Recently, I shared my thoughts here on Kim K and Taylor Swift’s last conflict over whether Kanye asked Swift’s permission to talk about her in the song “Famous”. A former student editor, Maureen Lei, responded to me with some very important points I want to share. Her comments not only bring up another aspect of the complexity of girl world, but her response adds to the greater and important conversation on the intersections of race, feminism, gender, stereotypes, and image.
This is her thoughtful response:
“I read your article, and I wanted to pass along some feedback. I’m afraid you’re underplaying the role that race plays in this “feud” and in Taylor Swift’s career in general. To be fair, Kim K is not perfect in that light either — her and her sisters’ appropriation of black culture for their own profit is highly problematic as well. That said, Taylor Swift and her career represent a toxic brand of white feminism that purports to lift up “women”, which is an act of erasure with regards to the lived experiences of women of color. Personally, I read cultural erasure as a violent behavior.
I’m sure you can agree that white women and women of color in America (and around the world) experience their gender very, very differently, so to talk about women as a monolithic group is dangerous and inaccurate. Unfortunately, that’s what Taylor Swift does, and there are young girls who look up to her. When Nicki Minaj pointed out racial tension surrounding the VMAs, Taylor Swift made it about gender. Why? Because she does not understand that women of color are oppressed in ways that she is not, and because she likes to play the victim. When she accepts awards, she addresses “all the young girls”, without understanding the multidimensionality of the lived experiences of girls who do not share her skin tone. When Kanye West put out a song that they had spoken about prior to its release, she threw a hissy fit for reasons that I still don’t understand. If it was because of the word “bitch”, I really think she needs to calm down. It’s rap music, and that word means different things inside and outside of rap culture. While it’s certainly tinged with misogynistic tendencies, it’s not her culture to critique. I also don’t think she would have been as offended (if she was really offended to begin with), if she had an inkling of an understanding of black culture and rap music.
Very Smart Brothas published an op-ed on this. The most poignant line for me was at the end: “In 2016, Darth Susans get people fired. In 1916, Darth Susans got people lynched.”
I’m not saying that what Kim K did was nice, or that I’m even a fan of hers. That said, I don’t think what she did in this situation was wrong. In my view, if Kanye were the one to put those videos out, which was the only way to even try to clear his name, he would have been the angry and vindictive black guy bullying the nice white girl. I think the decision to have Kim put them out was a calculated PR move that goes beyond girls being mean to each other. Rather, I think it was a move to clear Kanye’s name, taking into account the very real racial angles of the situation. I don’t think that laying low and letting Taylor Swift say whatever she wanted was the move — Kanye would have been crucified as the mean black guy bullying the nice white girl in that situation too. The media already paints him as crazy and unhinged, and he can’t afford to be a “thug” too.
I also have a secondary conspiracy theory that Kimye and Taylor are in cahoots with each other and this is all a publicity stunt — ha!”
Please feel free to share your thoughts so we can keep these important conversations going!