Feminism, Social Issues

Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off" video has some problems

If you haven’t seen Taylor Swift’s new music video “Shake it Off,” I’ve embedded it above. I don’t think you need to watch it for my commentary to make sense, and there’s no reason to listen to the song since I won’t be critiquing the lyrics extensively– so, if you really don’t like Taylor Swift as an artist, feel free to skip it.

Before we get started, I need to admit to some bias: I’m not a Taylor Swift fan. In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid her ever since she released “You Belong to Me,” which practically screamed I’m not one of those girls. She also believe[s/d] that the definition of feminism is “women who are against men and also want everything without working for it.

Because of all that, I was happy to hear this:

I go on too many dates
But I can’t make them stay
At least that’s what people say
But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright

Taylor Swift, unfortunately, has faced a lot of slut-shaming for her supposedly “high number” of relationships– I googled, and apparently that number is six. In my personal life, I’ve been in serious long-term committed relationships twice, have had short-term relationships twice, and have been out on a few dates with one other person, bringing my “number” to five. I’m pretty sure six relationships is pretty normal, which makes me a little baffled why she’s drawn so much criticism. Anyway, I’m delighted that she’s confronted this perception of her head-on.

There’s a few other things going on in the video that I think are positive– I appreciate that she’s not taking herself too seriously, and my overall impression is that it’s supposed to be fun and lighthearted.

However, I want y’all to notice something:

taylor swift ballerinataylor swift contemporarytaylor swift cheerleader

Now, this:

taylor swift stereotaylor swift hip hop

I just want to ask you some questions: which set of costuming decisions could be taken seriously, and which ones are a joke? Which set of clothing, makeup, and other styling decisions are overblown and ridiculous exaggerations of a particular culture? And of these two sets, which are typically associated with black culture in America?

Mm-hmm.

But, we have to move on.

taylor swift ballerinas white

taylor swift hip hop black

Question round #2!

In which picture can you see the women’s faces? Which picture is Taylor Swift not in? In the course of the music video, we only get to see one woman’s face in the booty-shaking-leapard-print-blinged-out segment, and she’s possibly white, maybe Hispanic. I couldn’t tell, and I think that was probably intentional, since the woman they chose was “racially ambiguous.”

Ok, next:

Here’s photoset A:

taylor swift ballerina leapingtaylor swift contemporary leaping

taylor swift gymnast leapingtaylor swift pop lock

And photoset B:

taylor swift booty shaking

Which set demonstrates stunning beauty, grace, athleticism, and breathtaking physical abilities? And which one limits an entire dance style, one filled with a rich cultural heritage with a complex, developed style, to a single move that Miley Cyrus appropriated last year? Which one is, again, associated with black culture, and which ones are considered serious art forms or have entire Olympic events organized around its existence?

And then there’s this:

taylor swift white guy hip hop

That last one is the one that frustrates me the most. There’s whole sections of the video dedicated to breakdancing, which is a style of dance that was created in New York by black people and Puerto Ricans in the 70s. Since I became utterly obsessed with dancing when I was in college, I’ve thought of traditionally black styles as . . . well, they’re beyond description, and I love all of them. Krumping, in particular, is my favorite, but I also think that hip-hop is pretty spectacular, as well. But here, in this video, the person shown doing the most breakdancing is a white guy. They show a black man breakdancing for a few half-seconds, but this white dude gets maybe 10 seconds total through the whole video, doing a bunch of really impressive moves, while I think the black man is only shown doing not even a full rotation of a headspin.

But here’s the icing on the cake:

taylor swift staring

This shot comes at the end of a segment when Taylor has been crawling under and through the legs of twerking black women, and she’s turning and staring at their rear ends the entire time, then comes out on the other side and laughs.

Okie.

If it’s not obvious by now, I think this music video is incredibly racist. What I noticed were the following:

  • the video erases the existence and individuality of black women
  • When black women are shown in the racist and stereotypical identifiers of “black culture,” they are nothing more than sex objects. The other black women in the video who are depicted as gymnasts, cheerleaders, and contemporary dancers escape this. That is horrifically racist, and is part of the larger culture that makes black women’s bodies inherently and overtly sexual. The promise of this video is that black women, you can escape being sexually objectified as long as you conform to white/suburban/European standards. It is respectability politics in a music video.
  • it portrays traditionally white/European art forms as serious, beautiful, athletic, stunning, and difficult; but traditionally black art forms are shown as laughable, overtly sexual, and reduces the style to a single movement: “booty shaking.”
  • The one form of black dance shown in the video is almost completely taken over (appropriated) by white people.
  • White expressions of fashion and style are credible and treated as aesthetically pleasing; black styles are painted in caricature, are exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness, and the intended result seems to be amusement, not appreciation.

If you are a person of color and noticed something else, or you’d like to add (or correct!) something here, please feel free. I very much would appreciation your voices and thoughts in the comments.

I think we also need to have a conversation about cultural appropriation. I’m still educating myself on what that is and how to identify it when I see it happen, so I’d appreciate all of you sharing your thoughts on that aspect of what’s happening in the video. For example, I know that the fact that Taylor Swift has dressed up in these “costumes” is problematic because of the appropriation element, but I’m not informed enough to fully articulate why that is.

Anyway, I didn’t want this to go without comment: too often white feminists are completely silent when a white female artist does something like this (Miley Cyrus at the VMAs, anyone?), and I didn’t want that to happen again. If I see any good articles written by women of color about this, I’ll link them at the bottom here.

UPDATE 9/12/2014: This post is now almost a month old, and the comments are becoming repetitive, with the same racist arguments being presented multiple times. Since the discussion is no longer moving forward, I am closing the comment section on this post.

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  • Reblogged this on Opineaway and commented:
    Excellent analysis of a racist music video.

  • Excellent analysis. The racism is so subtle and yet it is certainly there. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to convince those who just don’t want to see it or acknowledge it.

    I hope to see and look forward to pondering comments regarding cultural appropriation. It’s an area in which I need educating.

  • Samantha, I’m a huge fan of your writing. However, I completely disagree with your entire analysis.

    Regarding the costumes, and how the “black” ones are supposedly caricatures, I must point out that the ballet costumes are THE ballet costumes. She’s the White Swan. You can’t get any more “ballet-y” than that. The costumes for the cheerleaders are also pretty exaggerated. Also — what else would you expect a contemporary dancer to wear? I think she got the stereotypes pretty spot on there.

    Also, for your question #2, this is not a fair question. You show a picture from two different dance styles, when there are many more styles represented in the music video. In the second example you give, many of those girls are white. So I’m not even sure what you’re trying to say here. So she didn’t show every single dancer’s face? Ooookay?? Also, pretty sure those girls are twerking, and you can’t show twerking from the front. From the side, from the back, yes. But you can’t see their butts doing their thing if you are shooting from the front.

    You say: “Which set demonstrates stunning beauty, grace, athleticism, and breathtaking physical abilities? And which one doesn’t? Which one is, again, associated with black culture, and which ones are considered serious art forms or have entire Olympic events organized around its existence?”

    Not really sure what you’re trying to say here. What is SOUNDS like is that you’re saying is that twerking is not a legitimate form of dancing.

    You say: “But here, in this video, the person shown doing the most breakdancing is a white guy.”

    So… a dance that didn’t originate from white culture can never be danced by white people, and they certainly can’t get good at it? Really, Samantha? Maybe the African American guy was not having a good day dancing. Maybe he wasn’t as good as the white guy, and that’s why he wasn’t portrayed as much as the white guy.

    You say: “This shot comes at the end of a segment when Taylor has been crawling under and through the legs of twerking black women.”

    Sorry, not buying this. A good half of those women are not black.

    I’m really failing to see how this music video is racist. It’s not to my taste, but that’s not the same thing.

    • Yes, I realized that the ballerina costumes are meant to represent Odette from “Swan Lake,” which is pretty much the seminal ballerina character/costume/styling. However, it is considered one of the pinnacle achievements in ballet to dance as Odette. It’s not a caricature– it’s something ballerinas actually strive for, and if you go see “Swan Lake” in the Kennedy Center, that costume is something like what you’d actually see. The same is not true for the performers who are decked out in pretty much every stereotype about black culture imaginable.

      It’s important whose faces she isn’t showing, and when. Black person acting like a white person, and “fitting in” with white culture? You get to have a face. Black woman, or racially ambiguous woman, or brown woman, living in your own culture? NO FACE OR IDENTITY FOR YOU. This is called “erasure,” and it is important because it happens to black women all of the time. Also, the video makes a statement of what it thinks about the “black culture” it presents: it is sexual, and it is only sexual. In a world where women of color are so sexualized that they are culturally considered to exist in a permanent state of consenting to sex acts– and are therefore unrapeable– this is incredibly important.

      I’m not saying that twerking isn’t a legitimate form of dancing– it absolutely is. However, what is presented in the video is NOT TWERKING. It is the white-girl culturally appropriated and racist form of twerking that has lost all of its art and history because it’s been ripped out of African-American culture … and, you can’t take this out of the sad reality that white people have been stealing black people’s art for centuries. Like rock n’ roll.

      THIS IS TWERKING:
      [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmw5eGh888Y&w=420&h=315%5D

      Also, when every single woman of color I’ve seen talking about this says it’s racist as fuck, we should be listening to that and respecting that.

      EDIT: I went back and watched the video three more times. There are 6 women besides Taylor shown in the “twerking” segment, and 5 out of 6 are definitely women of color, 4 are black and 1 is latina. The one on the far left has lighter skin than everyone else, but we only see the side of her face once and it’s really difficult to tell if she’s white or latina. So, no, the MAJORITY of the women are definitely black, and it’s possible that 1/3 are brown.

      • Well, I’ve seen quite a few women of color saying it isn’t racist, like this one:

        http://www.refinery29.com/2014/08/73115/taylor-swift-new-music-video-twerking

        I think your points about about erasure (which I know exists) would hold more weight if the hip hop scenes featured faceless black women. They don’t. You can see their faces.

      • Emily

        “Black person acting like a white person, and “fitting in” with white culture”
        umm…. what does that mean exactly, would you care to clarify or give examples?
        ’cause I do think you mean well, but that phrase …has some problems.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acting_white

      • Sophie

        I like your blog, but I feel compelled to respond.
        “It’s important whose faces she isn’t showing, and when. Black person acting like a white person, and “fitting in” with white culture? You get to have a face. Black woman, or racially ambiguous woman, or brown woman, living in your own culture? NO FACE OR IDENTITY FOR YOU”
        The only memorable shot of a face besides Taylor’s video is a the twerker you call ‘racially ambiguous’ (1:35). It also seems clear to me that in the earliest part of the video Taylor’s mocking the stuffy snootiness (whiteness?) that people associate with ballet, and the pretension of modern dance.The whole video’s all about her not fitting in with exaggerated styles of dancing, so of course you’d expect the twerkers to be wearing an exaggeration of what, in popular consciousness, a twerker would wear (and when I say ‘popular consciousness’, I mean white people, yes, but also black people who don’t celebrate twerking as an art form and debase it – see, for example, Rihanna’s ‘Pour It Up’ video). The theme of the song and video are clearly ‘be yourself and dance to your own rhythm’, so when you claim that the message is somehow that the twerking women need to change and become like the ballerinas, you’re really imposing an idea on it that doesn’t fit at all. It is also possible that they just couldn’t find a ton of black ballerinas, or white twerkers. It’s sad that such class and racial barriers may exist in dance, but hardly Taylor’s fault.
        By the way, the SHOUTY CAPS and needless swearing don’t help your argument to seem grounded in reason, or even reasonable emotion.

        • I like shouty caps and swearing. It’s a part of my sense of humor, and it’s a long-standing self-deprecating joke around here that I can get shouty 🙂 I also don’t particularly care if you think a sprinkling of swear words make my arguments invalid.

          Swear words aren’t for everyone, true, but coming from the background I did where any form of verbal expression that wasn’t happy-happy-joy-joy could earn me either public humiliation or a beating, every single time I say the word “fuck” it’s a declaration of freedom from abuse and mental tyranny.

          • That’s so true! I remember when I first bagan using swear words it felt so LIBERATING. I like caps too. I think of you having a Caitlin moran type voice that makes your audience love not only your pov, but also your personality.

            Btw- I found the video to be quite racist myself. The ballerinas are beautiful and aspirational but it seemed like it was taking a shit all over what is thought of as black culture. And just because one commenter knows of one person who doesn’t think it’s racist does not invalidate the many woc’s who were offended by the video.

          • I’d never seen Caitlin Moran speak, so I went and looked her up. We do have a bit in common. 🙂

          • DanielC

            Samantha, your swear words don’t make your arguments invalid. The fact that you ignored two full paragraphs of her tearing your “racial analysis” to shreds and focused entirely on the LAST SENTENCE did that.

          • Didn’t know being busy and not wanting to engage with every single point of every single one of thousands of comments on my blog could do that. Thanks for the tip!

  • Also, I’m not entirely certain that cultural appropriation has occurred in this video. None of the costumes depict any religious or ethnic dress, like a kimono or a Native American headdress would. Ms. Swift does wear costumes associated with hip hop culture and urban style, but it’s incorrect to call these costumes “black dress.” I live in Los Angeles, and I see teenagers/young adults of all races dressing in this urban style.

    • Sarah Mata

      Thank you!

      • I’m not publishing your comments anymore. You have chosen to disregard my comment policy, and as per that policy, I have given you a warning. Comments with racist material and personal attacks have been removed and you are now blocked, Sarah.

  • Elise

    As a fellow white woman I am not qualified to assess the racism in this video and look forward to reading more commentary from woc about this but I do have one comment which is that to my eyes the cheerleading, “hip hop” and twerking scenes read to me as about equally as absurd/cartoonish and over the top.
    It is possible that this is my non-American pov showing though as we don’t really have cheerleaders like that so it automatically looks like costuming/parody to me.

    • Also I feel like a lot of the ballet and interpretive dance bits are poking fun whereas the part where the dude does that thing with his arms is like omg
      (Pretty sure the whole faceless leopard print booty shaking part is irredeemable though… Ugh )

    • Tim

      The color of your skin doesn’t make you disqualified. Other things might (lack of experience, needing more information, etc.) but not the mere color of your skin.

  • Crystal

    It takes real courage to help expose evil. Thank you Samantha!!

  • I think it is ambiguous, honestly I don’t think there is intent but it is a fine line.

  • To quote Taylor’s song, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate.” You proved the point of her song. I saw the over-coming message of a woman who, according to many, simply can’t do anything right or good enough and who faces constant criticism no matter who she tries to be or what she does. We all can -and do – find what we are looking for. People who want to find racism will. People who want to find encouragement to overcome haters will. I get weary of all of the negativity. Probably because it happened to me for so long . . . I think this is my new theme song.

    • Indigo

      People who want to find racism will.
      I could just as easily point out that people who don’t want to see racism generally don’t. It’s easy to ignore things that don’t affect you personally.

  • Crystal S. Light

    First time commenting, so I apologize in advance: Not here to argue, but to highlight a couple of things that came to my mind as I read the post.
    1) “Taylor Swift, unfortunately, has faced a lot of slut-shaming for her supposedly “high number” of relationships– I googled, and apparently that number is six..I’m pretty sure six relationships is pretty normal, which makes me a little baffled why she’s drawn so much criticism.
    In my limited exposure to Taylor Swift (not a fan, but you can’t help but see her name everywhere), the reason she gets slammed a lot isn’t because of the number of relationships but her very angry, very candid songs featuring her exes (“We Are Never Ever Ever” for instance is rumored to be about her and Gyllenhaal). It’s that airing of dirty laundry that I personally always found a little tacky.
    2) “Anyway, I didn’t want this to go without comment: too often white feminists are completely silent when a white female artist does something like this (Miley Cyrus at the VMAs, anyone?), and I didn’t want that to happen again.”
    It may be I just happened to be looking in the right place at the right time, but I saw a number of articles about this very thing. Not probably as many as those slut-shaming Miley, but still a goodly piece.
    Thanks for humoring me!

    • It’s interesting you note TS writes about her relationships and that’s why she gets called out for her multiple relationships, when male singers/fronted bands do this ALL the time without ever getting any negative feedback. Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, Usher, Puddle of Mud, Bon Jovi, Tool, Maroon 5, Papa Roach, Three Days Grace, almost every single rock or country album out there has something easily comparable to hers…

  • I read this just after reading the article that came out from Ms. online, comparing this video to Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda, and while reading your post reminded me of this quote:
    “Considering the high stakes that black ballet dancers face in which any playfulness would immediately disqualify their bodies as “appropriate” or “feminine,” Taylor Swift’s awkwardness is a form of white privilege. There is also a racialized lens that is applied to this awkwardness, which connotes sexual innocence that protects the pop star from the charges of sexual excess to which she has been subjected”
    The author relates the race politics in the videos directly to the sort of race politics that have a hand in creating situations like Ferguson. An interesting read to further the discussion of this video!
    http://msmagazine.com/blog/2014/08/20/bodies-on-the-line-the-streets-vs-pop-culture-2/

    • I really appreciated the Ms. Magazine article. It’s going at the end of the post tomorrow 🙂

  • Tara

    That was a very insightful analysis. Thank you!

  • So I’ve been giving this some thought and I agree with you for the most part. I am firmly on the fencewith the idea that someone of a different culture can’t try and be good at something because it culturally “belongs” to something else. (This is mostly in reference to your point about the white break dancer.)

    I call it the Eminem conundrum and I don’t know the answer. When Eminem raps, is it cultural appropriation? My instinct says not entirely. I mean, he’s white, but it wasn’t like he was raised in the suburbs with a silver spoon in his mouth. He grew up pretty disadvantaged and more or less in the culture that produced other talent. He benefited from the novelty of being a white rapper when he first came out in the late 90s, but that doesn’t completely explain the continued success. He’s good and he’s got a unique style. He speaks to the anger that exists inside of me. I just don’t know if it is cultural appropriation. He isn’t taking it and whitewashing it and making it easily palatable for the white audience. It is still raw and seems authentic to me. But even with all of that, I still wonder if it is appropriation. I just don’t know.

    For me, what is in this video is cultural appropriation because it boils down entire cultures to a few over the top stereotypes. But is every situation where a white person participates in and is good at an art form (especially dance or music) associated with a historically oppress ed group cultural appropriation? I still don’t know the answer.

    Side note: Eminem is not my favorite hip hop artist. He’s number four. 1. OutKast 2. Tupac 3. Jay Z 4. Eminem. 5. Queen Latifah.

    Second sidenote: I get what you’re saying about screen time and agree, For me, cultural appropriation boils down to a few things. 1. Intent. 2. Lack of Respect 3. Plain ignorance. 4. No desire to know better.

    • Exactly. I’m not saying that because an art form “belongs” to a particular culture that no one outside it can enjoy it and want to participate in it. I LOVE dancing hip hop. I look ridiculous, but it makes me so happy.

      I think the difference is Eminem vs Macklemore.

      In this video, twerking is reduced to a single move repeated ad nauseum, and it’s the move that a white girl lifted out of black art and then used it to make her look cool and edgy.

      In a world where white people have stolen black art for centuries, it’s important to look at who’s getting the recognition for an art form.

      • I also thought of Macklemore when I wrote the comment, but I didn’t want to confuse the issue. To me, Macklemore is the Kraft American Singles of rap. Processed to appeal to the largest possible audience but barely resembling the product on which they are based. Sure Kraft American Singles are good. They meet your needs, but if they are the only “cheese” you consume, you will miss the better stuff.

      • Thea

        I’m not seeing a number of other WOC identifying themselves here, so I will. I’m a Canadian black woman who doesn’t think Macklemore is any more or less about cultural appropriation than Eminem. Both have histories in the cities they grew up in of being part of the rap hip-hop scene since their pre-teen years, both worked hard in the underground for years, and then both blew up at a random point in time. Both have acknowledged that their whiteness has helped them in their careers. Macklemore even has a track called ” White Privilege” on his 2005 album.
        For me, the real cultural appropriation comes with artists that put on and take off my cultural signifiers as is convenient to them. This video is an obvious version of that, but you see it throughout the history of popular music.
        I can’t take off my blackness (or my womanhood) when it’s convenient. I always have to live with the cultural expectations and the cost of blackness. Swift puts cultural signifiers on when they make her seem cool, but she’s happy to take them off when she benefits from being Taylor Swift. Both Eminem and Macklemore choose not to remove signifiers of hip-hop culture, even when it would have benefited them, in the years before they became famous. That I respect.
        Macklemore, however, has a horrible history of unthinkingly appropriating Jewish costumes & culture. So, even when an artist can be well aware of the complexities around one culture, they can be problematic around another. And I haven’t even gone into the Eminem ableist stuff.

  • Huh… for all the other flaws in the video… I *do* give her kudos for including various body types in the frames where it’s just “normal people dancing”, not in any particular style. And not just different *male* body types, different *female* body types and it seems, to me at least, to be a celebration of their individuality.

    Maybe she might be trying to make some statement about trying to conform to “types” as bad? I dunno. I might be trying to give her too much benefit of the doubt.

    So while it’s not perfect and has some glaring issues, there might be something in there worth looking at as a hopeful sign?

    • There was lots to like about the video and the song, but there’s too many other things going on (intentional and not).

  • Patrick Prescott

    Clint Eastwood was once criticized as racist for shooting five black men at the beginning of his movie Dirty Harry. His response was that as far as he was concerned he gave five black stuntmen jobs. Criticize Taylor all you want, but she gave a lot of minority dancers a paycheck. As for seconds or minutes of film time that in the hands of the film crew and editors. I admit my thoughts don’t count on two issues, I’m white and male.
    The message of the whole song and video is that Taylor Swift is breaking out of her Country/Western straight jacket and she’ll do whatever she wants. It’s her life, her video and her message.

    • Crystal

      So, you mean a RACIST MESSAGE! Shame on her! Yeah right! Don’t want to hear it then; not interested! She’s a bad apple if she’s going to do that!

      Oh, and Samantha, could you please answer me this question: What is cultural appropriation? I’ve never heard of this concept before and I need to know what it is; I fear I may have been participating in ignorance. Please help me.

      • In the post, the words “cultural appropriation” are a link to a really good article about that.

        • Crystal

          I read that article just now, Samantha. It made me angry. I shall watch out for that in the future. However, I feel that while this has been going on, our culture has been shoved down the throats of the minorities as well. They have to adopt our style of dress, our way of life, our manner of expression, or they’re “not good enough” for us to associate with. (I especially see this in blacks; many of them have had to dye their hair blonde to be “accepted” as proper pop singers by us; why can’t we appreciate their braids and music; what’s wrong with white America? I could give many thoughts on that topic!!) I myself have, regretfully, been guilty of it in ignorance (I fear it was because of a lack of social life primarily; I was homeschooled) but I hope to rectify that in the future.

          I don’t want to bother you but please tell me what you think about the cultural imperialism practiced even today.

          By the way, great articles, my friend. Do keep writing; you educate me greatly although we may not agree on everything.

  • Rose

    I appreciate your work with this Samantha. Honestly, I just can’t bring myself to watch the video. I know this makes me a total judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover dirt-bag but just that initial screenshot of her crawling under the dancers’ legs and staring at their bodies with innocent “me-oh-my” shock just grates on my last nerve! If that makes me a hater (a phrase she didn’t exactly come up with either) then fair enough. I’ve just seen so many girls use “haha, I’m soo not gangsta and also aren’t these people silly” to try to be cute. For the love of all that’s holy, just stop!

    Also, I found this article http://www.theawl.com/2014/08/the-ways-in-which-white-people-talk-over-music fascinating. It seems there is a rich history of sing-talking in white culture and it doesn’t have to be connected to (or a foil to) black culture.

  • Bodhisvaha

    I find the video as much awkward as offensive, but it’s not as simple as it’s painted here. It does show off the abilities and faces of at least some of the black people in it, including at least one black woman. However, that crawl below the twerking dancers is definitely an offensive bit.
    The costumes are all obviously costumes, and most are uniforms. The costumes that feel like caricatures are the ones that aren’t and never are uniforms. (One can say it goes to show which groups tended to have the spare resources to organize and participate in uniform-clad leisure activities.) These non-uniform costumes fall flat because they *are* uniform when they shouldn’t be: matched, colour-coordinated, assembled, brand-new, all fitting the same way. It makes me think it was bought cheap and fast to use once. I can think of at least one even more offensive alternative costume-sourcing approach: “Great, you have the job! Guys, can you show up on set tomorrow wearing your most inner-city black youth clothes? Girls, we need you to wear your smallest, tightest cut-offs, skimpy tasteless tops, and lots of bling-bling?”
    What I see happening in *all* the costume segments is that Swift doesn’t fit in and isn’t up to snuff. She’s not graceful like the ballet dancers, though she certainly is pale enough. She doesn’t have the carriage or ability of the modern dancers, and can’t pull off the rhythmic gymnastics either. She does, almost, fit in with the cheerleaders, but in all four situations, she obviously doesn’t *feel* that she fits in, and doesn’t want to be there. She wants to tell all the expectations to take a hike and try something else. Then when she does go try something else, in most of the other segments, she doesn’t fit in there either. The “hip-hop” guys are hanging back and almost laughing at her. She can’t keep up with the futuristically clad dancers or the black guy with the finger motions. And she doesn’t even try to twerk alongside the black women. She’s just not getting the hang of it.
    It’s the segments where she’s dancing with the band or with the normal people, in what might be her own clothes, that she finally looks at all happy and comfortable.

  • Third wave feminism gets a lot of criticism but this is where intersectionality comes in. “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.”
    Samantha- I didn’t know you love dance! I am a dancer too. Have you heard of blues fusion? It’s beautiful. It’s based on traditional blues dancing with staggered feet and the slow drag but then adds elements of other dance forms. If you’re a fellow dance enthusiast you should definitely check it out. Very easy to learn as well.

  • Sarah Mata

    This is stupid….get a life. So, you cherry picked some stuff out of the vid to make it look racist….this is the dumbest article I’ve ever read and I hate Taylor Swift.

  • Kymber

    some people need to open their eyes. we live in 2014 for goodness sakes.

    black people can be country artists or ballet dancers or modern dancers or whatever else you think white people do that black people shouldn’t.

    just like

    white people can rap and breakdance and twerk or be a hip hop dancer and do whatever else you think black people do that white people shouldn’t.

    if you think this is raciest then im seriously afraid for our future. everything is being turned into a racist issue. its a stupid silly song and video and youre turning it into a this terrible thing.

    honestly you wouldn’t have a problem if those women twerked in a Rihanna music video would you. prob not. it wouldn’t not even be an issue. who is raciest now. just because taylor is white she cant have black twerkers in her video.

    you know its the truth. don’t lie.. there wouldn’t even be a post like this if Rihanna or nicki made this video.

    • This article is not about whether or not white or black people can do __________. Obviously there are extremely talented and skilled black ballet dancers just as there are extremely talented and skilled white break dancers.

      The article is about how society as a whole views these forms of art and how the video participated in perpetuating those stereotypes.

  • [Edit] This song isn’t racist. They are not black women some were tanned… Since you don’t have the opportunity to tan then don’t be jealous of Taylor being so generous giving then tanning. Okay fine, if I don’t like Taylor as an artist, I’ll skip. Just like what you said. But I love her as a sister, a friend. You can’t just simply judge her and write absolute nonsense about her. Since you said that you’ll skip, [edit]…? You could just ignore all her moves and all her words okay. [Edit] If Taylor Swift WAS an IDIOT, she won’t be performing live on sold-out tours all around the world. [Edit] If you don’t accept our comments then you could just close this blog. It’s our FREEDOM to comment every FUCKING thing we want to FUCKING comment!

    [Edited to remove personal attacks]

    • Your freedom to comment, my freedom not to publish on my own blog. My house, my rules. You can say whatever you want as long as you follow my comment policy. Continue making personal attacks and you will be banned.

      Also, if you’re an American citizen referring to the first amendment here, that only protects you from censorship by the government. Since I’m not the United States government, I have the right to not listen to whoever I don’t want to listen to.

  • How the segment with her crawling under dancers got past multiple producers and PR agents SHOCKS me. That part alone was entirely avoidable, and I really wish she had chosen better for such a valuable anthem.

    • Yeah, I’m just flat-out puzzled how anyone watched this video and came away thinking “that’s not racist not even the teeniest little bit at all.”

  • I read your article, have watched the video multiple times (I love it) and have read all the comments here.
    Let me preface by saying I’m a woman of color (not that it should matter). I’m bi-racial, so I feel I may have a unique perspective. (Oh, I’m also very racially ambiguous so I guess that disqualifies me somehow. I don’t know. I’ll have to click that link. Anyway).
    I really don’t feel like writing a book so I’ll try to keep it simple. I think this boils down to “being on the outside, looking in”. Or perhaps being out of touch/too young to know about the early days of Hip Hop. What I’m saying is that I’ve been on both sides of the coin, socially. I’ve lived in predominantly black areas as well as predominately white areas. My parents where each their own persons with their own background that they incorporated into my raising. Meaning, my mother gave me the perspective of a white person and my dad the same as a black person. I truly embrace both sides to my “race” and would NEVER claim one side or the other. At any rate, the black side of me (and white side for that matter) sees nothing wrong with this because guess what? As absurd as YOU think it looks, there are black people who actually act, dress and dance like that, like it or not. Especially in the 80s and 90s! Look at old hip-hop videos. (Google Sir Mix a Lot’s Baby Got Back. Also check out Da Butt –

    . Another good example:

    , LL Cool J) While their shorts were longer, it was definitely a THING to coordinate your clothing, wear chains and hats, etc. My opinion is that this post shows your own innate prejudges (I won’t say racism as that’s too harsh) as you personally find the depiction of the black culture as a mockery. It also shows your lack of experience with the urban population and probably your age. If you grew up associating closely with urban culture (and I say urban because what is depicted here is not of blacks but of inner city youth, regardless of race), you would know that this is not caricature. It is what WE really did 10-20 years ago! Minus the twerking. Back then it was booty dancing. So I guess age and experience has it’s perks. You seem to lack both. Nice try though. I do appreciate the thought.
    So when you point to photoset A of the “white” art form and describe it as serious, stunning, etc., and then you point to photoset B and call it a joke, YOU think it’s a joke. NOT me. Because that’s the sort of thing I grew up on. Google hip hop in the 80s. Maybe a history lesson will help. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be rude. This is all just so presumptuous as you mistake culture for race.
    I want to specifically point out again that your problem with the white guy break-dancing shows more about you and less about Taylor. Again, if you knew anything about the inner city, you would know that there are a lot of whites, latinos and blacks living there, among many others. And they typically dress, dance and behave in a way that goes along with the urban CULTURE. This is about CULTURE, not race. The idea that the urban culture is restrictive to blacks is simply misguided!

    • I think it does matter if you’re a POC or not, as POC have actually experienced racial oppression and white people haven’t– and I’m very thankful you participated here.

      My experience with hip-hop is mostly from the late 80s, early 90s, so I’m not very familiar with 70s hip hop, no. The hip-hop that I’m familiar with is … well, it’s not “Baby Got Back,” which I have … thoughts about, and I honestly don’t think is representative, especially when you put that particular track up against, well, anything by Run-DMC.

      My reaction was based on what I know about artists like Queen Latifah, who are amazing, and being uncomfortable with the role the black women were given in the leopard-print-booty-shorts-chains-kneepads look. No, I didn’t grow up anywhere near urban culture– I grew up in the rural Deep South, which is about as un-urban as you can possibly get, so what I associate with hip-hop from the 80s and 90s is very, very different– I’m more familiar with artists showing individuality and personality and freedom of expression instead of being sexually objectified by a white woman crawling through their legs and staring at their butts. That’s why I thought of it as a joke, because when I do see an artist wearing some of those things, it’s coming from a different place. It’s not a costume that Taylor can make fun of (which I think she was poking fun at everyone in this video).

      I don’t have a problem with a white guy break dancing. I have a problem with how the only time a dance style created by POC is shown as being as awesome and incredible as it can be, it’s a white guy doing it and when the POC in the video are shown performing styles created by POC … they’re doing a single twerking move over and over, which is not representative of everything twerking can be. Or they are only shown doing half a rotation of a headspin. Or they’re background figures. The traditionally white/European dance styles in the video all have their moments showing off how beautiful they are and how talented and skilled you have to be, while the traditionally black styles are either performed by white people or are limited to single, repetitive move. That’s why I think it was turning black art into a joke– because black dance styles were not given anywhere near the treatment that white/European styles were given.

  • DanielC

    So when you were selecting the still frames to display for your article, did you simply ignore the black gymnast, cheerleader, brass band, break dancer, modern dancers, *robot* dancers, *finger* dancer, and singers? With the exception of only the ballet skit, ALL the skits were ethnically diverse including Latino and Asian dancers as well. (I’ll accept that the twerking skit was mostly POCs excluding Taylor.)

    So I am having a trouble understanding any justification for your claims. They have ethnic dancers performing everything! So she dared to have a twerking skit. “OMG! How dare she!?!” This is ridiculous. Her video was literally released the day before Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video. How can you hypocritically sit in judgement of Taylor? What? Did she have to include more ass cracks, booty spanks, and lap dances for it to be a legitimate representation of the twerking hip-hop music scene?

    • Well, if you look at the stills I chose, you’ll notice that I chose ones that showed the ethnic diversity in the video. 🙂

      • DanielC

        Have you ever found yourself at the end of a paragraph and realized you hadn’t picked up more than a sentence? 🙂

        Alternatively, you might consider that ignoring facts or arguments that conflict with your beliefs do not make you beliefs more true… 🙂

        • DanielC

          your*

        • No, I just tend to ignore people who didn’t pay attention when they were reading my post, as I directly addressed what was in your comment in at least 2 different ways. Repeating myself is a waste of time.

  • JT Taylor

    Samantha your premise has many serious flaws and if anything promotes division. While many, I will point out two.
    1. You ask for people of color to comment presumably to set the record straight on your theory. What, you would rule out participation of whole other races, white included? Blacks own all dialog on racism and their opinion is better because they’re black? That gives us a Jim Crow blog.
    Black voices (bettèr) over here, white voices (inferior) in the back.

    2. White people cant do what you claim are black things?
    Really? Epitome of racism.
    It is a fact that banking is dominated by white Jews.
    Shall we prevent blacks and other races from having a debit card?
    Education point: racism goes both ways.
    In your world I would have to give up basketball which I love.
    For your scorecard I grew up poor white, bussed to poor black schools.
    My job, look and econo/social status now would appear to be “whitey” or “the man” by a racist ethnic person.
    Totally get “the struggle” which is the true center of the black culture.
    And that is what you miss by the thin claims you advance.

    You set a fire in the theater of racial discourse and run away to let it burn hoping a black person will bail you out.

    • I did not say that any voices are inferior. However, white people do not have experience with racial oppression. POC do. That’s not a statement of superiority, but recognizing that experience makes some people more qualified to speak on a topic.

      For example, I’m a classicly trained pianist. That makes me more qualified to talk about what it’s like to play a piano than someone who’s never even touched one.

      Also, the post has nothing to do with whether or not black or white or brown people can do any particular skill. OBVIOUSLY anyone who has the talent for dance can dance. That’s not the issue in this video. What is at issue is how black dance styles and POC treated. Black women are the only ones sexually objectified, and black art forms are not given the same treatment as white ones.

  • JT Taylor

    PS:
    Samantha, you’re superhot so I will probably be sure to check out your blog again.
    // yes that’s being a sexist pig but that’s a different blog post

    • Please read my comment policy before you comment again. Comment like this again and you’re banned.

      • JT

        No need to post this comment, but privately what is the agenda you are trying to advance?
        We all have our respective burdens to bear and interested to know your cause.
        Thanks
        JT