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Friday, September 24, 2021

This jab at Taylor Swift is getting old—and sexist

How one comment highlights recurring sexism in the media

Taylor Swift fans made the Twitter hashtag #respecttaylorswift trend in the beginning of March after a character in the Netflix show “Ginny and Georgia” made a sexist joke aimed at the singer. The so-called joke referenced Swift’s dating history: “You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.” 

Fans had a knee-jerk reaction toward the comment and they immediately boosted hashtags and called out the writers for such a petty blow to the singer. When Swift herself heard the news of the cheap shot, she took her frustration to Twitter and tweeted, “Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back.” The tweet spread around among fans and they were soon taking it upon themselves to make sure that the show’s writers regretted the decision of ever writing that line.

This particular joke has followed Swift for most of her career. But if people take a look at the media and how it talks about women, it’s completely understandable why Swift reacted the way she did. Women face unrealistic expectations and continue to deal with sexism throughout their entire lives, not to mention battling with internalized misogyny, and it’s exhausting. Whether it’s a big celebrity like Swift, who has to deal with an entire population of people wanting to chime in with their own opinion, or a woman in a STEM class dealing with some 20-something year old frat boys being condescending, harassment gets tiresome. 

Celebrities are always going to be the butt of a joke—they’re in the spotlight, so they’re an easy target for writers and comedians. But being the butt of a sexist joke isn’t funny, it’s demeaning. Swift has been ridiculed for years for simply dating men like a normal 20-something-year-old would.  

People aren’t solely frustrated because Swift consistently faces sexist criticism; she just so happens to be a catalyst for an important conversation that needed to be had. The idea that women can’t date multiple people in their lifetime but men can be applauded for doing so creates a double standard that is devastatingly tiresome to keep up with. This problem is one as old as time so it makes sense why that one line sparked outrage and was the talk of social media for a number of days. 

Comments like these affect women frequently, and so making jokes about them in a television show that is supposed to center strong women really takes a “two steps forward, one step back” type of approach—these jokes aren’t funny, they’re simply lazy writing. The writers of the show have yet to comment on the situation.  

I don’t think there was ever a time when I found sexist “jokes” funny other than when I was in elementary school and couldn’t grasp the concept of someone making fun of my gender. Girls at a young age are bombarded with double standards and an unhealthy expectation to please others. While there are some beautiful portrayals of women who break down those expectations for young girls out there—some of my favorites were “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Kim Possible”—studies show from a young age that girls are more likely to think of boys as the intelligent ones. 

Women grow up surrounded by media that tell them who they should be and what they should look like, and are rarely represented as powerful, main characters. Of course, in recent years we have seen characters that step on those stereotypes in action movies like “Captain Marvel” and shows like “The Bold Type” that portray women as complex and powerful characters. However, even with these additions of new protagonists, overused sexist jokes have found their way into countless movies and TV shows and uncomfortably poke fun at women for living their lives. 

What’s important to note here is that the blame of these types of jokes falls on the writer—not on the actress who said the line. It’s the writers of TV shows that add these types of jokes that attack women into their scripts.

While Swift herself didn’t receive backlash for the tweet, there was an unnecessary flood of criticisms against actor Antonia Gentry, whose character said the line. The actress faced bullying and racist comments on her Instagram at the hands of angry fans and soon released a statement that didn’t address Swift, but expressed her gratitude for being allowed to play the character. While fans had a right to be angry about the overused attack on Swift, they did cross a line. They held the actress accountable when their anger could have been pointed elsewhere.   

Written by: Itzelth Gamboa — arts@theaggie.org

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