I've time and time again outed myself as a Taylor Swift apologist. I definitely have both personal and privileged reasons for having no trouble supporting the artist, but usually when I see people criticising her, I can understand where they're coming from and respect it. Even for the most recent Taylor Swift meme, the "name a badder bitch" meme, I tried for a while to just let it be. What could be wrong with a meme that highlights the accomplishments of overlooked women? It wasn't until I saw that other people were feeling uneasy about the whole thing that I realised this wasn't just the knee-jerk Swifty in me coming out to play. There is actually something about the meme that's a little gross.
The first thing that bothers me is the fact that Swift didn't write the initial tweet. She herself never invited people to "name a badder bitch," or even claim that she was one. There is so much valid Swift criticism, but this parade of inspiring and powerful women being used as a weapon to make Swift feel inadequate is unwarranted. I don't know how we got here, but sometime in the past year we've given ourselves a free pass to belittle and bully an artist in a way we don't do to others with equally problematic pasts — and certainly not men.
i'm glad that everyone is sharing stories of these powerful awesome women on the "name a badder bitch" tweets, but the degree to which we've decided it's okay to use taylor swift as some kind of "safe" cultural punching bag is honestly gross— Chelsea Fagan (@Chelsea_Fagan) December 4, 2017
Plus, the celebration of these women is tainted with the fact that it's being used to hurt another one. Why are we only bringing these accomplishments up when we can use them to gleefully delight in another woman's flaws?
Then there's the matter of the initial tweet itself. The original account doesn't appear to actually belong to a Swift fan. In fact, most of their tweets involve posting an image with the intent of eliciting some kind of viral response. From the get-go, this tweet was posted with the knowledge that it's become socially acceptable to hate on Swift. We greedily took the bait.
But let's say it was a fan account! As writer Sarah Hagi points out, it's equally as ugly that everyone was quick to shut someone down for simply being a fan. In the words of something that I'll one day embroider onto a throw pillow: you don't always have to tweet.
All that being said, it's a fine line to walk. People are capitalising on the meme's viral nature to give female figures more exposure. For many, it's less about Swift and more about the knowledge that this format gets more eyes on their tweet, so why not use it? But I will never not feel weird when people purport to champion women at another woman's expense, especially when, for once, Swift did nothing to deserve it.