Sunday, April 28, 2019

Zeitgeist girl

Young women today are encouraged to be "sexually empowered," meaning free to follow their own impulses and desires when it comes to relationships.

The older cultural norms and social standards which once helped to govern the relationships between men and women are dismissed as being oppressive limitations on the self, imposed by an exploitative patriarchy (a mindset captured luridly in the TV series The Handmaid's Tale).

And so there is no encouragement for young women to follow rational self-restraint; reason gives way to the more impulsive, instinctual "animal" side of human nature.

I wrote a post earlier this year on how this message of sexual empowerment played out in the music of Cardi B, noting the primitivism of a music video featuring a dozen near naked women twerking together.

But Cardi B does not capture the Zeitgeist as well as another contemporary pop star, Taylor Swift. It's difficult to imagine Taylor Swift producing a twerking music video like Cardi B's. She is too "classy" for that.

Even so, if you read the lyrics of her songs you get a good sense of where the liberal principle is leading us when it comes to relationships (I'm indebted to a post by Fabius Maximus for alerting me to this.)

For instance, Taylor Swift has only just released a new song, titled Me. The video begins with an image of a snake making its way along a brightly coloured street (a nod perhaps to what is diabolical underneath the colourful surface of what we are to see). We then see Swift and a boyfriend arguing. Swift is being unreasonably dramatic. At one point she points to their "daughters" (a pair of cats - a nod to the fur baby phenomenon).

The lyrics then go:
I know that I'm a handful, baby, uh
I know I never think before I jump
And you're the kind of guy the ladies want
(And there's a lot of cool chicks out there)
I know that I went psycho on the phone
I never leave well enough alone
And trouble's gonna follow where I go
(And there's a lot of cool chicks out there)

I know I tend to make it about me
I know you never get just what you see
But I will never bore you, baby
(And there's a lot of lame guys out there)

She is no longer guided by reason (her own or that of society as a collective). Therefore she is impulsive, trouble and her emotions get out of hand ("psycho"). She is also self-centered ("I know I tend to make it about me").

So why then would a man fall in love with her and want to be with her? She offers just two reasons. First, she is not boring. Second, because of her individuality:
Me-e-e, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
I'm the only one of me
Baby, that's the fun of me
Eeh-eeh-eeh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
You're the only one of you

Neither of these is convincing. As much as men don't want someone who is boring, they also fear "psycho" women with uncontrolled emotions. And the fact that she is "the only one of me" is neither here nor there - is it a "one of me" that a man might love and trust enough to marry?

You have to remember that our liberal culture tells women that they are empowered when they freely follow impulse and feeling. They are not supposed to be prudent or reasonable - that is considered an exploitative imposition. What a woman wants as an impulse is what matters and it is not supposed to be constrained - not even by reason.

Taylor Swift's song expresses liberal culture. She is just being "her" in the moment. She is impulsive and emotionally out of control. She is centered on what she wants and feels. She is embodying an expressive individualism - and this is what a man is supposed to respect and like.

It's interesting also that Taylor Swift's song so openly acknowledges female hypergamy. In her mind, she is one of the many cool chicks competing for one of the few men out there who is not "lame" - for one of the few men that "the ladies want".

If it were up to Cardi B, women would compete for these few, desirable men through overt displays of female sexuality. Taylor Swift doesn't go down this path, but doesn't offer much of an alternative. She seems to think that a man with options would be attracted to a woman who demonstrates individuality via high maintenance, self-centered emotionalism.

If you're thinking that Taylor Swift is deluded, it should be said in her defence that for most of her life she has not been looking for stable, enduring relationships. One thing that happens when women are "liberated" to act on primitive desire, is that they tend to spend their formative years seeking sexual highs with player type men. They may not seek predictability or security in relationships. In her song "The Way I Loved You", Taylor Swift contrasts a relationship with a boring nice guy with a more dramatically intense relationship with a player. She sings of the nice guy:
He is sensible and so incredible
And all my single friends are jealous
He says everything I need to hear and it’s like
I couldn’t ask for anything better
He opens up my door and I get into his car
And he says you look beautiful tonight
And I feel perfectly fine
It's not what she wants. She prefers the "rush" that comes with "insane":
But I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain
And it’s 2am and I’m cursing your name
You’re so in love that you act insane
And that’s the way I loved you
Breakin’ down and coming undone
It’s a roller coaster kinda rush
And I never knew I could feel that much
And that’s the way I loved you
She doesn't want comfort with the nice guy, she wants "wild and crazy":
He respects my space
And never makes me wait
And he calls exactly when he says he will
He’s close to my mother
Talks business with my father
He’s charming and endearing
And I’m comfortable
He can’t see the smile I’m faking
And my heart’s not breaking
Cause I’m not feeling anything at all
And you were wild and crazy
Just so frustrating intoxicating
Complicated, got away by some mistake and now
And that’s the way I loved you oh, oh
Never knew I could feel that much
And that’s the way I loved you

Taylor Swift is now twenty-nine. It's possible that she will decide at some point that she wants something more solid (there are rumours that she might be engaged to her current boyfriend).

But I hope that her song lyrics give fair warning to men that you can't expect a stable culture of marriage to develop in a liberal society. In particular, you can't expect a family guy ethos to survive in a culture in which women are "sexually empowered". In such a culture, young women in their sexual prime are not likely to select for reliable, "got together" men.

There was a reason why traditional societies once insisted on certain standards from young men and women. The standards did not exist to limit people for no reason or to exploit women. They existed to uphold a higher good - that of enduring marriage and timely family formation.

We should not underestimate what a difficult cultural achievement it is to arrive at this higher good. It requires a self-disciplining of the instincts of both men and women, but particularly of women.

It was achieved in the past and can be again, but not when the cultural institutions are sending the opposite message to what is needed.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.


  1. I am no fan of Taylor Swift. I have not seen the videos you describe. But is it possible she is mocking or criticizing the type of women that you say she is extolling? There certainly are plenty of those types of women out there, so it would not surprise me that she is criticizing that type, even if she is actually more like them than not. By the way, your blog is outstanding - you do an exceptional job at describing in simple terms what liberalism is all about, how it is different at its core to conservatism and, using concrete examples from the day's news, how liberalism plays itself out and leads to destruction of everything in its path. Thank you for the work you do!

    1. Thanks! As for Taylor Swift, I'd make three points:

      a) She does seem to be more aware than others of the darker side of what is being played out. The snake imagery at the start of an otherwise upbeat song points to this. So too does the open acknowledgement that she has in the past rejected stable, decent men in favour of more sexually exciting men.

      b) Nonetheless, she does seem committed to it. She came out recently with some very woke political views ( She is well-known for swapping boyfriends periodically (though there are engagement rumours with her latest one).

      c) I think it's difficult for young women now to avoid the modernist mindset. It's about women exercising sexual power, identifying as a sex in opposition to men, being liberated from constraints in the pursuit of individual desires etc. It's a terrible formula not only for society but for women individually, but it's the understanding of life that women are being raised in and it is presented to women in a triumphalist way (e.g. "the future is female" "girl power" etc.). All the women I work with seem to have bought into it.

      There is a difficult balancing act for women. At a deep level they identify as a sex in opposition to men; they want to be free to exercise their sexual power in society; they don't want limitations on desire, which pushes them toward "exciting men" rather than stable men; but they also at some level want the goods of traditional family life.

      It won't hold. It requires women to take things just so far, and to keep some things hidden from direct view or not directly stated.

  2. Good commentary.

    Tay Tay wouldn't criticize the narcissistic female because she is selling this song to her female audience, even if she personally doesn't believe it. (Highly doubtful that she doesn't believe it.)

  3. As an aside to the earlier post on Cardi B. It was revealed that in her prior life as a sex worker, she drugged and robbed men. Yet her career has not been destroyed.

    BlackHate pays well

    1. Yes, I saw that. Did not even put a dint in her reputation. Interesting that she is now a culture-setter for young women.

  4. The women in my age group (early to mid twenties) that I know love Taylor Swift. For a long time she was considered by many a model of good behavior at the celebrity level, especially compared to others. I think that might be a carry-over from her days as a country singer, but her music now is awful and almost every song promotes a horrible message. Her reputation makes these songs even more treacherous.

    I don't know why it is, but most of the young devout Catholics in my age group don't seem to see any connection between the messages they receive through music and how they think and behave; music with deplorable messages (lustful, narcissistic, cruel, etc.) are listened to all the time and played at events like weddings, dances, and retreats.

    1. most of the young devout Catholics in my age group don't seem to see any connection between the messages they receive through music and how they think and behave

      Good point. I've had conversations with girls where I point out how bad the lyrics of certain songs are and I just get shrugs in response. The same girls will happily sing along to these lyrics. It's as if they're oblivious to the process of cultural imprinting taking place.

    2. Fashions and fads are by definition temporary. Are Taylor Swift and Cardi B "great women"? Are they setting culture or profiting off it?

      Most so-called Catholics are social or cultural or ritual "Catholics" (as are most "religious"). So only the rarest of young women in their early to mid twenties are going to actually be devout. The devout Catholic is not a Taylor Swift fan. Thinking they are devout and them self-identifying as devout; that is the problem.

      Is "devout" now just another word that means whatever the user says that it means? Can someone be "relatively devout"?

  5. off topic but might be of interest.

    Rod Dreher will be discussing his Benedict Option book in Australia in a few weeks.