A Swift Takedown: How Kimye’s ‘Famous’ Crusade Complicates Taylor’s Feminist Brand

If we learned anything in the summer of 2016, it’s that some people are capable of playing it dirty and not clean — especially those in the public eye.

In particular, the most fascinating — and, let’s be honest, pettiest — pop culture discourse this summer would have to be the social media war waged between Kim Kardashian West and Taylor Swift over Kanye West’s controversial track, “Famous.” In case you missed the news (because you somehow managed to carry on with your life), here’s what you need to know:

  1. The opening lyrics to “Famous” revisit West’s public feud with Swift, dating back to their infamous encounter at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, as he spits: “For all my Southside ****** that know me best / I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b**** famous.” At one point, West had noted that he received Swift’s approval on the song while working on the album.

2. Around the time of the song’s release, Swift and her camp asserted that West did not ask for her blessing, rather asking to promote his song on her social media accounts, and she advised against promoting such a misogynistic message. (She even went so far as to throw some apparent shade during her acceptance speech for Album of the Year at the 2016 Grammy Awards.)

3. However, in an effort to defend her husband’s honor, Kardashian reacted by launching a widespread media campaign to maintain that Swift in fact approved of the lyrics after being directly contacted by West. Ultimately, with one final blow, Kardashian shared a handful of videos via Snapchat documenting the phone call in question, all of which show Swift’s wholehearted approval on those lyrics.

4. On the night of Kardashian’s reveal, Swift immediately posted a note via Instagram in reaction to the social media firestorm. Rather than admit the false claims previously made by her team, Swift tried to clarify that she still was not informed about West’s use of that derogatory term often used towards women. (Most believe Swift’s written response could have been composed prior to that night given certain clues found in the post.)    

While most of the dust has settled from this celebrity debacle — Kanye sardonically calling for a truce with the pop star via Twitter and Swift slowly reemerging into the limelight as she donates to the relief effort for Louisiana flood victims — there’s still one facet of this debate that went virtually unnoticed by the media.

It makes sense for Swift to stay on message with her feminist brand in response to the Wests’ takedown — especially when you consider she ended her romance with Calvin Harris to begin a more nauseating one with Tom Hiddleston within a month — by taking issue with the rapper’s use of the word “b****.” (West first claimed the word is typically used as a“term of endearment” in hip hop.) However, in pivoting her defense to point a finger at the song’s most explicit form of sexism, Swift fails to explain how she agreed to the rest of the lyric, which insinuates that she sleeps around with people of influence. As shown in Kardashian’s video, Swift reacts to West reciting part of the lyric by laughing it off and assuring him that “It’s a compliment, kind of.” She continues to thank him for informing her about the song, but doesn’t seem to express any clear reservations about its misogynistic message, which still refutes her initial claim.

Plus, on a larger scale, it’s difficult to accept Swift’s argument against the word “b****” in hip hop when she is featured rapping along to Drake and Future’s “Jumpman”a track that relies on the word twice, in a TV spot for Apple Music. (At the end of the advertisement, Swift can also be heard singing, “Chicken fingers, French fries for them h**s that want to diss.” One could argue that she may be reclaiming the word, but considering how she delivers it in a moment of weakness after eating it on a treadmill, it doesn’t seem probable.) Though such chauvinistic lines may not faze her in a commercial endorsement, Swift appears to take offense when they’re being used by another celebrity who’s making bank at her expense.

Of course, West shouldn’t be absolved for debasing a woman to such a repulsive rank that requires her own objectification for stardom. Though, at the same time, Swift shouldn’t choose to take a feminist stance before the public when it proves to be a convenient career move. In the end, regardless of sides, the only true victor here appears to be the patriarchal infrastructure on which the music industry is built. As hard as West or Swift may try to work it to their advantage, both still come out being famous for all the wrong reasons. 

[Featured image via]

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