The most popular advocate for female friendship continues to teach young women the worst possible lessons on female friendship: It is okay to destroy the women who disagree with you, stand up to you, and fail to comply with your wishes and needs.
Following the MTV Video Music Award nominations, Taylor Swift made headlines last week after she inappropriately inserted herself into Nicki Minaj's stream of tweets discussing race, gender and the music industry.
"If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year," Minaj wrote on Twitter Tuesday, after her music video for "Anaconda" was overlooked for video of the year nomination, and her video "Feelin' Myself" wasn't nominated at all. Taylor Swift, who was nominated for nine awards including video of the year for "Bad Blood" replied: "I've done nothing but love & support you. It's unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot."
Thousands took to Twitter to witness Swift's "tone-deaf" response and inability to recognize a conversation flowing beyond her means. The Twitter storm caused an eruption of media stories relating to Minaj and Swift, followed by headlines, tweets and blogs on Swift, Minaj and Katy Perry. But the greatest tragedy remains that a music video dedicated to the demolition of one woman by another woman and her female posse trumped a music video displaying disruptive feminist techniques and celebrating an array of female bodies.
Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" features Swift's posse (or coven, as it has become known) of models and celebrities, lots of leather, burning London skyscrapers, and one lyrical take down of another female celebrity, rumored to be Katy Perry. What is most concerning is that this artist, who is supposedly against pinning women against one another as she accuses Minaj of doing, has created an anthem for women to hate each other.
"Now take a look what you've done, 'cause baby now we got bad blood."
And just like that, what could have been a misunderstanding between two artists has suddenly become a funky tune and lyrical phenomenon of female hatred by another female. Swift has made it okay for women to cut down and disparage those outside our primary friend groups. She has made it okay to use literal weapons and positioning of violence in her music video to highlight her own anger. Her Instagram feed shows videos of the stars she brought into her music video. One throws punches. Another swings a blade. And they all look damn good doing it too.
So why is a song about female-to-female antagonism being celebrated as an anthem for young women everywhere?
I believe it has to do with the fact that we all have the friend or friends who have cut us down and made us feel worthless. We can relate to Swift in this sense. We can relate to the fact that she has a strong group of friends who support her enough to star in the creative work itself.
However, what many women cannot relate to, yet seem to yearn for each time they utter "'Cause baby now we got bad blood," is the ability to cut down any and all female enemies, demolish their reputations, and hold them at a burning stake for what they have done.
But why pass that on to other women? The demand for females to support one another is higher than ever. As a young woman with close female friends, as a leading member of her sorority, and as someone who has grown up witnessing "cat fights" in movies and on television, I understand the angst and anger that often transpires between women. Over the past six months I have personally felt bullied by several of my formerly closest friends. I have been disparaged for speaking my mind and disagreeing with a friend in regards to decisions shaping the organization we lead. I did what I thought was right and got burned. And the worst thing is that the women who made me feel this way now seem to have a tune to sing along to.
However, as a female who relishes the ability to call her friends in a panic because a guy just texted her "Hey," as a female facing a male-dominant corporate climate and glass ceiling, as a female in a Greek college culture that is commonly associated with rape and violence against women, I understand the value of female friendship and the need for female support.
It is more important than ever.
So what could occur if the messaging were altered? What can women do, side by side, to fight the institutions and individuals that come between them? What would happen if we accepted each other, our stances, our choices, agreed to disagree and uncovered how we can work toward a more global amicable relationship as one unit, business cat fights aside?
I must admit that Swift's lyricism on love and relationships often hits the mark: I can confidently say that I have listened to "We are Never Ever Getting Back Together" more than I am willing to admit. However, her balladry on women needs some serious reform -- especially if she wants to truly end the phenomenon of women pitting themselves against one another that she so easily accused Minaj of doing.
After all, wouldn't it be far better to be exposed to pop culture that reminds us of the incredible female support systems we depend on rather than the supposedly bad blood between us? Wouldn't it be great to open your music streaming app and hear a song that doesn't spark a trend female-female destruction?
Just a thought.