“Whether it’s a summertime dress that makes me feel carefree, an evening cocktail dress that makes me feel fancy, or a vintage dress that makes me feel like a ’50s housewife—which I enjoy feeling like, for some reason—I just really like dresses. …
If I feel too much like I’m wearing the pants, I start to feel uncomfortable and then we break up. … [I]t’s wonderful to hand over the reins to your boyfriend when you control so much of these big, high-pressure decisions, you know? That is a huge defining factor in who you choose to be with. Some combinations of people are toxic, you know? You have to find the right one that isn’t just going to explode into fiery ash and destruction.”
This is Taylor Swift in Harper’s Bazaar magazine, first talking about her love of dresses, and elsewhere in the interview talking about what she wants from a relationship. Tay-Tay is someone I’ve criticized in the past because she seemingly doesn’t understand feminism whilst declaring herself not a feminist. Fine, don’t be a feminist, but at least understand what it actually is that you’re disagreeing with. So I found myself nodding my head in agreement when I read these quotes above that she gave to Harper’s about what kind of dudes she likes to be with in a relationship. I nodded my head because hey, Taylor Swift, I am the exact same way.
So I was somewhat dismayed to see Taylor getting trashed for these quotes on the blog Mommyish.
Let me briefly explain where I come from before I get into the Mommyish part. I’ve written about not wanting to “wear the pants” in a relationship, so to speak, a couple of times before. Most of those writings were on the heels of a breakup with a guy who, in retrospect, was a weak, needy person. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool feminist, yet I also don’t want to “wear the pants” in a relationship. I prefer an exchange of pants-wearing, or the dude wearing the pants slightly more of the time. Simply put, it makes me feel like a guy’s mommy when he wants/needs me to make decisions all the time. Men who are like that feel very needy and weak to me. I choose to be in relationships with guys who are a bit more traditional about gender roles, because they tend to be more my intellectual and emotional equals than the needy dudes. You can read more about my thoughts on that in this post and this one. Taylor, it would seem feels the same way, especially given how her career requires her to make “big, high-pressure decisions.”
So I was disappointed to see a post on the parenting blog Mommyish that tore Taylor a new one for this point of view. Blogger Carrin Jade at least agreed with me that Taylor “missed the point of feminism when she said she wasn’t a feminist.” But then she went on to detail Taylor Swift’s fame and financial success and how it’s seemingly at odds with Taylor’s life goals:
I wonder if she sees the irony in the picture she’s painting of a 1950s housewife staying home to tend to her soccer team of children while she is … Taylor Swift. …
Surely she didn’t mean she wants to stay home, grow bored and sad with her one-dimensional life until she has to paint on her happy face to pick up the kids from school and cook daddy a nice dinner. She means she likes petticoats, right?
Sadly, she only added to the problem. Swift explains how she enjoys letting go of her need to control in her relationships. She uses the word “equality” but what she describes sounds closer to domestic submission.
Look, I understand that bloggers snark on stuff they disagree with; perhaps some of this post was hyperbolic. I get it: the blogger is disappointed that Taylor Swift wants to be June Cleaver instead of, I don’t know, Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton. Being a stay-at-home mother may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Two of my closest girl friends are childless-by-choice and passionately want have careers their whole lives. They know I am interested in popping out babies someday, staying at home, and dating a more traditional dude. My fantasy — and I say “fantasy” because it is not guaranteed — is understandably not their thing. Somehow we co-exist with respect and admiration for each other.
Being a good feminist doesn’t mean forcing other people into your particular choices. Feminism is about giving people the option to choose for themselves so long as it’s not harming anyone else’s ability to makes choices. Women are 51 percent of the population and we’re not all going to agree about how we want our lives to play out. In fact, many women of color and many women whose families grew up in poverty see having the choice to be a SAHM as a source of pride and success. A relatively small segment of the female population is even privileged enough to have the option of making these choices.
Obviously neither men nor women are making our life choices in a vacuum. Women who prefer a more traditional or domestic route are influenced by a society that has traditionally seen a woman’s place as in the home. And those choices have real-world consequence: being out of the professional workforce as a SAHM does make a woman (and her children) more vulnerable to poverty if her partner leaves her. But those weren’t the criticisms that Mommyish made; their criticisms were that because Taylor doesn’t want to “wear the pants” she must not believe in equality. Which is just … absurd.
I don’t think either Taylor or I believe we aren’t equals to our partners or that we belong in any one place. We just know what makes us happy or, rather, what will make us happy at a future point in time when this part is finished. Believe me, I love my career, but I long for something different in the domestic realm someday. This doesn’t have to be an either/or decision, and it’s in fact very unhelpful to feminism as a cause to force that paradigm on everyone. As long as she is conscious about having the freedom to choose for herself what she wants, I don’t particularly care how another woman behaves in her kitchen. I trust individuals to make safe, sane and consensual decisions for themselves and their relationships. Telling a woman there’s something lame about her choice to want to be a SAHM, or be a domestic goddess, or even not “wear the pants” in her relationship, is the same kind of wrong-headedness.
Different women want different things out of life. And it will make all of our lives easier if we learn to accept that.
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.
[Photo Harper's Bazaar]