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One highly opinionated feminist YA nerd's twisted, snarky and informative journey through the genre's perils, pitfalls and sparkles.

Size-ism, Slut Shaming & All the Tools a Girl Doesn't Need.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in terms of pop culture, the phenomenon I am equal parts fascinated and horrified by. Between the Marie Claire article where Maura Kelly told the world that fat people repulsed her to Taylor Swift’s less than subtle attacks on exes and love rivals through the medium of terrible pop country music, one can’t help but wonder why the hell women still put up with this shit.

I was comforted by the justified backlash Ms Kelly’s article received, including planned protests, but we need to remember that Marie Claire deserve more blame than Ms Kelly, a self confessed recovering anorexic who really shouldn’t have been given that article to write in the first place. I’m not excusing her borderline bullying but let’s face it; Marie Claire knew exactly what they were doing. I shudder to think how many page views they got out of this debacle. When was the last time you saw a model or actress above a US size 10 on their covers? Actually, how often do non white, non skinny girls make it onto these magazines?

The problem with the show that repulsed Ms Kelly so much, CBS’s “Mike and Molly” has nothing to do with showing intimacy between the title couple (it’s one of the better aspects of the show – I can’t be the only one that thinks they are adorable on screen), it has to do with the overreliance on fat jokes and taking the easy way out, using the overweight characters as punch-lines rather than giving them the characterisation they deserve. There’s a good show in that mess somewhere (and if I’m being completely honest there, I keep watching in the hope that the good will one day outweigh the bad) but if we keep living with this attitude that it’s okay to mock, deride and bully people based solely on how they look, how are we ever going to change anything? Ms Kelly tried to apologise in the most half arsed manner possible, making the teeth-grinding claim that the severely underweight also make her feel uncomfortable – because eating disorders are such relaxing experiences. A lot of great bloggers have discussed this subject much better than I have and you should definitely check them all out.

Then we go to the opposite end of the mean girl spectrum and here we find Taylor Swift. Her latest album is selling like hotcakes but, as with her previous work, there are things that concern and annoy me. Full disclaimer; I don’t like Taylor Swift’s music. It’s catchy enough but her voice isn’t strong enough (even less so live) and she relies on clichéd, schlocky tropes of innocent love, believing Romeo and Juliet and the Scarlet Letter are happy ever after romances, teardrops in the rain and the infuriating virgin/whore complex she gets away with solely because she’s still seen as some sort of victim thanks to Kanye-gate. Her new album verges on psychotic with her less than mature and stable take on exes and in one song, “Better Than Revenge”, she takes a less than subtle swipe at a girl who apparently stole her boyfriend, believed to be actress Camilla Belle:

"She's an actress / But she's better known for the things that she does on the matress."

Now, who would like to tell me what’s wrong with this?





Slut shaming is common, far too common. I’ve discussed it during the Sparkle Project since it’s the easiest way to make a girl a villain (because as Ms Swift is so keen to point out in her song “Fifthteen”, a girl’s worth is in her hymen) and apart from unhealthy relationships being portrayed as positive, it’s my least favourite trope in the genre. Beyond it being incredibly lazy writing, it does nothing to help women. To quote one of my comedic heroes Tina Fey “You have all got to stop calling each other sluts and whore. It only makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” Like with bullying and discriminatory attitudes, bad things happen when good people do nothing. Right now with everything going on in the world, where it seems like there isn’t a lot of love or hope for young people, we can do so much better than shameless victim playing, slut shaming, size-ism, anti-women attitudes and all that mess. We certainly don't need people like Swift's fans to be complete children doing stuff like this. Remember how I said that impressionable teenagers are influenced by entertainment and so called role models? There's exhibit A right there. It's Ms Swift's schtick to do stuff like this, to pretend to be the naive little girl who is always the victim fighting against the mean girls but rhe truth is she is the epitome of a mean girl. Genuine people don't slut shame others in the name of record sales and petty squabbles. We know better than that.

I spend a lot of time tearing YA books apart for stuff like this because I genuinely believe that we can do better than this. We certainly deserve better. We don’t need people like Becca Fitzpatrick justifying harassment by saying it’s sexy. We don’t need people like Maura Kelly and Marie Claire to tell us what is and isn’t beautiful. We don’t need mean girls like Taylor Swift to push the lies about sex and women being bad. We don’t need perverts like Terry Richardson trying to pass off sexism and harassment against women as art while the guys get off Scott free. There’s a whole lot that needs fixing, I hope we’re all up for the job.

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12 comments:

strawberrysgirl said...

As a journalist, and someone who has literally told her editor "Hey, we can't run this, it is offensive beyond the pale" (a memorable experience was when a woman wrote a horrifyingly transphobic article about some university students at an all-male school that instituted a dress code banning women's clothing), I know for a FACT editors have the power to say "No, we can't run this" or ask for immense revisions. In fact, she shouldn't have written it in the first place because her personal experiences informed and tainted the piece. The fact that Joanna Coles has NOT done these duties is indicative of her "ability" as an editor in chief. Trust me, I give MC AND Kelly hell in my article on this, which I hope will set the school paper on fire, lol, with Realizations and Discussions and Stuff.

Actually, I can name a time I saw someone bigger on a magazine cover: Crystal Renn on the cover of Glamour, in a bikini. She's a US size 12, according to Le Wikipedia. And she's HOT! See here: http://www.judgmentofparis.com/cr/glamour01.jpg

I think it's great that most of the rebuttals I've read include "also, Mike and Molly isn't that great." They all say the same thing--too much reliance on lousy fat jokes.

Kelly apologized in that famous nonapology way Keith often points out on Countdown.

LOL HEY THAT PHOTO LOOKS FAMILIAR ;D and you said everything I think about Taylor Swift so lah nothing else to add except not all people born on 13 December fail like that. (Case in point: oh hey, it's me!)

WE'VE GOT TO DO BETTER! And trust me, I'm gonna try--that's why I'm going into an industry peppered with flakes of fail, because I genuinely think it can be improved but must be done from within as well!

Arielle Clemence said...

I'm sorry, but I completely disagree with your views on Taylor Swift. You're entitled to your own opinion, but I think that your thoughts are uninformed. I don't think that it's a bad thing that perhaps her songs are romantic. I enjoy that. Sometimes you need a little romance, and escape. Her taking Romeo and Juliet and The Scarlet Letter and giving them a happy ending is NOT a bad thing, it's just her thing.

No, slut shaming is not right, and maybe her song pushed the envelope a bit too far, but she wrote a song about cheating before she and Joe Jonas were ever together, so it is not automatically about him or Camilla Belle.

The song Fifteen is NOT about how virgins are better. It is about the loss of innocence, and how sometimes people use you and you make mistakes when you think you're in love.

The Madonna/Whore complex is not a fair trope, and it sucks that we're still dealing with it, but Taylor is not the one who is at fault. I think that it's hypocritical to be saying bitchy things about her and then saying that we need to stop doing it. I'm not saying that you are a hypocrite, but that that action is.

If we are going to change they way society sees us then we have to start being more encouraging of one another, not hurtful.

Ceilidh said...

@Arielle:

Okay, thanks for the reply. I don't get a whole lot of differing opinions here so I'm going to back up my points here.

I don't like that she fetishises Romeo & Juliet and tries to dress it up as something romantic. Teen suicide isn't romantic and I know she cuts that whole messy part out of her song but that just makes it worse.

The wide consensus is that the song is about Camilla Belle but regardless of who it is or isn't about, her fans think it's Belle and are so motivated by this song that they do stupid shit like slut shame Ms Belle for no reason on her wikipedia page whilst applauding Swift. Of course Swift isn't responsible for her fans but she is responsible for her content, which she continues to fill with this sort of stuff and everything else that makes her seem like some sort of victim. YA author Alexandra Bracken pointed out the mean girl style tactics of one of her new album songs where she talks about wanting a guy to ditch his bride at the alter for her. That's not sweet and she continually pulls the virgin/whore card when talking about other women in her songs:

http://bracken.livejournal.com/197218.html

Well I'm sorry you think I'm a hypocrite for wanting to draw attention to this sort of stuff but I think it's important to call out the bullshit, especially when said bullshit is marketed towards young girls as Swift's music usually is. She has a huge fanbase of young girls who hang onto her every word and we need to change the norms so people don't end up getting hurts. Swift's not the only singer doing this sort of stuff but I used her as an example because she has such a huge fanbase of girls under 16. The s word is such an overused term and it's thrown about so casually in both music, literature, movies, etc, especially stuff aimed at teenagers. We need to be responsible for the words we put out there and whether you respectfully disagree, think I'm a hypocrite or telling me to get over myself, to me this was important enough to blog about.

Thanks for reading again.

truthpact said...

I'm glad that you mentioned this, because slut-shaming is something that I have recently become aware of and passionate about stopping. We are all too quick to let it slide when it appears in books, movies, and songs, because we don't want to admit that our heroes have faults too. However, I think it is in these instances that it is especially important to point it out. We can't let people get away with sending these messages, especially when it is heard by so many people. Celebrities, authors, and so on need to be aware that what they say affects people, especially when they are so loyal to a person's books, music, etc. I think that people should take a little more responsibility for the message they are putting out there. You don't have to go out of your way to send a good message, but please, please, please don't send a bad one.

Just my two cents.

Catherine (On The Nightstand) said...

(Long reply got long)

@Arielle (and Ceilidh): It's assumed to be about Camilla Belle because it references the type of school she went to, the particular style of clothes she's known for, and the song Joe Jonas wrote about her. Those that actually know more about Camilla and/Taylor probably will be able to spot even more. The Joe Jonas song was on the last album she wrote.


"The song Fifteen is NOT about how virgins are better. It is about the loss of innocence, and how sometimes people use you and you make mistakes when you think you're in love."

So basically about how you shouldn't sleep with boys because that can only end in pain. So... being a virgin is better?


"The Madonna/Whore complex is not a fair trope, and it sucks that we're still dealing with it, but Taylor is not the one who is at fault."

No, but she is perpetuating it and showing all the teen girls that idolise her (as people do put her up as a role model) that it's okay to do this.


"I think that it's hypocritical to be saying bitchy things about her and then saying that we need to stop doing it. I'm not saying that you are a hypocrite, but that that action is."

There's a huge difference between saying "bitchy" (also not a great word) things about someone and calling them out on behaviour such as this.


"If we are going to change they way society sees us then we have to start being more encouraging of one another, not hurtful."

But sometimes we have got to speak up, which is what people like Ceilidh are doing. It might not seem nice to you, but it's definitely necessary.



@Ceilidh: Excellent post. We need to stop with the shaming full stop. We have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores, whether outright using those words or in other ways. Because it makes younger girls think that's all right to do then too.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you wrote a bit about Taylor Swift, the more I think about it, the more she annoys me. At least how she comes off from reading her lyrics:

She's ENTITLED to the boys she likes because after all she's "nice" and pretty much lives only for them, while the girls they're with are portrayed as either bitches or sluts or both according to her judgement. This, her judgement, justifies slut-shaming, breaking up weddings, etc. And the boys in her songs/videos apparently have no responsibility or say in this or actually AGREE with her.

She is way too obsessed with romance. Going by her lyrics, boys are everything. When she's in love, that's all there is, when they break up with her, it's terrible, they're terrible, and she obsesses about it for ages afterwards. I don't mind romantic songs, really, but it's not all a girl has to live for. Write some songs about friends or kittens something more, yeah?

She acts like she's some moral authority dealing out justice with her songs, nevermind her own actions; being vengeful, somewhat bitchy and slut-shaming. Instead she sells this whole innocent pretty saintly blonde victimized little girl image, which she just isn't.

Anne

princessstarr said...

This. Awesome.

Also, on the slut-shaming, isn't it interesting that no one ever looks at the guys? Take the whole Jennifer Aniston/Angelia Jolie thing (which I consider to be the biggest current example of slut-shaming); how much was Brad Pitt blamed for what he did?

On Taylor Swift- I'm forced to put up with her music as my little brother loves her stuff, and while I actually kinda liked "Fifteen," "Love Story" enrages the lit major in me. THE POINT, YOU'RE MISSING IT.

There's not much I can say about the Marie Clare article, without *ragesmash* or going into a fetal position at this point. As you mentioned, other bloggers have said it better.

Arielle Clemence said...

@Ceilidh

I hope I didn't offend you with my comment, and I completely agree with some of the points you made. I'm just trying to present a different point in her defense. I'm not saying she's perfect or her songs are, but I know that everyone goes through things like that.

Thank you for the link. It was a very interesting view, and again, good points were made. I think that perhaps her new album was made at a bad time, as far as her personal life goes.

I'm sorry that I took my frustration out on you a bit. I appreciate your blog and I think that you are doing a great job calling out the bullshit on things that women, like Becca Fitzpatrick, etc. are trying to say is okay.

Thank you for being patient, and not bashing me. I appreciate your maturity and eloquence. :)

@Catherine

I think that you missed the point of what I was trying to say about her song, "Fifteen". Not that being a virgin is better, but that sex is a HUGE decision to make. You need to be sure before you decide to sleep with someone (virgin or not) because of the emotional attachment involved. I'm a feminist, but I don't condone sleeping around (guy or girl).

newnewsfriend said...

Hey there! First of all I want to say that I absolutely LOVE your blog!

I don't want to go too crazy about Taylor Swift because I've been a fan of her for around 4 years now and must say that I don't really agree with some of your points. I think that Taylor writes her songs as a spur-of-the-moment thing and they always come off as either really lovey dovey or angry but I think at sometimes everyone can relate to at least one of her songs!

Sorry if I'm being hard to understand; it's late here lol!

And Terry Richardson. There's a name that gets my blood boiling. I don't want to even get STARTED on how much I hate him!

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I totally disagree. I mean, I have read Becca Fitzpatrick's books and I don't think they make harassment seem okay at all. I think sometimes when people try and read between the lines, they come up with a whole lot of bullshit which isn't implicit - it's just not there.

As for the Taylor Swift argument, she has never explicitly said she was a virgin and I don't think that's anyone's business but hers. If she personally doesn't believe that sleeping around is acceptable, that's her viewpoint. It is also my viewpoint. And the reason she has that line in BTR is probably because she hates the chick's guts. Wouldn't you? Have honestly never said a mean thing about anyone ever at all in your life because you do not like them? I think not. No one is perfect.

Plus, sorry, but I cannot take seriously any argument which misspells the word "fifteen".

Anonymous said...

Taylor Swift flirts. After publicly humiliating Harry Styles at the Brit Awards she was flirting with his black friend Jordan Stephen of Rizzle Kicks. After whoring with so many white men it’s about time Taylor Swift started whoring with niggers as well.

Anonymous said...

LEAKED NEWS!!! The Sex-Tape Video Taylor Swift Does Not Want You To See. Must Watch! Taylor Swift Tried To Ban This Video! But Taylor Can't Hide THIS Anymore!! http://lifeleak.com/leakednews/The-Video-Taylor-Swift-Doesn't-Want-You-To-Know (Best Viewed on PC or Mac)

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