Taylor Swift, young girls and life plans

A lot of people like to criticize Taylor Swift for her image of girl-next-door pining for the guy who dates the popular girl, songs about high school and young love as Taylor is now, what?, 20 years old. I get kind of irritated that there is always someone who pronounces that they get to decide what agenda people do or don’t have. These same people are listening to fifty year old married fathers talk about how hot some girl is and what they’re going to do to get her…  I get that some of the criticism is feminist fear that Taylor is “promoting” an image/thought/lifestyle that people fear young girls might emulate…but let’s be serious—who better to personify innocent, longing love than young girls? Girls grow up, and their lives are soooooooooooooo full of cultural information to take in—the shows they watch, the books they read, their friends, their family, the internet, the boys or girls they like. Even if they’re besotted with her, Taylor Swift will end up being such a small part of the final whole.  And I believe that damned few of her fans will end up “saving themselves” for when they’re married at 18 to their own Romeo! By 18, they’ll remember her with fondness, or maybe a disbelief that they did like her…while they run out into the world to make their own adventures.

Of course, I have my own agenda here! Although she is not one of the great singers of our time (ha!), I always liked that Taylor Swift (and yes, Avril Lavigne) actually wrote songs with lyrics that seemed like actual teenaged girls wrote them and would be singing them in their bedrooms. I had told my kids about her—and my daughter became one of those besotted fans. A blue-eyed not-quite-blonde-any-longer, my nine year old taught herself to play guitar so she could be like Taylor Swift. For my birthday, this August, she learned to play a Taylor Swift song she’d seen Taylor do in a video (about Taylor’s mother). Now, I’ve found a notebook which my daughter is using to fill with song lyrics…and yesterday, she sat down and carefully worked out the music to her first song!

Her musical influences will change through the years, and there will probably be quite a few different people she will admire and emulate before she comes into her own style…but I like that she has this role model of a girl who taught herself guitar, learned to write songs and marched out into the world to become a recording artist. It’s easy to dismiss Taylor Swift as “well, of course—she’s a pretty girl” but the truth is…the entertainment world is FILLED with pretty girls. Pretty blue eyed blonde girls are everywhere you look. They pop up…and they disappear. Whatever it is that girls respond to about Taylor Swift—let ‘em have it. She doesn’t have to make music for me…or for you. I have lots of other musical options in the world. But I’m glad that one of my daughter’s options is inspiring her to do something other than go shopping for the same shoes or perfume her idol wears…

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