Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Swift Stories

Taylor Swift released the country song, “Fifteen”, in August of 2009 as her fourth single from her second studio album, Fearless. The song is inspired by Swift’s freshman year of high school, where she encountered love, heartbreak, and her best friend. “Fifteen” is a true story because American high schoolers witness themselves and those around them also defer to the common stereotypes of women. Swift’s song is written from the perspective of a high school graduate, looking back on her high school days, wishing she knew what she does now when she was young and naive. Taylor Swift's “Fifteen” is a true story because it was written to help American teenagers of the 21st century avoid conforming to misguided priorities and common stereotypes.

In this generation, female artists often sing of male approval; they portray it to their fans as the highest form of empowerment for women. In Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen,” the lyrics revolve around surviving high school but more importantly the relationships the artist held with boys throughout her four years. Swift sings:

It's your freshman year and you're gonna be here

For the next four years in this town

Hoping one of those senior boys will wink at you and say,

‘You know I haven't seen you around before.’

These lyrics are true because Swift writes about what she was worrying about on her first day of high school and, despite the fact that Americans do not like to admit it, acceptance from the opposite gender is an important part of high school. However, going to high school is about furthering your education, not about senior boys noticing the new freshman in the halls. In Swift’s lyrics, she is saying that drawing attention from the senior boys was her biggest concern. These primary concerns are important because she is allowing male approval to overtake the importance of her education.

Aside from prioritizing male approval in her songs, Taylor Swift never seems to take the blame for her relationships. A common theme that comes out of her work is that she is the blameless victim in all her relationships. The message is relayed in her song “Fifteen” when she writes, “Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind / And we both cried.” Here, Swift references her best friend, Abigail’s high school breakup. She says that Abigail’s ex-boyfriend unexpectedly broke her heart after she “gave everything” to him. This line is a true statement because Americans experience unexpected heartbreak regularly, especially as teenagers when expect the most out of our juvenile relationships. As this statement may be true, however, Abigail could have prevented her heartbreak by never allowing herself to reach this point of extreme vulnerability and maintaining her strength and independence. Abigail allowed herself to reach this point because she prioritized male centrality.

Despite these examples of how Taylor and her songs conform to the everyday stereotypes of women, the song, overall, is about how she learned from her experience of dealing with boys and relationships throughout high school. Taylor says,

'Cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you

You're gonna believe them

When you're fifteen

And your first kiss makes your head spin round

But in your life you'll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team

But I didn't know it at fifteen.

Taylor acknowledges her past naivety because she thought that the greatest thing she could do in high school was date the boy on the football team, which is a true and common high school belief because dating a boy on the football team implies social acceptance. Taylor, however, when comparing her high school experiences with those of her current life, recognizes that what she thought was important at fifteen, does not amount to anything after high school but she “didn’t know it at fifteen”.

In conclusion, the lyrics from Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen” create a true American story because it follows the typical stereotypes of a girl trying to survive high school, with not only school to worry about, but also relationships. This generalization is shown not only in this single work of art, but in multiple recent pop songs by female artists, especially Taylor Swift. She is setting a dangerous precedent for young girls, inappropriately modeling that boys should be their first priority.


  1. You argue that Abigail's heartbreak was self imposed. Interesting...You wrote that by falling in love with a boy and being vulnerable one simultaneously loses all ability to stay independent and strong. Is it not possible to be in love and be a strong person at the same time?

    1. Yes, Izzy, it is possible to be in love and independent at the same time, however in the song the example shows that Abigail lost everything when she lost her boyfriend. A girl let a boy become her "everything" as she is far more complex than simply the person that she is with.

  2. What age is it appropriate to give someone your "everything"? Is that not what the point of true love is, to share everything with your partner and become apart of their lives completely? How does one know when they are being too vulnerable? In my opinion, love doesn't have an age limit. Are you simply arguing that love in high school will derail a young girl's life, or are you saying that love should be avoided all together as a teenager because of the devastating effects it has?

  3. I actually am not arguing that a girl should not give a boy her everything but rather that she should not let him BECOME her everything or more importantly define who she is because we as women cannot let our relationships define us. If we do not talk about our freedom and desires separate from our relationships, we are placing ourselves in the common gender stereotypes and we would not want that, now would we, Izzy?