My family has put up with my rants for nineteen years now. Because I am a ranting kind of girl. Once I’ve realized something (or come to some sort of self-deluded realization of something), nothing on earth is going to stop me from telling you all about it. I’m downright obnoxious. Luckily for them, I have a blog. Which gives me a nice release for all my upset and rant-y thoughts once their ears are no longer able to handle them anymore.
My latest complaint with the world stemmed from buying Taylor Swift’s 1989 album. (Which, full disclosure, I love) Originally, I pegged it as a dismal failure and embarrassment to the queen of music and all things cute and fabulous, but eventually it grew on me because I’m a good little Swiftie who adores everything Taylor creates. The only thing that still bothered me a bit after two weeks of dancing around in my car to the catchy pop anthems of the country’s biggest superstar?
I didn’t like the message.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that Taylor Swift isn’t exactly known for her philosophical and socially relevant exposes on our culture’s biggest problems. And I know there are a lot of people who applaud her new me-centered approach to songwriting. There’s nothing wrong with being an independent, self-confident woman who finds her worth outside of men and popularity.
But I’m saddened by the tendency of Taylor Swift and other pop culture icons to tear others down in order to build themselves up. We look at songs like “Shake it Off” with their shrugs that the haters are just gonna “hate, hate, hate” and cheer along with Taylor. Good for her! She’s sticking up for herself and it’s great. But only when I listened to the whole 1989 album did I realize how sad and a little bit disappointed I felt at who Taylor has directed most of her bitter jabs toward…
One of my best friends Greg texted me shortly after 1989 was released to complain about Taylor Swift’s new attitude toward love. He’s a really sweet gentle guy who makes everyone laugh and will probably be a very soft and romantic husband one day. And he seemed almost hurt by Taylor’s comments about starting relationships “dying to see how this one ends” or warning girls that “boys only want love if it’s torture.”
His disappointment over the attitude of 1989 confused me for a few days while still in the “ohmygoshilovethisalbumsomuch” first few days of listening to it. But this week, I realized why Greg was hurt by Taylor’s words. Because he is a boy. And I’m sure he wants to fall in love one day and find a girl who he’ll build a never-ending relationship with. Those aren’t childish fantasies to him. They’re real concrete ideals that he wants to build a life on someday.
I realized that when we, as women, applaud artists like Taylor who talks about “seeing the end as it begins” or Meghan Trainer who tells us that “boys like a little more booty to hold” or Ariana Grande who asks, “Baby, why can’t you just leave me?”, we’re allowing this image of men to dominate our world. We think we’re empowering other women and helping each other feel good about ourselves, but what we’re actually doing is fueling the lie that men are lustful, careless play-toys who will pleasure you one minute and leave you the next. Pop queens teach us to be okay with that. To accept it and come out stronger.
We, as women, like to play the role of victim when what we’re actually doing is enabling men to become the selfish monsters we’ve made them out to be.
I love, love, love Taylor Swift’s new album. And I don’t have anything against Trainer or Grande either.They all seem like beautiful, successful, self-confident women who have a lot to be proud of and every reason to be happy in life. But I don’t want their self-centered views of relationships to seep into my love life.
You’re not going to see me publishing a list of do’s and don’ts for my “future husband”, reminding him to agree with me all the time because I’m never going to be wrong. I’m not going to write songs or stories about bad boys who I can’t stop kissing, even though I know they’re going to break my heart. And you want to know why?
Because I value men who are really in love.
There is nothing more beautiful than seeing romantic love played out between two humble, imperfect, hopeful people. And I’m saying that as someone who realizes that love doesn’t always work out and that people don’t always stay together forever. But does that mean that every boy in the world is only looking to torture you? Does it mean that men are going to place heavy importance on your ample or not-so-ample rear end? Or that they’re only sticking around until they’ve had enough and then they plan to leave you? I don’t think so.
Love–real love, the kind of love that tries and fails and tries again–isn’t something you’ll find accurately described in many Top 40 songs. Because it’s not always torturous or blazing red or “rockin”. Sometimes it’s pretty boring. But love doesn’t grow in the heart of one person. It’s a bond. Meaning that it’s not only women who experience this phenomenal gift. It’s men, too.
I’m sad that Taylor Swift had to fall in love with so many hot, passionate, white-shirted jerks before she came to the conclusion that love is something that will never last. I think she’s probably been hurt many times, and that would break any normal person’s heart.
But all men aren’t jerks. All romances don’t end. And if we want to live to see future generations who value and respect love the way some people still do today, we can’t applaud the women who tear men down.
There are some mean, hurtful guys out there. And there are some selfish, destructive women too. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed. It doesn’t mean you’re never going to fall in love or find romantic happiness. Because, believe it or not, men are capable of love. Women are capable of love. The human heart is able to hold so much and feel so much and grow in so many wondrous ways.
If you have a man in your life who loves you, thank him for that. Let him see how much you appreciate him and encourage him in ways that will help him love you more. If you have brothers, or sons, or guy friends like Greg, let them know that you are amazed at the ways they already show love, no matter what stage they’re at in life. Don’t criticize their softness or point fingers in their moments of weakness. You’re soft and weak and imperfect too.
We have to believe that love exists outside of jean sizes and wild passionate trysts and pop anthems. Only then will we be able to help grow the hearts of others.