk-bound, sure, you can always shop online, but if your pocketbook was also annihilated over the holidays, another great option is tearing through the wealth of articles and entertainment supplied by the worldwide interwebs. You can read this beautiful essay on the puzzling boundaries of platonic love, or embrace this fantastic coping mechanism for encounters with bad grammar. If you want to stick with a Bey-themed day, you can read this scathing response to a white girl’s embarrassing liveblogging of BEYONCÉ the album. Or if you want some good old-fashioned RLB inspiration, spend some time with Karen Walrond and her 1,000 Faces project (or her work on The Beauty of Different).

If you’ve already bathed in the glory that is Yoncé, or stumbling upon isn’t your jam, I invite you to spend your afternoon the way I spent my morning. Learning Cups. You know what I’m talking about. That thing that Anna Kendrick did in Pitch Perfect. One Slow Day afternoon, she was inspired by Lulu and the Lampshades, and taught herself how to do it. When the PP producers found out, they put her talents to work and used it in the movie. YouTube was flooded with renditions, people popping up everywhere playing the Cups song. Inventive drumming accompanied by charming vocals like they were born to do it. They all make it look so easy!

Which is a lie. Seriously, it will take you all afternoon. It certainly took me all morning. Okay, fine. If you have a great sense of rhythm and are naturally savvy with playing instruments while singing, it probably won’t take you as long. I struggle with both of those things. Por ejemplo:

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 2.10.10 PM

So using this tutorial, I spent some time working on playing along with her, then playing and singing along with her. Then I got hot. The Cups song is hard work! Sweater, begone. Still, that whole playing/singing thing eluded me…

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 2.12.31 PM

Try as I might, dexterity was not my friend…

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 2.14.41 PM

Which, like I said, I pretty much knew this stuff about myself from the get go. But hey! What else is a Slow Day for if not relatively useless determination? An hour or so later, Success! (ish):

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 2.17.12 PM

Whew. After all that, I now have an amusing party trick at my disposal. So long as I’m not drunk. Although, like playing pool, it’s possible that I would be Amazing at the Cups song while drunk. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, let’s all get (back) to watching Queen B/Bey/Sasha Fierce/Yoncé/Feminism’s Black Santa*

*title borrowed from The Li.st – subscribe here

xoxo,
RLB

bey