Haters Gonna Hate

| August 29, 2014 | 2 Comments

All of my happiest moments, all of my saddest moments, and all of those in between have been soundtracked by Taylor Swift. She was there for me when I was fourteen sulking on the school bus or dancing in front of the mirror. She was there when I was sixteen driving around blasting her songs with the windows down or crying hot tears with the windows up after closing the car door on a particularly frustrating day. She was there to bond my freshman year roommate and me over the anticipated release of Red, and she was there when I was stuck on a bus for thirteen hours from Edinburgh to London.

Beyond her music, the greatest thing about Taylor Swift is that she has always legitimized my feelings. She understands and expresses them in her songs, but more importantly Taylor has always seemed real to me and I appreciate and admire her for that. People often call her childish and compare her to other stars her age who have children, openly party, or are for various reasons touted as more mature than her. In reality, Taylor is more similar to every other twenty-something I know than any of the stars to which she is compared. Taylor is the kind of twenty-four-year-old that would be in my circle of friends. She likes cats, knitting, crafting, and staying in. She’s awkward, she’s quirky, and she admits to her imperfections. She loves her friends and has the coolest sleepovers. She goes to great lengths for her fans and even though she gets a lot of hate, she shakes it off.

A lot of people hate Taylor Swift but most of them, when asked why, have no legitimate reason to cite and revert instead back to hollow accusations of things like immaturity. However, once people set their minds to hating something they will find any excuse to do so, even a song about being yourself and not trying to fit in or worry about what other people say. According to some people’s reactions to “Shake it Off”, Taylor Swift is now a sellout and a racist.

Those who accuse Taylor of being a sellout for switching from country to pop and changing her sound seem unable to accept that she is evolving as an artist and a person (something that is encouraged of most 20-somethings). However, more troubling is the people who are creating racism where it doesn’t exist.

One of the widely circulated assertions that Taylor Swift’s new video perpetuates racial stereotypes and racism is this tweet from rapper Earl Sweatshirt in response to the video:

“haven’t watched the taylor swift video and I don’t need to watch it to tell you that it’s inherently offensive and ultimately harmful”

Without watching the video, this man made a judgment on it. He and other internet agitators assert that this video is perpetuating racial stereotypes by having black dancers twerking and that Taylor Swift is racist because she twerks, tutts, and says ‘hella’ in the video. These claims suggest that white people are not allowed to dance hip-hop or use slang and that hip-hop is synonymous with black culture. The implications of these suggestions are destructive in their own way, but so is the internet ignorance that is exhibited here.

Earl Sweatshirt made a sweeping and accusatory claim on a video that he couldn’t even spend four minutes of his life watching. The problem here is internet ignorance. Anyone who watched the video would see that there are not only black dancers among the hip-hop dancers but that there are also black dancers among the contemporary dancers, cheerleaders, futurist dancers, b-boys, and “normal people”. There are also white dancers twerking in the hip-hop scene. However, Earl Sweatshirt did not watch the video. His claim that he does not need to watch it to tell the world of it’s apparent offensiveness is demonstrative of so many internet users’ insistence on weighing in on subjects on which they are not well-informed. This opinion entitlement plagues internet discussion threads from music videos that commenters haven’t actually watched to pieces on political issues that commenters can’t be bothered to research.

The internet has a bad habit of creating problems where they don’t exist. The ignorance spread from people who can’t wait four minutes before projecting hateful claims is just one example of this. We have enough negativity to face in the world without the unnecessary and ignorant hate emitted from internet-fire-starters. Taylor Swift and her new song and music video are a fantastic example of what this world needs to see more of: confident, independent, individuals who stay true to themselves and don’t let the haters get them down.

Featured Image photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer via photopin cc

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Category: featured, Music, Social Activism

Mackenzie Morgan

About the Author ()

Even though she's not sure how it happened, Mackenzie is a senior. She is also a cake connoisseur, self-declared hobby architect, and co-Editor-in-Chief of Culture Shock. She hails from a small snow globe of a town deep in the mountains of Colorado and is ridiculously proud of the fact that she's half Australian. She's working towards molding young minds as she studies History Education and American Studies with a minor in Political Science, but she would also like to be a princess (or maybe a lawyer). Her weaknesses and greatest enemies include mornings, ketchup, and mascots. Mostly Mackenzie likes to tweet about sandwiches (@Kenz_LM), eat soup, look at the moon, and work towards being Hermione Granger.

Comments (2)

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  1. Jay says:

    I swear to god if I see one more white person telling people of color what is or isn’t racist. Funny you talk about research when you basically say no one has any real criticism and that the only person you cite for accusing her of racism didn’t watch the video.

    Since it was too difficult for you, I found someone who did watch the video who can articulate their criticism better than I can:

    “In one scene from the video we have Taylor Swift dressed as a b-boy with a fitted cap and all, in a brazen and blatant act of cultural appropriation. We all know that the b-boy tradition comes from black and Latin@ youth who get demonized and criminalized daily and who are not able to breakdance without facing harassment from the police. But Swift, drenched in her white privilege and concomitant myopia has no sense of how insulting it is to slip this on as a fun “costume” for a few seconds in her video, as she can always retreat back into her whiteness unassailed while the black and Latin@ breakdancers in her video cannot.

    The most disgusting part of the video, though, came, as usual with the twerking scene. White girls just seem to love to throw in a twerking scene into their videos these days.

    This is different from the “Anaconda” video, where black women have agency and control of their sexuality and bodies. Instead, just like her racist white counterparts (namely Miley Cyrus and Lilly Allen), Taylor Swift makes twerking and black female bodies a spectacle before the white gaze. Particularly as she walks between the legs of her twerking dancers and pauses at the black woman in the group and gapes astoundingly at her ass, the white gaze is centralized. In this scene black femininity is clearly exotified and demonized in an animalistic contrast to her conservative white femininity that can gape “shocked” at what she’s witnessing (which black women have literally been doing for centuries). This is white feminism at work, which perpetually ignores crucial intersections of race and gender, and to add insult to injury the scene ends with Swift giggling and looking bashfully at the ground, reifying her innocence and white privilege in the spirit of the cult of true womanhood. These are constructs which black women and other WOC do not have access to due to their race, and which Swift gleefully reinforces with this imagery.

    This entire scene is a blatant example of primitivism and misogynoir (racialized antiblack misogyny) in the spirit of the spectacle that people made out of the body of Saartjie Baartman.”
    What you said about there being black dancers in other dances is also moot considering, for example, almost every ballerina, if not all of them, are white while almost all the twerking dancers were black. There is a very clear racial element here.
    Yo, I get it, she made songs you connected to, good for you, but DO NOT come here telling black men and women that this was not racist. If you are not black, you do not decide what is anti-black, if you are not a poc, you do not decide what is racist. “These claims suggest that white people are not allowed to dance hip-hop or use slang and that hip-hop is synonymous with black culture.” You are absolutely right, because when white people appropriate black culture, they are seen as edgy or alternative while actual black people participating in their own culture are seen as thugs. Miley Cyrus and Iggy have been credited as starting twerking, a dance descended from African fertility dances that have been a part of hip hop culture for decades. When Miley twerked, everyone was raving over how grown up and scandalous and liberating it was while black women had for years been seen as “ghetto” and oversexualized.

    Real telling, though, that with young men being murdered for being black in the news, that you felt like Taylor Swift being accused of being racist deserved to be written about.

    It honestly disturbs me that you are studying history education. Someone who cannot understand that white people have oppressed black people for centuries and should not appropriate our culture because of its harmful effects is not someone I’d want “molding young minds,” especially since I know from experience how internalized racism can result from being taught by people with your mindset. I hope you do actual research about racism, anti-blackness, and white privilege before you try talking about racism.

    • Mackenzie Morgan Mackenzie Morgan says:

      Hi Jay. Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate your insight and I’d like to speak to some of your concerns and criticisms of the video and my interpretation of it.

      Let me start with a point on which I am in agreement with you: yes, I am white and I am aware that along with this fact comes the fact that I don’t personally experience racism and that I am not necessarily qualified to draw conclusions on black culture or racism. I am by no means trying to assert that my perception on the world is the only one, the correct one, or even always a qualified one. What I do try to ensure is that it is always, always an inclusive and peaceful one.

      The first criticism that I saw of “Shake it Off” was the tweet I’ve included from Earl Sweatshirt; I then saw this tweet mentioned, cited, or included on every single piece I read in reaction to the video and it left a bad taste in my mouth. Originally this post was going to be much more about racism, hip-hop, and the role of certain styles of dance and language in black-culture. However, as I was trying to work through my thoughts on the matter I realized what you have stated and I have confirmed: I’m not qualified to draw conclusions on those matters without first discussing it extensively with others because I haven’t experienced them. I also realized that the reason Earl Sweatshirt’s tweet and the responses citing it left such an unsettled feeling in my gut was because it was an uninformed opinion.

      I think that many people on the internet do similarly. My specific example here was that many people dislike Taylor Swift because they don’t like her music, find her annoying, or think she’s immature etc. They then link onto other reasons that they can use to substantiate that hate, such as deciding a video is offensive without actually watching it in order to create their own, well-informed opinion. I use this video as solely an example of this internet ignorance. It’s seen everywhere, especially in regards to hot-button topics such as gun usage, race, war, the right to choose, and religion. People enter discussions and arguments having already decided exactly what they will say and disregard context, view points, and civil discussion. This phenomenon, which I felt was illustrated by Earl Sweatshirt’s tweet, really frustrates me because it closes the door to open-minded, collaborative discussions in the effort of learning more about an issue and finding common ground.

      Taylor Swift is not trying to make a spectacle out of black culture or hip hop dancing. She isn’t making shocked faces or laughing at the twerking but rather her inability to do so (which she also does in the other styles of dance). The video is parodying a lot of themes of pop culture and other music videos and Taylor Swift is seen throughout trying and failing to fit into these popular scenes, showing that you don’t have to try to be what other people are and that you should just be yourself. Some people are ballerinas, some people are hip-hop dancers, some people are cheerleaders, and some people are modern dancers. Some people aren’t any of those things. People are different, unique entities and that’s okay. In fact it’s fantastic and is what makes life exciting.

      I find it interesting that you are criticizing my decision to write about Taylor Swift instead of the more serious and pressing racial issues and violence happening on the streets of our neighborhoods because in a previous draft of this post I discussed the fact that people get more worked up over possible racism in pop culture than they do about real, tragic, deathly racism in our daily lives. I do believe that the anger and emotions people pour into youtube comments and tumblr posts could be much better directed to real world issues. Unfortunately it is true that many people see black people as thugs or a danger for dressing or dancing a certain way. Society, rather than Taylor Swift, is responsible for this tragic fact and it’s something that I believe will be more likely to be improved by working together, participating in thoughtful discussions and directing anger at the correct places; not in internet comment sections.

      As for my choice to write about Taylor Swift, please know that just because I have written about one thing and not another does not mean I only have thoughts about which I’ve written. Unfortunately from a strictly technical viewpoint, I do have a word limit to try to adhere to and had already far exceeded it with this post so chose to focus more on my thoughts on internet ignorance.

      We do always appreciate input and discussions here at Culture Shock so I thank you joining the discussion and sharing your thoughts with me and hope you will take a moment to consider what I’ve hoped to clarify here.

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