I’m about to be brutally honest here: I’ve never understood Taylor Swift’s celebrity. I won’t pretend to be an authority on musical talent, but I don’t get it. She’s much loved and revered as that awkward girl-next door. The kind of girl all White middle American moms want their sons to bring home, and the kind of girl all young white girls want to become. I’m not young or white, so she doesn’t do anything for me. That being said, when Kanye West got on stage at the 2009 VMAs and declared she didn’t deserve to win her award, I felt bad for her. We all felt bad for her. She was young and it was her first award and shoot, Kanye was wrong for that.
But here we are about 8 years later and the saga continues. In February of this year, Kanye released Famous, and in it he raps that he and Swift “might still have sex” because he “made that bitch famous.”
In response, Swift addressed West and the controversy in her Grammy acceptance speech, admonishing him for claiming that he had something to do with making her famous. Even though he kinda did.
Fame, as we know, isn’t always about talent. So even though Swift may in fact have some amazing singing and writing chops (I don’t really listen to her music so the jury is still out for me), I don’t think anyone can dispute that Kanye’s VMA speech didn’t have something to do with her fame.
This all seemed like old news until Kim Kardashian released a secretly recorded phone conversation with Swift, wherein Kanye tells her about the song lyrics and Swift seemingly agrees with the song and thanks Kanye for being a true friend. He literally reads the lyrics to her during the call.
Here’s the transcript:
Swift: And I really appreciate you telling me about it. That’s really nice.
Kanye: Oh yeah. I thought I just had a responsibility to you as a friend.
Swift: I never would have expected you to tell me about a line in one of your songs.
Swift: Thanks for being so cool about it…relationships are more important than punchlines.
Kanye: All I give a f*ck about is you as a person and as a friend. I want to do things that make you feel good. I don’t want to do rap that makes people feel bad.
Taylor: I don’t think anybody would listen to that and be like that’s a real diss, like she must be crying. It doesn’t matter that I sold seven million on the album before you did that, which is what happened. You didn’t know who I was before that. It’s fine…I’m always going to respect you… And I’m really glad that you had the respect to call me and tell me that as a friend. And if people ask me about, I think it would great for me to be like ‘he called me and told me the line before it came out. Joke’s on you guys. We’re fine.’
Here’s the thing: It’s easy for Swift to play on society’s sympathies when she represents everything this society reveres. She is white. She is blonde. She is thin. She’s also listed as one of Forbe’s highest paid celebs. So she’s rich to boot. West, in comparison, represents the very thing this society strives to destroy. He is a deeply melenated black man and is therefore viewed as a threat. We’ve seen this before. Shoot, I read about in to Kill a Mockingbird: a White woman says she’s been victimized by a black man, and we believe her. No questions asked.
Swift released a statemement stating that she didn’t approve the song and never actually heard it, but you know the saying: where there’s smoke there’s fire. So I ain’t buying it.
There’s no denying that West profits off a misogyny, so some of what Taylor said during her speech still rings true. Still, she can’t paint herself as a victim and a feminist, if she’s signing off on lyrics like this. She can’t keep perpetuating the scary black man narrative for her personal gain. It’s exhausting and it’s dangerous, especially during these times.