Taylor Swift's White Privilege Leads to Bad Blood on Twitter with Nicki Minaj

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Another day, another feud. I have written about stan wars in the past and how our culture is obsessed with pitting women against each other. It's a bummer when the cycle continues. But this episode is unlike the others because its genesis is in the very idea of putting an end to pitting women against women! Confused? Allow me to break it down for you.

The VMA nominations were announced this week. Who cares? you might be thinking. MTV doesn't even play music videos anymore. Both valid points, but the awards still mean something to the artists. This became clear when Nicki Minaj took to Twitter to voice her confusion over "Anaconda" not being nominated for Video of the Year, despite breaking YouTube records and causing an international stir.


Nicki was trying to draw attention to race still being a factor when it comes to the level of respect an artist receives. And she has a point (remember this year's super white Oscars?).

So what does this have to do with Taylor Swift? Not much, really. Yes, Nicki is surely referencing Taylor in that last tweet (Swift is the only female other than Nicki's BFF Beyonce in that category), but her overall message has little to do with Swift and everything to do with an industry that consistently values one type of artist over another.

Taylor didn't see it that way:

Nicki responded with an um, what?

Before getting back to her point:

And Taylor did her best to backtrack and came off as patronizing:

I love you, Taylor, but you done goofed. And most of the media agrees. The Guardian called Swift's reply "faux-feminist and tone deaf." The Atlantic further questioned Taylor's approach: "When female solidarity shuts down someone’s honest expression of frustration at society, inequality, and racial and body-type bias, that’s hardly progressive." And Gawker had some strong words for Taylor's brand of feminism: "Swift isn’t here to help women—she’s here to make bank...Her plan—to be as famous and as rich as she can possibly be—is working, and by using other women as tools of her self-promotion, she is distilling feminism for her own benefit."

This isn't the first time Taylor has misused feminism to strike back. Let's rewind back to 2013 when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made some joke while hosting the Golden Globes about Taylor taking some "me time" instead of dating so much, which caused Taylor to respond with:

“You know, Katie Couric is one of my favorite people, because she said to me she had heard a quote that she loved, that said, ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.'”

Oy vey. And this from someone who in 2012 said this about whether she defined herself as a feminist:

“I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”

It's great that Taylor has done some reading and thinking and realized that she was a feminist after all and should do her best, as we all should, to promote the equality of the sexes. But it's important to not get so focused on one issue that you begin missing the forest for the trees.

Taylor meant well in her response to Nicki; she thought she was bringing attention to the latent sexism that's been programmed into us by our patriarchal society. But she failed to notice the racial component of Nicki's message because that's not something that Taylor knows a lot about. She doesn't know what it's like to have her skin color dictate who will meet with her, sign her to a label, play her records, give her awards, etc. It's just not on her radar. Just like feminism wasn't on her radar back when she insisted that she wasn't someone who thought of "things as guys versus girls."

The good news is that these are the kind of situations that help us grow. Taylor missed the point because of her white privilege. She knows that now and will hopefully mature and learn more about race and a host of other things that aren't part of her lived experience. Just like we all do. The only difference is we get to do it without the entire world watching.