Taylor Swift, Barbie, and Embracing Femininity

 By Anjali Nayak 

Although she reigns the pop charts and constantly accumulates accolades, one perception of the public eye remains: “Taylor Swift makes basic pop music for basic pop girls.” 

Up until a few years ago, I would have agreed. But in all honesty, I was ashamed of my status as a Swiftie. I sheepishly limited myself to a certain number of Swift songs in a playlist, quietly hummed her earworm melodies, and refused to acknowledge her intricate artistry. Thankfully, I look back and realize the ridiculousness of this behavior, but my unreasonable reasoning shines a light on an issue many women deal with — avoidance of acting stereotypically “ultra – feminine” in order to not appear impotent and incapable. Life under a male reigning patriarchy has defined behaving too much like “a woman” as rationale to take away an individual’s credibility. Systematically, overtly feminine humans are reduced to words that demean their experiences and emotions: crazy, psychotic, ditzy, dramatic. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie celebrates all things pretty, pink, and stereotypically feminine. Gerwig reimagines a world in which women need not conceal their femininity and hide under the masculine cloak of their professions; Barbies are dotted in pink pantsuits, lab coats, and blazers. Not only are women allowed to succeed in any professional field they choose, they are allowed to take pride in their identity as a woman — not shamed for it. 

I especially applied Gerwig’s approach to the relationship I share with my little sister Mira. She had been anticipating the Eras Tour since November, when she skipped school to join the Ticketmaster stampede on four different monitors. Mira knew the set list by heart, crossed out potential surprise songs each night, and peacefully ignored teases from our relatives concerning her enthusiastic passion for Taylor Swift. 

The week of the concert, I joined my little sister in her Swiftie shenanigans. Long afternoons were spent sitting criss – cross in a deep sea of beads, charms, and elastic, painstakingly making friendship bracelet after friendship bracelet. I ended with a total of twelve lovingly made bracelets. Mira made fifty three. I studied up. Together, we watched Miss Americana and Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour — my sister pointed out the chants I needed to know during “Delicate” and “Bad Blood.” On the blissful day of July 28, 2023, I assisted Mira and her friends in getting ready for the big night. I helped paint their nails, put outfits together, and do hair. At Levi’s Stadium, I screamed every single word to every single song (and briefly hyperventilated when I realized “right where you left me” would be one of our surprise songs). I loved every second of it.

This isn’t just about Taylor Swift. Or Barbie for that matter. It’s about embracing femininity and acknowledging the internal misogyny that plagues the minds of young women. Pieces of media marketed towards a female audience are forced under bitter scrutiny compared to their masculine counterparts. Many of my relatives found my little sister’s outfit for the Eras Tour to be ridiculously intricate —but what’s the difference between her outfit and my cousin’s when he goes to 49ers games? From Twilight to One Direction, society doesn’t allow young women to do and like… anything. Instead, pieces of media specifically for a female audience ar timidly labeled as a “guilty pleasure.” From a young age, women are taught not be proud of the things they love, but rather shy behind shame and embarrassment. Simply put, society hates the things women love, and constantly remind women that they should hate the things they love.

But haters gonna hate.