Tag Archives: Feminism

Look What She Made Me Do: Notes on my scholarly journal article about Taylor Swift

Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 1.13.01 AMThis week, I’m thrilled to say that Communication, Culture and Critique has published my article “From ‘Mine’ to ‘Ours’: Gendered Hierarchies of Authorship and the Limits of Taylor Swift’s Paratextual Feminism.”

Abstract

This article analyzes paratextual strategies deployed by Taylor Swift in her transition from country to pop in the context of her articulation of her authorship as a female songwriter. This was a transition complicated by the gendered hierarchies of pop music, wherein male producers carry significant discursive weight. The article frames the “Voice Memos” included with her 2014 album 1989 as a form of paratextual feminism, reiterating the authenticity she developed as a country star and pushing back against claims her collaboration with male producers like Max Martin and Ryan Tedder threaten her autonomy as a female voice in the music industry. However, the article goes on to consider how these and other paratextual feminisms are inherently tied to neoliberal values of post-feminism, demonstrating that their potential as a gendered critique of the media industries is limited by the lack of actualization within Swift’s broader star text and industry practice.

The article—which is trapped behind the paywall of academic publishing, but if you’re interested reach out and I’ll do my best to get you access—was nearly six years in the making. It began with my observations during her 1989 album cycle in 2014, which I developed into a 2016 conference paper focused on the “Voice Memos” included with the deluxe version of that album. But the subsequent years—her controversial silence during and after the 2016 election, a tumultuous reputation album cycle—provided new context for that analysis, testing how the feminism of her efforts to assert her authorship of her own songs while collaborating with male producers during her transition to pop music failed to manifest within other areas of her career.

As the paper entered into the final stages of peer review last summer, Swift entered into her latest album cycle for Lover, and I spent a lot of time lamenting that I was past the point where I could address everything that was happening (a peril of scholarly publishing). I was never afraid that my argument wouldn’t be relevant, as all scholarship must ultimately “stop” at a certain point and create a foundation for further analysis. But a lot has happened in Swift’s career in the six months or so after the article finished the peer review process, and I want to take a bit of space here to identify a few instances where the article’s argument connects with the discourse surrounding Swift’s recent activity.

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The Women of ‘Mad Men’: An Essay

[So, admittedly, I had wanted to write about Dexter today, but I am simply not going to have time. In short, finale is good, but I have some serious issues with the season as a whole that keep my from joining the hype train. However, I can offer you the following: it’s my Lit. Theory essay about ‘Mad Men’, one of my favourite series of the year, and recently nominated for two Golden Globes. I wanted to throw in a couple of YouTube videos here and there to spice it up but there’s no time; so, it’s just 2800 words of me intellectually rambling! Enjoy!]

From a twenty-first century perspective, the 1960s present a strange and foreign environment in which social interaction was defined by an entirely different set of rules. Man Men, a television drama from Matthew Weiner, takes place in the world of advertising during an era where smoking is natural and where segregation defines African-Americans as ‘the help’. While these social issues are used to locate the show within this specific time, largely remaining unchallenged within the show’s narrative, the presentation of women within Mad Men is a more deconstructive element. The series presents two women, in particular, who find themselves intertwined with this fast-moving world dominated by male figures: Peggy, a young secretary turned copy writer who struggles with her weight, and Betty, the wife of the Head of Creative who is defined by her domestic role. The series may be focused on an industry and a time period where the role of women was marginalized, but it represents an opportunity for the show’s writers to emphasize how this marginalization impacts these two women in particular.

Specifically, the daily activities of the Sterling Cooper agency are particularly worrisome: the discourse of advertising speaks to all audiences but is written and created almost exclusively by male writers. This environment provides a fertile ground for an investigation of the role language plays in reaffirming or challenging the patriarchal order. Peggy’s attempts to break into this industry may provide the most extensive representation of feminist literary theory within the series, but Mad Men also emphasizes the level to which phallocentric discourses bleed into the life of a young wife struggling to come to terms with her own identity. Mad Men is not a feminist television series, as its dedication to realism keeps either of these characters from emerging in defiance of all their unfair treatment. However, that attention to realism allows the series to demonstrate the level to which patriarchal discourse was dominant in life and language during this period, historicizing this period of feminine experience.

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