Why Taylor Swift Matters

“You’ll be the prince,
and I’ll be the princess,
It’s a love story
Baby, just say yes.”

— Taylor Swift, “Love Story”

Doesn’t everyone love a good love story? Maybe not.

 

At the feminist blog Feministing, commenter Chloe recently confessed that she enjoys listening to Taylor Swift’s music now and then, even if it’s what she calls “an un-feminist guilty pleasure.”

What exactly makes Swift’s music “un-feminist”? Why, it’s the misogynist love-story lyrics, of course. Specifically, the lyrics to Swift’s newest hit, Mine, are scary stuff. They’re full of dangerous woman-hating, man-loving nonsense — at least according to the 18-year-old blogger Jamie Kieles whom Chloe quotes:

This song is rife with freaky-deaky, weirdo language that frames Swift as someone perpetually under the ownership, or at least care, of a male authority. The lyrics describe her as not a woman, but as a “careless man’s careful daughter” that her new boyfriend has “made a rebel of.” This is problematic to me, in the sense that it implies a transfer of her ownership from one man to another. I think it’s weird in this song that she doesn’t seem to have any sense of her own identity away from the love interest, or her father.

As a woman who considers the most important parts of her identity those of being someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, and someone’s mother, and as a mom of a 15-year-old girl who is fairly certain that Taylor Swift walks on water, I have spent some time pondering the question of this particular country star’s popularity.

Why is Swift so universally beloved? Sure, she can sing, but so can a lot of people.

I think Swift has enjoyed unprecedented success, especially among female listeners, because she’s not just a singer, she’s a writer. She began her career by winning a poetry contest when she was just nine years old.

But Swift is not just any writer. She’s a writer with a rare gift for giving voice to the longings of young girls’ hearts and souls. Feminists like Chloe and Jamie may not like it much, but little girls really do dream of being fairy princesses, meeting handsome princes, and . . . getting married and having babies. Just you try to stop them. The flowery details might vary from one young girl to the next, but the longing to find personal fulfillment in loving and being loved in return is a universally feminine one.

 

Taylor Swift did not create that kind of feminine desire — God did.

Women are uniquely capable of finding meaning through what Pope John Paul II calls “a sincere gift of self.” In Mulieris Dignitatem, he reminds us:

A woman’s dignity is closely connected with the love which she receives by the very reason of her femininity; it is likewise connected with the love which she gives in return. The truth about the person and about love is thus confirmed. With regard to the truth about the person, we must turn again to the Second Vatican Council: “Man, who is the only creature on earth that God willed for its own sake, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self.”

Some women find personal fulfillment by responding generously to a call to a religious vocation. Others remain unmarried but devote their lives to nurturing others through their work, friendships, and volunteer efforts. But the vast majority of women respond to an instinctual drive to nurture and give of themselves to others by getting married and becoming mothers.

John Paul II called this drive to connect with and care for others part of our “feminine genius.” However politically incorrect it might be to embrace it, we women only hurt ourselves, our families, and especially our daughters when we try to redefine our nature, hide our true desires, and pretend our “genius” is not real

She may not intend to be a poster girl for authentic Catholic living, but Swift has tapped into a uniquely feminine longing and given it a voice, along with a rare sense of innocence. Contrast her particular brand of femininity with the sexual imagery pushed upon us by other popular music stars, such as Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, and you’ll soon see what kind of battle is being waged for young women’s hearts and minds.

Let’s see, little girls: Shall we seek personal fulfillment through a sincere gift of self and a life of self-giving love? Or by using sex as a weapon with which we attempt to dominate men?

Roll your eyes if you must, but my money’s on Swift, sappy love songs, and every little girl who dreams of loving others and being loved in return. Women who deliberately choose otherwise in the name of freedom and independence do so at the peril of their own happiness and satisfaction. In the end, no amount of feminist posturing can rewrite the lyrics that are written on every girl’s heart.

Image: Creative Commons SA

Danielle Bean

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Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is also author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom (Pauline 2005) and Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living (Pauline 2007). Her blog is a source of inspiration, encouragement, and support for Catholic women of all ages and life stages.

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