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Taylor Swift's Battle with the Good Girl Narrative: Why It Matters

Taylor Swift's 10-minute version of All Too Well and accompanying short film as part of the re-release of her album Red had me SHOOK over the weekend! The short film immediately transports us back to our own memories of the electric first weeks of a new relationship. I mean that kiss in the woods, am I right?Apparently I wasn't the only one because as I write this post, her short film has already been viewed almost 30 million times on YouTube.


Taylor is nothing if not a gifted storyteller. The foundation of her success is vulnerability. She built her brand by telling relatable stories about her real life. It works because her courage to share her raw moments invites us to remember ours too.


The things that haunt Taylor haunt many of us. And I was definitely haunted this time. Not only did I watch these two videos on repeat all weekend, I redirected my obsession over to Netflix where I re-watched her 2020 documentary, Miss Americana.


I'm not what you would consider a true diehard fan, but I've enjoyed Taylor's work over the years and I have been paying attention to her recent record label dispute and decision to rerecord her music in a bold move to take her power back. This time around, the documentary caught my attention about a very specific idea that is designed to disempower women from using their voices. And I saw it show up in her new art as well. Truth be told, this one hit home for me.


THE GOOD GIRL PERSONA: TAYLOR SWIFT’S JOURNEY TO FINDING HER VOICE

Taylor talks about her self-imposed identity as a "good girl" and how it shaped her persona early on in her life and career. She opens up about how she had constructed her belief system around this identity and how those beliefs made it difficult for her to use her voice.

"But a nice girl doesn't force their opinions on people. A nice girl smiles and waves and says thank you. A nice girl doesn't make people feel uncomfortable with her views."
"I was so obsessed with not getting in trouble that I was like, I'm just not gonna do anything that anyone could say anything about."

As she came of age in an industry that coached her to avoid talking about anything that could be controversial, Taylor's beliefs that success was tied to working hard and being a good girl were further reinforced. She recalls being warned repeatedly about the cautionary tale of how the Dixie Chicks were cancelled after making a political statement about President Bush and the war in Iraq. The media immediately jumped to discredit the group with headlines and coverage that said actual things like:

"These are the dumbest, dumbest bimbos that I have seen."

When women step outside of the prescribed "good girl" persona and speak about things that are supposed to be off limits, the response is usually to attack them for their intelligence, not the ideas they communicate. This tactic makes it easy to dismiss women with contrary ideas because they have now been rendered lesser than, unworthy of a man's intellect.


BREAKING THE “GOOD GIRL” PERSONA: WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM TAYLOR SWIFT ABOUT INTERNALIZED MISOGYNY

Taylor was sent very clear messages about the fragility of success for women who do not fall into line. And when Taylor began using her voice, the very things she had been warned about happened to her too. Backlash during the second round of public drama with Kanye West drove her out of the public eye around the same time she was battling a very emotional sexual assault trial. What happened when she reemerged? She gave us a great comeback story.


Taylor revealed that she went inward to find her worth and reentered the public eye with a strong sense of confidence and even better art to share with the world. Over the past few years we've seen a very different Taylor who has settled into a more authentic and vocal persona. We even get a glimpse into a tough conversation with her father who preferred that she continue to avoid talking about politics or other polarizing topics out of fear she will lose her fanbase and put her life in danger by being so outspoken.


Taylor's story inspires women to reject the false narratives that are designed to control our behavior and keep us small.


And just as we think she's completely conquered the good girl demon, she gives us a glimpse into another vulnerable moment where she struggles with internalized misogyny as she critiques the way her face looks in her Me! video shoot.

"I make a mean face when I'm not trying to. See? I have a real slappable face. Yeah, you just wanna be like... what are you plotting? What's she planning? I wasn't meaning to look like that. I'm gonna try to be more likable on the next one."

It's one of those moments you seriously wish the idea of "resting bitch face" was never invented. And then you quickly realize why it was. Despite Taylor's growth, we still see her struggling in a society that demands nice, good girls over serious, confident women. It serves as the reminder of how vigilant we must be with our self-talk.