Take yourself back to the 14th of February this year – the day Kanye West released his new album, The Life of Pablo, which included the song Famous and the lyrics, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/ Why? I made that b*tch famous.” An online frenzy ensued over the controversial lyric and Taylor Swift refused to affirm whether she had previously approved the lyrics or not.
Flash forward several months to Kim Kardashian’s release of a video recording of a phone call between Swift and West in which Taylor approved a portion of the lyrics, but neither the phrase “that b*tch” or the name of the song itself was included. Had Swift been clearer about her previous knowledge of the song and the context and tone of the lyrics, the feud could have boiled down to a simple matter of miscommunication. However, instead, Swift’s entire career is being threatened amid accusations of lying, playing the victim, and hypocrisy.
Although Swift may owe her personal success to songs which have referenced other celebrities without their permission, she hardly deserves this witch hunt. Let’s be clear, Swift never violated her muses’ privacy in the same way that West and Kardashian have violated hers. The recording and subsequent release of the phone call between Swift and West, as well as the inclusion of a naked Swift look-a-like in the video for Famous, verges on abuse.
Rather than Swift playing the victim, she is in fact voicing her feelings at the change in tone and content of the lyrics, from over the phone to the song itself, and thus the way her portrayal in the song has consequently changed. We must ask, would she be so heavily criticised for the vehement defence of her character if she were a man? The way the public has flocked to attack Swift only demonstrates discomfort with her success, and reflects a trend of women being criticised in the media in ways which their male counterparts never are. Apparently it’s okay for West to use sexist language and imagery, but not for Swift to object to being made the subject of his sexist agenda.
The sexist card is a difficult one for Swift, who has been criticised for only addressing sexism when it benefits her, rather than tackling sexism on all fronts and for the benefit of all women. But in this case I believe that Swift is proving to be an incredible role model for women by refusing to allow any man, regardless of their fame, to talk down to her without confrontation.
The lyrics and music video of West’s Famous not only asserts that West is responsible for Swift’s success, but also that she owes him sex because of this. An earlier, leaked version of the song actually includes the line “Taylor Swift might owe me sex.” These words discredit Swift’s hard work and talent as well as perpetrate the idea that male entitlement is more important than female consent. Essentially, they turn one of the most successful women in the world into nothing more than a sexual object. Swift hasn’t addressed the sexist implications of West’s lyrics, but the insistence in her Grammy’s speech to not “allow anyone to take credit for your success” is something which surely struck a cord with many women listening.
Now that all parties involved, and many who were not, have had their say, we would assume that things have started to go quiet on the West versus Swift front. Sadly, no, this is not the case. Celebrities and non-celebrities alike are still weighing in online, and Swift has been pictured hand in hand with Kardashian wearing an ‘R.I.P Taylor Swift’ shirt. Apparently sharing the truth wasn’t enough, and West has now decided to fuel and extend the mass attack on Swift.
Unfortunately, the world loves to tear down successful women over the slightest things, and takes pleasure doing so in the most public and humiliating ways possible. Perhaps in a couple of weeks, when the storm has died down, people will sit back and ask themselves was it all really necessary? I hope they will ask themselves whether they had allowed the addictive quality of celebrity culture and easy access to the internet to turn them into cruel vultures, picking over the remains of a feud that should never have escalated so far.