If you’re looking for a new person to worship this week, let me point you in the direction of the 16-year-old Lorde. The up-and-coming singer just threw some major shade in Taylor Swift’s direction and we can’t help but cheer her on. Partially because we have what one commenter deemed “a pathological hatred of the singer,” and partially because Lorde points out one of the biggest problems with Taylor Swift’s public persona — it’s bad for girls.
In an interview with Metro Arts Auckland, she talks about her image and what it means for her impressionable fans.
She’s also conscious of the influence she has on other young women. “Taylor Swift is so flawless, and so unattainable, and I don’t think it’s breeding anything good in young girls. ‘I’m never going to be like Taylor Swift, why can’t I be as pretty as Lorde?’ That’s fucking bullshit,” she says, straining forward for emphasis.
While one of my more minor problems with Taylor Swift is the fact that she’s a mediocre pop star with far more success than her voice merits, my bigger problem is — and always has been — her image. Despite knowing that she’s a role model for young women, she’s constantly playing the role of the flawless and blameless victim. Her message in her music always seems to be “look what he did to me!” There’s rarely a moment where she takes responsibility for the situations she’s in — and that applies to her failed relationships as well as her career achievements.
Things just happen to Taylor Swift, she doesn’t make things happen. At least on the surface. Any rational person knows that it takes a lot of work to make all these thing happen. Relationships don’t just start, songs don’t just write themselves and careers don’t just take off. Becoming a pop star’s hard work — but you’d never know that based on Taylor Swift’s public image. By portraying herself as a perfect person who just got lucky, she sets a dangerous precedent for her fans that they can never live up to. What kind of message does this send to young girls? If you’re good enough and pure enough, you too can be popular and rich and famous and desired? And if you don’t become popular and rich and famous and desired then you’re not good enough? Is that what we want teen girls to grow up believing? That if only they hadn’t made that one mistake, they’d be the next Taylor Swift? I think not. In fact I think that we’d like to aspire to raise a generation of young women who go after what they want and take responsibility either way.
Never have I ever seen a fellow singer call her out on this ridiculousness before. Sure she’s gotten teased for her “oh golly gee I won” faces at award shows, but no one’s ever delved into this part of her image before. And maybe, I’m reading too much into and maybe that’s not what Lorde meant. But either way, her other quote in the interview turned me into her newest fan.
She also sings of men’s centrality to her life: “I will love you till the end of time/ I will wait a million years”. A lyric Ella quotes with disgust. She’s a feminist.
“Absolutely. Wholeheartedly,” she says. “I think women who say, ‘No, I’m not a feminist — I love men,’ I think that is just… You don’t know what it means. You think it means that, ‘I don’t shave under my arms, I burn my bras. Fuck men!’ How could you be so uneducated, and so unwilling to learn about something which is so important to you?”
Even if this isn’t referencing Swift (who’s made it clear that she’s not a feminist), it’s referencing the amazing phenomenon that happens so often in celebrity interviews. Pop stars always hesitate to call themselves feminists out of some kind of weird fear that being pro-women will alienate fans — even if a lot of those fans are women. It’s beyond refreshing to see a 16-year-old speaking out for women before she even really is one. It gives me hope that we might have a pop star on the horizon who doesn’t make us embarrassed to listen to her music. Fingers crossed!