Thursday, March 12, 2009

Popular Music and the White Horse Myth

So I don't think I've written about Rhianna and Chris Brown, because everyone else has talked it to death. I guess all I will say is that I was really upset when I first heard about it because my girls *IDOLIZE* him.

This post is really about Taylor Swift, however. I'll make the connection to Rhianna later...

Taylor Swift is a squeaky clean, upbeat, happy-go-lucky, young kind of musical "artist." For that, most people would applaud her. She hasn't fallen into any of the "bad girl" activities that many of her counterparts have. Thus far, she's avoided trashy photos, public intoxication, breast implants, or drug use...that we know of. So YAY, she's not a complete disaster.

Here's the thing: Taylor Swift's lyrics, in my opinion, are as damaging to young girls as seeing Britney Spears' personal life all over the media. Take a look at "Love Song." The message? You can be rescued by a Romeo. He'll ask your dad for your hand in'll get to wear a white dress, and all your troubles will melt away. sweet and misogynist!

Her next song, which I saw in a commercial the other day, is called "White Horse." Here's the chorus:

That I'm not a princess
This ain't a fairytale
I'm not the one you'll sweep off her feet
Lead her up the stairwell
This ain't Hollywood
This is a small town
I was a dreamer before you went and let me down
Now it's too late for you and your white horse
To come around

Maybe I was naive
Got lost in your eyes and never really had a chance
My mistake I didn't know to be in love
You had to fight to have the upper hand

I had so many dreams about you and me
Happy endings,
Now I know

Ok, so now she's figured out that knights in shining armor don't really exist. That's a little more realistic. But the problem here is that this sends the message that a savior on a white horse is what the guy should be. Additionally, she sings that basically she had been dreaming of happy endings but came to realize that she had believed in a fantasy, and that reality was very different.

So I'm thinking how about we NOT teach our girls to believe in fantasies? How about we NOT teach them to want to be princesses looking for a man in shining armor to save them? The fact of the matter is that NO ONE CAN SAVE YOU BUT YOURSELF. Until we teach girls that they are full and total people in and of themselves who do not require anyone to fix them, save them, help them, or complete them, girls will forever be living in a fantasy.

Try to stay with me on this one…if we tell girls that “Mr. Right” will come along and save them, then girls (and women) begin to make out every man they love to be this perfect savior. They create a fantasy world, as described in the lyrics, and believe in their “savior” men. Even when the men, as Ms. Swift puts it, let you down and have to fight to have the upper hand.

This is where beaten and battered young women like Rhianna come in. As we’ve heard in the latest news, she and Chris are back together and even potentially collaborating in the studio on a love song.

If we teach young women that they are full and complete people on their own, they wouldn’t stay with an abusive person, they would know that love should never hurt, and they wouldn’t think they can stay with their abuser and “change him.” They would be realistic about the faults of the men in their lives and know when to get out! (And by saying this, I am in NO WAY trying to blame the victim! I’m just saying that such young women would expect better for themselves, and get out.)

What we’ve got to teach our daughters is that they don’t need saving. They are strong. They can take care of themselves and they don’t need anyone to help them. So what’s this mean for love, romance, and being “swept off your feet*”? Nothing! True love comes from people choosing to be together, not from one person needing the other. Romance can be alive and well between two equally situated people in a relationship. In fact, I would argue that romance is BETTER when the individuals enjoy an equal balance of power…but I don’t have experience with it in an unequal relationship to compare against. I just have a hunch.

So in summary, don’t listen to Taylor Swift. And if you’re like me and you can’t avoid her on the radio, then at least don’t buy her music. Being squeaky clean isn’t good enough if the substance is unrealistic, superficial, and damaging.

*I just realized I don’t like the phrase “swept off your feet” because of its literal meaning of being picked up and carried off.


  1. I was thinking as I was reading that not only is this false notion of how love should be heterosexist (because if there are two women or two men who exactly does this whole "sweeping off the feet")...but it doesn't give love itself enough credit. These notions give the man credit...the MAN has to be suave enough, handsome enough, wooing enough, etc... to capture the girl. It doesn't give love itself, one of the most incredible entities in the universe, any credit or determination in the matter. A woman can only love if a man fulfills A, B, and C requirements. It doesn't always work that way, in fact, it rarely works that way. But that does not make love any less real or any less powerful.

    Sidenote: we need to make up an "ism" that talks about good looking people being the default, getting the upper hand...if one exists I don't know it. I find myself wanting to refer to this a lot but not having the words.

  2. Attractivism? Haha, I don't know...but there should be one. There should also be one for weight. I think there might be one...I know that's been on the table for a while, but maybe that can even been incorporated in the looks one.

    It is really heterosexist! I was thinking about trying to tackle that point, but I got side tracked. Instead in my ideal relationship scenarios where things are equal, I just tried to use inclusive language. [Another random sidenote: Today I was thinking about how homosexual male relationships have a higher percentage of domestic violence than other relationships...Is there a shelter to accommodate this population in Indianapolis? I don't think there is...]

    As to your point that it doesn't give love enough credit: I totally agree. It really undermines love, especially in the context of the woman being dependent on the man (to use the heterosexual paradigm I'm attacking.) How is love a part of it if you HAVE to be with them, since you need rescuing? Isn't love about the free giving of yourself, trust, and mutual respect? I think it is...

    About giving the man all the credit: The thing is that the man doesn't actually *have* to be any of those things. He can actually be a total piece of shit, but the fantasy is so strong that total faults, (like freakin' abuse) is overlooked. But in the context of the idea that a woman should actually be looking for the perfect Prince Charming...well then, I agree, as you've pointed out, love doesn't really work that way, at all!

  3. The thing that bothers me about White Horse and Love Story is that they're two different points-of-view on love. I get it if it was spread out over an album or two, that's life but on the same album? And even worse, her savior is a Jonas Brother! I wonder if it's love or just marketing between two squeaky-clean entities.

    As a side note, anyone else creeped out by Taylor Swift's squintiness. It's almost like she's Steven Seagal but without the neck-breakings.


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