I saw this article a few weeks ago, but didn’t comment, but I have to chime in now…I’m not really posting this for everyone, I’m posting this specifically to the post’s author, Gina M. Florio, because these things need to be discussed in something more than a Twitter post allows. I’m not using this blog for much else, it seems, so I might as well use it for this.
Gina, I’m really uncomfortable with a lot of the things you said in this.
I won’t disagree that you have some good points. Taylor and her team’s choice of video topic for “Wildest Dreams” was insensitive at best, no matter how “glamorous” the period was for some people (and not others). And Taylor definitely had advantages from day 1, and it would be good if she addressed that.
But a lot of things you said are unsettling.
I’ve covered sports for decades, and “Squad” has been a term I’ve heard a lot. As this article references, it’s used to group together a small group of people, perceived underdogs. But…as a racial term that is being appropriated? That seems like a stretch…I googled the term “squad” and “racist”, and even the closest thing I saw to this idea that squad is somehow representative for minorities, the MTV “White Squad” spoof, never touched on the word Squad as a racial thing, using the word more to evoke the “Geek Squad” of Best Buy.
But why say it is “Stolen”? It’s a word. It’s a word whose origins don’t come from anything racial, like other terms that racially charged. It’s a word in the English language. It doesn’t belong to one group of people or another, it’s not a possession to be stolen or taken or appropriated.
Do I get annoyed at its overuse? Sure. But that’s a different thing.
Similarly with the topic of the twerking. This is a video which uses dancing as a metaphor for trying to find a way to fit in, ultimately fitting in by being spaztic in your own way. Is twerking represented? Yes. Right alongside ballet, interpretive dance, breakdancing, and more. Taylor has the same goofiness, shocked expressions and more trying to keep up with all of them. Twerking is not appropriated and singled out to be made fun of, or monetized, or anything. If anything, it’s included among many forms of dance and does more to legitimize it than many of the ways it’s portrayed in media, even by the people it apparently belongs to.
Appropriation has been a hot word lately…but art, culture, language, do not belong to anyone, regardless of who originated and developed it. Words’ meanings change, art forms change…and people change. The art, the culture, it changes with us. It has for thousands of years, and it will continue to. But if we don’t allow culture to grow, to expand its audience and its contributors…or yes, even to die out…we are doing it a disservice. By limiting art, culture and language, we limit ourselves.
I’m not trying to minimize White Privilege. It’s real. Very very real. And I do agree with the main thrust that Taylor should do more to talk about it. You aren’t wrong, because she is such a huge influence, there is a responsibility she has to use it for the better of all people. And she could do well to have a group of friends that are a bit more inclusive. But in our need to identify and equalize, do we need to also minimize and ostracize? There are some things that white people will never understand, no matter how we try. I know that, and it should be acknowledged. But overreactions don’t help.
PS – Why did you point out very sarcastically and pointedly “And yeah, they’re all *pretty* about the squad? Is that an implication that Nicki Minaj, who was mentioned earlier, is not pretty? I don’t care for her songs, but even I’d say she’s attractive. That pithy comment felt a little…counterproductive.