Taylor Swift’s Girl Squad: Empowering or Cliquey?

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Taylor Swift transformed from a heart-broken country and western singer to an ultimate superstar following the release of 1989 in 2014. In order to cement her power status Taylor planned the 1989 world tour accordingly. The main gimmick of the tour was Taylor’s ‘girl squad.’  Taylor gleefully shared the stage with Karlie Kloss, Lorde, Lena Dunham, Ellie Goulding, Ellen DeGeneres, Idina Menzel, Selena Gomez and various other ‘on trend’ celebs. With each appearance came an opportunity to handcraft her public image. Following each performance Taylor hand-picked photos of her friends supporting her performances to feature across her social media platforms. It seemed the all of the world’s hottest A-listers were friends with Taylor. As the tour continued, her squad continued to grow with some surprising and unexpected additions including the US women’s soccer team. Just to show how well-rounded her interests truly are.

Whenever I saw Taylor and co. strutting across my Instagram feed, I fist-pumped while suppressing envy. Ultimately, I loved what these posts encouraged: girls supporting and celebrating each other’s achievements and friendships. For too long girl friendships have been depicted as bitchy, complex, fickle and ready to implode when competition for men or fame entered the arena. Taylor Swift’s squad laughed in the face of these common tropes. Taylor showed that having close girlfriends was not a detriment; instead it made her one of the most popular people in the music industry.

Taylor’s girl squad also made me feel uncomfortable. I ignored this feeling because I could not explain why I felt this way. I did not want to turn against Taylor and her beautiful friends just because they lived beautiful lives and I was a boring student. I managed to successfully ignore my concerns until the Bad Blood music video was released in which the gang got back together. The clip takes the audience through a training facility and showcases Taylor’s squad training for combat. Each second is cleverly utilised to squeeze in as many famous faces as possible.

The music video did not sit well with me. On one hand the video could be interpreted as an empowering display of girl power, with women defending themselves and kicking ass. Instead when I watched the video I remembered the rumour that apparently the song was about Taylor’s feud with Katy Perry. In light of this information, instead of girl power I saw a group of girls ganging up against another. The message seemed to be: “Here is my squad. Do not mess with me.”

Fast-forward to 2016, almost two years later, Calvin tweeted the following after his break-up with Taylor Swift:

I know you’re off tour and you need someone new to try and bury like Katy ETC but I’m not that guy, sorry. I won’t allow it.

In response Katy tweeted:

“Time, the ultimate truth teller.”

Someone tell me this does not feel like high school?

It is reminiscent of the “you can’t sit with us” vibe from the all time classic, Mean Girls. I do not want to call Taylor a Regina George. I want to believe this is not Taylor’s intention, however, it seems to be a possible effect of her carefully crafting her public image. Taylor’s squad is a group of beautiful girls with fantastic careers. They are an unachievable standard rubbed in our faces everyday. With some exceptions, the squad are a string of cookie cutter look-a-likes: long silky blonde hair, slim figure, white and have the ability and time to appear at Taylor’s Fourth of July parties.

Taylor’s girl squad became a point of fascination for more than just her Instagram followers. The whole world watched. The trend became so well known, the term ‘girl-squad’ regularly popped up in everyday conversation as the idea of creating your own personal girl-squad quickly took off.

Adele was recently interviewed by James Cordon during her Car Pool Karaoke session. In between singing, James asked Adele if she was forming her own girl squad. Adele tensed a wee bit and tried to ignore the question. Cordon persisted, asking whether JLaw or Emma Stone would be members. He then joked they would be able to take Taylor Swift down.

Adele is not the only celebrity to resist the trend. When Rihanna was asked whether she would join, she said she would not.“I don’t think our brands are the same: I don’t think they match, I don’t think our audiences are the same,” she continued, “In my mind she’s a role model, I’m not.” Through her statement, Rihanna demonstrated skepticism that the ‘girl squad’ is  more than friendship, but potentially a ‘brand’ strategy on Taylor’s part.

The ‘brand’ becomes more sinister when the earnings of the members are considered and how their appearance on Taylor’s social media may help them in their own careers. For example, for a model who appears on Taylor’s Instagram account can expect to gain followers after the picture is shared by Taylor. The more followers a model has, the more they can demand to be paid.

There is nothing wrong with having beautiful friends, there is nothing wrong with celebrating them. However, Taylor’s constant updates and the need to have her private friendships witnessed makes it uncomfortable. Even the tone of the pictures does not seem to celebrate friendship, instead it seems to be exclusive – like their perfect smiles are saying “You can’t sit with us.”

 

Extra for experts

Watch

Bad Blood music video

Adele Carpool Karaoke video

 

Read

Rihanna Does Not Want To Join Taylor Swift’s Squad, Huffington Post: 4 October 2015

No, Taylor Swift And Her Girl Squad Actually Aren’t Empowering, Your Tango

Inside The Earnings Of Taylor Swift’s Girl Gang, Forbes: 17 September 2015

The Summer Of The #Squad, The Atlantic: 23 July 2015

 

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