In defense of Taylor Swift (and Tina Fey, too)

I had to put some distance between myself and the Taylor Swift / Tina Fey / Amy Poehler debacle to be able to reflect properly (and make sure I am coherent), and then the whole Jon Hamm thing came to a head (no pun intended). I am basically in love with all four of these people, and I will admit I am afraid as a write this that I will end up turning on at least one of them.

Fey and Poehler are creative, hard-working comedians/actresses/writers who might be on a level all their own. I'm a big fan, really. I grew up watching SNL and I've seen every episode of 30 Rock. I watched the Golden Globes and I felt like I must have been the only person listening to the words that came out of their mouths:

"You know what, Taylor Swift? You stay away from Michael J. Fox's son."

It was a joke that Fey later called "lighthearted." I was a little surprised when I heard the joke, and a little worried when it didn't get the immediate negative reaction I was looking for. Was I just reading into it a little too much? Was the joke okay because all jokes are just part of the gig? I took a step away from my anger and decided that while I was personally peeved at the joke itself, I also wanted to know what other people thought. So I waited. And then something kind of amazing happened. Swift gave a response, quoting Madeline Albright:

"There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

We all know what Fey and Poehler's joke was getting at. Slut-shaming Swift is not fresh or new. In Swift we have a young woman who dresses modestly, is wildly successful, and dates young men. The problem with any defense of Swift is that it begs the question. Can a slut dress modestly? Can a slut be wildly successful? Can a slut date many young men, or should a slut be monogamous, or not date at all? The problem with defending Swift on any of these principles is that the argument can't be won. In the end, this argument depends on the definition of the problem (how we define "slut"), and looses sight of the real problem altogether. The problem with Fey's joke is not Taylor Swift or her actions, but slut-shaming as a whole. 

As an example, consider the actions I have taken in my own life as a young woman: I dated young men throughout college. I was seen in public with these young men. Our relationships didn't last or continue into marriage. I would say that I dress modestly. I am fairly soft-spoken, and I would definitely quote Madeline Albright. I would feel comfortable with the choices I have made if they were made public or published. Ignoring that I am not famous, should I not also be slut-shamed? Why not? 

After some assessment of the Fey/Poehler/Swift situation, I realize that my problem is with slut-shaming as a whole. I don't care who Swift dates. I know that Fey and Poehler are paid for their comedic talents, and comedy is often a social commentary. I don't blame them for taking a cheap (and rather ineffective) shot, but I'm disappointed that Fey and Poehler would contribute to the overall issue. Surely each of these women could have come up with better, intelligent jokes. Calling out a young woman for her lifestyle, or her body, or her relationships isn't entertaining or classy, but it seems to keep happening.

Which brings me to Jon Hamm (or "how I finally got my mind around the Taylor Swift joke"). Hamm has been receiving a lot of attention for the "bulges visible in his pants and whatnot" (credit to Britt for that). It's almost as if the media is paying attention to his body like he is a woman. I don't feel bad for Hamm and I fear that this is out of revenge. I'm tired of having articles about breasts and butts shoved down my throat. If we want men and women to be talked about in equal terms by the media, I guess this is the logical end we've come to. It's unfortunate, but if the media wants to continue to talk about women (or their bodies, or their relationships, or their lifestyles), then they must also give attention to men in the same way. This is the new equality we have made, and I'm afraid it's the bed we made for ourselves. The only logical, witty comeback I could recommend for Hamm would do nothing but exacerbate the whole problem:

"Don't you have someone's boobs to go worry about?"

I guess all things really do come full circle eventually. I'm disappointed in Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I'm glad Taylor Swift has moved past the joke. I'm interested to see how Jon Hamm continues to deal with being objectified. Really, in the end, I don't think anyone came out on top. We're all a little worse off because of the slut-shaming and objectification we see every day. 

Comments

  1. our society is always shaming people, be it
    slut shaming
    or fat shaming
    or shaming people because they deviate from the perceived "norm"

    it's all rather sad and only breeds horrible things.

    ReplyDelete

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