Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves (And You Can Too, Taylor Swift)

Remember when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the Golden Globes? I do. It was hilarious! I think of it often.

Apparently so does Taylor Swift. In a Vanity Fair interview she expressed her distaste with the cohosts, who during the course of the evening jokingly warned her to “stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son” or she might end up writing a song about him, by saying, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

To accuse Amy and Tina of somehow failing to support other women is absurd. Tina, who wrote Bossypants, who was the first female head writer of SNL, who wrote, produced, and starred in her own groundbreaking TV series about being a successful single woman in the entertainment industry? Amy, who also plays a strong, independent woman in her own show and started an online network for girls called Smart Girls at the Party, for which the motto is “Change the world by being yourself!”?

“Aw, I feel bad if she was upset,” Poehler responded. “I am a feminist and she is a young and talented girl. That being said, I do agree I am going to hell. But for other reasons. Mostly boring tax stuff.”

Taylor puts her comment into context: “If you want some big revelation, since 2010 I’ve dated exactly two people. […] For a female to write about her feelings, and then be portrayed as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend in need of making you marry her and have kids with her, I think that’s taking something that potentially should be celebrated–a woman writing about her feelings in a confessional way–that’s taking it and turning it and twisting it into something that is frankly a little sexist.”

Does she have a point? Were Amy and Tina unfairly characterizing her dating habits because she’s a woman? Do joking and celebrating have to be mutually exclusive? And if they were criticizing her, is that necessarily a bad thing? Women don’t have any obligation to support other women just because they’re doing something. Sure, Taylor, confess your feelings all you like. You certainly aren’t the first woman to go that route–check the LiveJournal archives if you have any doubts. But when you make your living by writing and singing about the intimate details of your love life, I just don’t think you get to protest when people, you know, talk about it. And have opinions about it, even opinions you don’t happen to share.

So where does this idea come from, that women should support each other? Jessica Chastain embodied this ideal when she said about fellow nominee (and now Academy Award winner and future BFF) Jennifer Lawrence, “Every time an actress is celebrated for her great work, I cheer.” She went on: “For the more brilliant their performance, the more the audience demands stories about women.”

This doesn’t mean she has to love everything Jennifer Lawrence does (though who doesn’t?). It’s all about the work, and celebrating women who have done well with the opportunities they’ve been given. Amy and Tina weren’t calling Taylor Swift untalented or unworthy of the attention she has received. They were making a joke about something she very openly discusses in her music: that she is a famous young woman who dates famous young men, usually very publicly. Nothing about the joke painted her as shrewish, or clingy, or desperate.

If there is one thing I have learned in my career as a writer, it’s that you have to have a thick skin. I have nowhere near the exposure of Taylor Swift so I can’t pretend to know what it feels like to have your personal life commented upon in the news, online, and at nationally televised awards shows in a room full of your peers. But I will never forget the way my heart sank into the floor after reading the first negative comments people I didn’t even know posted in response to my work. It didn’t matter how much positive feedback I received, those negative comments ran in a constant loop through my brain as I tried to go about my day as though there weren’t people out there in the world who doubted my intelligence and even my faith. I quickly learned the importance of confidence–if I truly believe and stand behind every sentence I publish, it doesn’t matter what other people think. Now negative comments don’t bother me at all. If anything it confirms that I have succeeded in saying something that asked someone to question a firmly-held belief.

Taylor, you will encounter plenty of “haters” in your career. You already have. But please don’t go after Amy and Tina, two of the female gender’s biggest cheerleaders in entertainment today. And please don’t suggest that women who don’t adore everything you do are somehow failing at being a woman. Do it for yourself, girl. Stand on your own two feet. Because really, sisters are doing it for themselves.


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