Every Monday and Wednesday I take my almost 11 year old daughter to swimming and we rock out to whatever she picks for the drive.
It’s almost always Taylor Swift.
Tonight before she hit play she said
“Ok. So, this song. She says only the young can run. And it has two different meanings. Like one is that we can run from injustice, and the other meaning is that we can also run for like, President or prime minister or whatever”.
Thankfully we were at a red light because I had to turn and look at my unicorn and mermaid, anything with sparkles and all fluffy animals, obsessed daughter to make sure she hadn’t been replaced with a newly awakened freshman at an arts college.
“Wow. Annabelle. You’re totally right. She did say she wrote that song after feeling really powerless after the last election.”
I, of course was referring to the Miss Americana documentary about Taylor Swift that just came out on Netflix. I watched it first to make sure it was ok for her after seeing it rated mature.
I watched it and was quite blown away at her musical talent, her introspection, and her seeming coming-of-age realization about what she stands for.
I went back and forth about the section that deals with the sexual assault trial she was involved in. Sadly, I resigned myself to the fact that while a very mature subject, how it was handled in the documentary was age appropriate enough for her and a lesson that honestly, we needed to talk about as she reaches puberty. It’s all too familiar when you growing up as a girl. Boys and men will touch you without permission and think they’ll get away with a little grope, or a little tap because they operate on the assumption that most of us were raised to be nice girls who don’t say anything. Or worse yet, we could run the risk of saying something and then having no one believe us. So, we suck up anything that’s uncomfortable, maybe even laugh or make a joke while silently resolving to never be alone with that person, or put ourselves in that situation ever again. It’s the reality that almost all women reading this can attest to.
Now I know most of that portion of the documentary went way over my daughter’s head, as it should. The important part was what she did process. Her hero put a gross, entitled old dude in his place.
In the defendant’s chair at court.
The blonde pop star had the power because she said she did.
When I watched it ahead of my daughter I clapped when she made the decision to come out politically- how disingenuous it was to play songs at Pride, and privately support the LGBTQ community but not actually use her voice in a meaningful political way. How she wrestled with her image of being “nice” and how nice girls don’t have political opinions that may ruffle feathers. How her own management desperately wanted to stop her. (See: Dixie Chicks)
I thought that part would go way over her head.
I didn’t give her enough credit for being astute enough to hear the message of many of Taylor Swift’s new songs.
A month ago I almost wrote this blog- before the documentary came out when, again, on the way to swimming, she started singing The Man. I hadn’t heard it before, but she had it on her phone. She was singing:
“I'd be a fearless leader
I’d be an alpha type
When everyone believes ya
What's that like?
I'm so sick of running
As fast as I can
Wondering if I'd get there quicker
If I was a man
They'd say I hustled
Put in the work
They wouldn't shake their heads
And question how much of this I deserve
What I was wearing, if I was rude
Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves”
She’s listening when I wasn’t.
I’m too old to have been a Swiftie when she hit the scene, and too young to have had a daughter at that time either. To me, she was mainly a meme, a social media mainstay, a gossip columnist dream and just the maker of many songs I bounced my head to but gave little credence too.
But tonight, watching my daughter ponder politics, social injustice, and giggling as she sang “why are you mad when you could be GLAAD.” Well. I’m listening.
Yes, this online world is friggin terrifying. It is so hard to know how to navigate this whole new chapter on parenting. We focus on all the bad and scary shit, which we should. But this new world of inclusiveness with access to the world, new ideas, a catalogue of music and documentaries at your finger tips, well I’d argue it’s making our kids MORE engaged. They get a say. They have an opinion. They’re gonna run from injustice so they can run for prime minister and change everything.
There’s a whole generation of GIRLS that have big plans to change the world. They don’t know Greta, they don’t know Malala quite yet, they’re getting acquainted with Anne Frank and Harriet Tubman as they go through school curriculum, but you know who they ALL know. Who they are all watching and emulating? Taylor swift.
I know she’s not without problematic moments, I know that Shake it Off is an ear worm like no other, but guys, I’m a newly minted Swiftie. And I’ll debate this at any party with anyone because she is GOOD for girls. In a world where so much is harmful to our girls, Taylor Swift is getting them to listen. And think. And then to share their insight with their 36 year old politically active, feminist flag waving mom who was silly enough to think she was doing the teaching.