Despite her clean lyrics and lack of outrageous behavior, Taylor Swift has become one of the most controversial celebrities. Opinions about her music, relationships and "kiss and tell" behavior are polarizing, sparking debates about everything from whom her most recent song is about to whether or not she is a good role model. There is a lot to be said about her beside the fact that her music is incredibly catchy and remarkably endearing, but one thing is for sure: she is the perfect example of someone who both perpetuates and is victimized by something called the myth of the "other girl."
The myth of the other girl can be seen in passive aggressive tweets by girls proclaiming things like, "I hate girls." It's present in proud declarations that someone only hangs out with boys, because girls are too much drama. It is girls frantically trying to convince others that they aren't like other girls, because they are laid-back, drama-free; girls obstinately insisting that they are different, because they aren't catty or fickle or vapid.
Essentially this myth is the manifestation of ingrained misogyny, a result of the longstanding stereotype that girls are catty, two-faced, superficial and gossipy. It is a stereotype meant to demean and dismiss girls, delegitimize and quiet them in order to maintain traditional gender roles. The "girl" part of the "other girls" myth is crucial, as it equates femininity with negative attributes like cattiness and superficiality.
"You Belong With Me," one of Swift's best known songs, illustrates the myth of the other girl. The song is essentially about how how the boy in the song should be with Swift rather than his current girlfriend, because the girlfriend wears short skirts and high heels and is the cheer captain (traditionally feminine things), while Swift wears t shirts and sneakers and enjoys watching sports (traditionally masculine things). Swift is saying that she is better for this boy because she doesn't conform to the traditional role of superficial femininity. This is obviously problematic, as it both incorrectly stereotypes this girl and belittles femininity as a whole.
On the other hand, Swift is -- on the surface level, at least -- the embodiment of traditional femininity. She is blonde and pretty; she likes dresses and sparkles; she sings romantic songs about love and fairytales. This is one of the main reasons that people seem to dislike her. Her music is bad because she only sings about frivolous boy problems. She's too "girly." She is stuck-up, catty, jealous and depthless. You see, she's one of those girls.
The myth of the other girl is so destructive because it divides girls and turn them against each other. It causes girls to view their gender -- and by extension, themselves -- as inferior. It causes them to feel as if they constantly have to validate their existences, convince others that they aren't the catty, superficial creature that others try to make them out to be. In a society that is already so dismissive of girls opinions beyond the superficial, the last thing they need is other girls treating them that way as well. The first step towards empowerment, towards the eradication of demeaning stereotypes, is standing up for other girls. Sticking up for other girls and not branding them as shallow and catty is essential in the deconstruction of the idea of the other girl. Life is a lot better if you have people who believe strongly in your worth standing up for you and affirming your validity, and this will get a lot better a lot faster if you have multiple voices speaking out in solidarity.
So, whether a girl likes to wear short skirts or t-shirts, or whether she sings about love and fairytales or plays sports, she's a human, just like you, and shouldn't be demonized just for her gender. All girls -- high heeled and otherwise -- need to stand together and reject the notion that we have to validate our gender by rejecting other girls. After all, sisterhood is powerful.
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