In the feminist community there has been a lot of debate and discussion about “bad feminism” and the lack of inclusivity within many brands of feminism. Taylor Swift and her girl squad are always a topic of discussion amidst these debates. Swift has been coined the face of “White’s Only Feminism”, a brand of feminism that ignores the intersectionality between race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, gender identity, and other characteristics when devising ways to combat the oppressive societal systems impacting men, women, and non-gender conforming individuals.
The reason why white’s only feminism is so dangerous and so toxic to the feminist movement is that the sole reason why intersectionality is ignored is because white’s only feminists refuse to acknowledge it. These so-called feminists actively exclude people of color, the LGBTQIA community, and other disenfranchised classes from their feminism. This feminism assumes White, cis-gendered, heterosexual, middle-class women to be the only individuals who can benefit from feminism or need to be liberated, which is so far from the truth. Another dangerous thing about this brand of feminism is that women, men, and non-gender conforming individuals are being silenced and disregarded. In many cases, when white’s only feminists are approached by members of disenfranchised groups regarding lack of inclusivity or other problematic aspects of this feminism, these white’s only feminists and their girl squads band together and denounce these outside views and comments. For an example of this response, please see the Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift feud (that never actually existed) as a result of Nick Minaj speaking up about Black women not be recognized for their talents or contributions to pop culture. THIS IS BAD FEMINISM. If it were up to me, White’s only feminism would not be regarded as feminism, but I digress.
White’s only feminists refuse to acknowledge that each individual does not experience oppression the same way. For example, White women and Black women experience oppression VERY differently. Of course, both White and Black women are confronted with barriers rooted in misogyny, but there are other systems working against Black women besides patriarchy. Black women experience discrimination and prejudice rooted in misogynoir. Misogynoir is a term coined by queer Black feminist and scholar Moya Bailey which refers to the misogyny directed towards Black women where race and gender both play a role in the biases people have towards Black women. Thank you, Moya Bailey.
This is not so much about Taylor Swift and her girl squad as it is the behaviors and attitudes of Taylor Swift and her girl squad. Taylor Swift and her girl squad embody a feminism that does not include everyone and does not fight for everyone. If you are not fighting for the liberation of all, you have an extremely flawed view of what it means to be a feminist. There is nothing wrong with female friendship, don’t get me wrong. Female friendship and sisterhood are undeniably powerful, beautiful, beyond necessary things. There is strength in sisterhood. What Taylor Swift and other white’s only feminists do not acknowledge is that everyone is your sister and everyone needs feminism. Even though I disagree with many aspects of the feminism Swift and her girl squad embody, these women are still my sisters. I don’t hate Taylor Swift; I hate her feminism. When Swift or her “gal pals” are attacked with whore-phobic, sexist language and slander on the internet, I defend them because that is what sisters are supposed to do and that is what feminism should empower others to do. Feminism should not be divisive or encourage women to form exclusive squads.
Feminism should, however, be intersectional. Intersectionality in its most basic form is a concept used to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions such as sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, and xenophobia intersect and must be analyzed or addressed as multi-dimensional issues. Intersectional feminism is a brand of feminism that takes this concept into account when combatting these oppressive institutions. This does not mean that intersectional feminists cannot sometimes be exclusionary or problematic; what this does mean is that intersectional feminists make the effort to understand intersectionality and prioritize inclusion and equal representation.
Everyone has problematic moments. It is all about the response. The response to the outcries of an underrepresented population and the oppressive institutions working against these populations is what defines one’s feminism. The approach to dismantling oppressive institutions and the response to criticism of one’s feminism is the major difference between these two brands of feminism. Bottom line: your feminism must be intersectional or it isn’t feminism at all.