Things I Read That I Love #245: Listening to a Sad Song Can Become a Way of Pushing on a Bruise

HELLO and welcome to the 245th installment of Things I Read That I Love, wherein I share with you some of the longer-form journalism/essays I’ve read recently so that you can read them too and we can all know more about Taylor Swift! This “column” is less feminist/queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is feminist/queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are.

The title of this feature is inspired by the title of Emily Gould’s tumblr, Things I Ate That I Love.

How Taylor Swift Played the Victim For a Decade and Made Her Entire Career, by Ellie Woodward for Buzzfeed, August 2017

The start of this history is familiar to me (’cause AHEM I wrote on this topic in 2010), but it’s the more recent analysis that I really enjoyed feasting upon.

As US president Donald Trump’s administration threatens to strip women of their fundamental rights, sending a profoundly misogynistic message to women everywhere – and especially to minorities – we need feminism more than ever before. But slumber parties, girl-power platitudes, and personal victimhood is not enough. We need feminism founded on defiance, strength, and unity and driven by angerat broader injustice and inequality.

Kathy Griffin Isn’t Apologizing Anymore, by Yashar Ali for The Cut, August 2017

“President Trump just pardoned Joe Arpaio, who was essentially running a concentration camp in the Arizona desert. He said there are some good Nazis, and he’s kicking out young adults who were brought here as kids by their parents, and I’m the one who has to continue to apologize?”

Sheriff Joe, by William Finnegan for The New Yorker, July 2009

You guys, Joe Arpaio is just Donald Trump with a different job and a little bit less to lose. He is an evil terrible man. Did Trump read his book and base his campaign off it? Like, what the holy fuck. Everybody should read this if you’re not already familiar with what a giant asshat Joe Arpaio is.

Plus-Size Fashion Can’t Be Ignored Anymore, by Ashley C Ford for New York Magazine, August 2017

Plus-size fashion is getting REAL COOL, and that’s real great, just like Ashley C Ford who is also real cool and real great!

The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial, by Venkatesh Rao for Ribbon Farm, August 2017

This is an interesting concept that is apparently making the rounds so roundly that it was discussed on my favorite local morning show “Live in the D,” by hosts who were insulted by The Olive Garden’s inclusion in this piece.

Behind the Scenes of the Michelle Carter Verdict – Conrad Roy Suicide Trial, By Jesse Barron for Esquire, August 2017

What a weird and disturbing case.

The Sisterhood of the Exact Same Pants, by Stephanie Talmadge for Racked, August 2017

I didn’t expect this article to be the k-hole I ended up lowering myself into this week, but life is full of surprises. My first year at U of M, I went to one night of rush and was like “what is this fresh hell” but all my friends kept it up and joined sororities so I still ended up learning a lot about sorority life. The Racked piece comes at it from a fashion merchandising angle which is way more interesting than it may sound! I subsequently ended up watching some uh intriguing videos and then reading “Win the Sorority Girl, Win the American Wardrobe” and “The Jewelry Queen of Texas.”

On and Minority Life in Startup Media, by Meredith Talusan for Medium, August 2017

Inspired by The Outline’s piece on Mic from last week, Talusan’s Medium essay is a incredibly even-handed look at her own experience as a freelancer for the publication. Also if y’all haven’t looked at Unerased, the specific project she’s discussing in this — YOU MUST. It is an extraordinary work of journalism and their ongoing database (which tracks all reported murders of transgender women) is such a valuable resource.

Growing Up Emo, by Kristen Martin for Hazlitt, August 2017

In the decade-plus since my parents died, my loss has become less raw; I no longer need listen to music at the highest decibels in order for me to hear my own heartache. But I still value those old albums because they keep me in touch with the times when everything was unprocessed. Part of me fears that if I forget the intensity of my initial mourning, I will forget my parents—if I allow myself to keep moving forward, going through the day-to-day of life without feeling that grief, I will forget the two defining moments of my life, when my parents left this Earth.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.


  1. i was very ready for a t-swift analysis because oooofff that new video ugh just ugh what is she even going for, but that article was a bit weird eh? it read a bit like a conspiracy theory. like, sure she could have said something publicly supporting kesha, but the article doesn’t mention that she paid $250’000 of kesha’s legal fees (which i didn’t know about, and then i looked like a dumdum when i repeated the whole “she never defended kesha” thing). i guess it didn’t fit the narrative. it’s hard to find criticism of swift that doesn’t come from a clear hate-based perspective. there’s no nuance, and it becomes easy to write off the criticism even though so much of what she does is worthy of it. i just wish more of the criticism gave the full picture.

    to be clear, there are some t-swift things that deserve no nuance, like that wretched wildest dreams video that RUINED a perfectly good song. i really really want someone to make a new video for that song that is about wistful gay lady love or basically just that black mirror episode but only 3 minutes long.

    • Yes, I also feel like so many pieces out there are invested in painting her out as the bad guy because that’s easy. As someone who is perpetually fascinated with human nature, I find it interesting to observe how people deal with criticism and (perceived) attacks – it’s perfectly common to act vengeful and construct stories around your own victimhood. I don’t understand how that’s Swiftian or in any way unique to TS.

      I have this fantasy in which I sit both Kanye and Taylor down and explain to them how each contributed to the messy situation they’re in by being less than completely honest with each other. Kim’s video shows Kanye omitting a crucial line from the conversation, the line which landed him in all this trouble, and it’s not hard to understand why, considering his continued insistence on being an artist with unlimited rights to free expression who shouldn’t be forced to bear the consequences of his words. He tried to slip the rest in, hoping it wouldn’t be a big deal. There was no grand conspiracy, just dishonesty and avoidance. Taylor, on the other hand, seemed to respond to what he DID read in a way he wanted her to – by giving her blessing – which is not at all uncommon for women, trained to respond to social cues from others. Once she heard the whole thing, it’s easy to understand why she felt tricked – hence the references to “games” and “the perfect crime” in the hard-to-watch video. Anyways, it’s a mess, but a nuanced mess which can best be understood through the flaws and weaknesses inherent to humans as a whole, not one person as such.

  2. posting an article saying that taylor always ‘plays the victim’ when she was literally just found in a court of law to have been victimised is beyond uncool.

    • It’s not mutually exclusive. She has a history of playing the innocent white girl against ‘mean’ people of colour that plays straight into the trope of the defensless, pure white damsel. It’s dangerous and participates in a narrative that gets POCs killed.

        • Uh, Riese just posted two longer-form pieces giving you a nice timeline and play-by-play of every time Taylor Swift made herself out to be the victim of people of color.

          • didn’t want to give the buzzfeed article my click, but fine, i read it. ok, so we have the kanye incident and the nicki incident. not really what i would call a ‘history’, especially since very soon after the nicki thing she apologised. i’d really like to know if there are any more examples.

            so the kanye thing. here’s a video of taylor being interviewed right after the vmas incident. does she call kanye mean? she says she was ‘excited’ to see him come up on stage, until he started saying what he said. she denies having any ‘hard feelings’ when asked. she says she doesn’t want to ‘start anything’.

            years and years later he puts out his song, she takes issue with him calling her a bitch and makes her speech at the grammys. but all she does is imply that he is trying to take credit for her accomplishments and fame. she doesn’t portray him as anything. (in kim’s video, she only hears and approves the ‘might still have sex’ line.)

            after that, kanye puts out his creepy video in which a lifelike figure of her lies naked next to various people including the president and cosby. if i was her (or or any of the women in the video) i’d say something about it. but she didn’t even do that, let alone portray him as mean or as someone who was victimising her.

          • It’s undeniable that Taylor Swift’s recent legal challenge of that man who sexually assaulted her was a great move, but that doesn’t preclude her from other criticism regarding her construction of her image as a perpetually wronged white woman.

            I can’t think of anything more self centred for a white woman to do than respond to a general comment about structural racism from a woman of colour as if it were a personal call out. Swift certainly apologized after realizing that she’d played the wrong hand, but that doesn’t erase what her impulse to react defensively says about her. Instead of responding to Minaj with solidarity (all she had to do was say something supportive) she immediately chose to act as if she had been victimized by a completely legitimate critique of racism.

            Also: it is possible to find both Taylor Swift and Kanye West awful at the same time. Kanye’s bad behaviour doesn’t excuse Taylor’s. And he is badly behaved. Swift wouldn’t be able to cast herself as Kanye’s victim if not for his own interruption of her award and continued references to the incident. He is obviously just as narcissistic and obsessed with it and has his own history of unrelated shitty behaviour. But that doesn’t erase the fact that Swift’s depiction of her relationship to him absolutely depends on the trope of a predatory black man harming an innocent white maiden. It’s too bad Kanye West didn’t happen to interrupt literally any other female artist, as probably no one else would have milked the incident as Taylor Swift has. She could have actually walked away without dwelling on it; she could have told him not to include lyrics about her in his song. She didn’t. She capitalized on it because it fed into her brand. She lied about a conversation that he recorded and got outplayed. Is it any surprise that people are turned off by her perpetual sense of being aggrieved, particularly when that intersects with toxic whiteness?

      • But does that mean that a white person can’t call out a person of color for real or perceived verbal attacks without participating in structural inequality? What is the proper course of action in this situation? Be quiet and tolerate (perceived) abuse?

        • Have I or anyone else here implied that Kanye West is a completely innocent angel with perfect behaviour? What if Swift had let the incident go, thereby making West look foolish if he continued to bring it up? Does Beck have a framed picture of West interrupting him at his house?
          Was Taylor Swift actually incapable of saying ‘don’t write lyrics about me’? Did other white artists respond to Nicki Minaj’s statement by claiming to have been personally victimized?

          As an aside, I liked the commodification of feminism and friendship a lot better when the Spice Girls were on that beat.

        • i think a lot of it is viewed through that lens because of how the public viewed the first kanye incident with the whole innocent white woman victim slant, which wasn’t her responsibility (though she did benefit from it, which i think the article was trying to get at but it was tooooo messssyyyy to provide a succinct analysis). and there is a theme with taylor swift: with kanye and nicki, they were both trying to address problems with the music industry and recognizing black artists. the nicki incident stuck with people because it seemed like criticizing white success in an industry that refuses to acknowledge black talent was now something that taylor would always choose to take personally instead of talking about it (which would be easy to acknowledge without having to give up too much of her ego). but by responding that way to nicki, not only was she not acknowledging that race plays a role, she went out of her way to derail the conversation and redirect it toward herself. she apologized, but it made a lot of people wary about the role she would take in a conversation about race inequality in the music industry.

          i don’t think any of it is about how she can’t call out a person of colour. the way the kanye incident part two played out was informed by her pre-established relationship with him, which did have a strong racial element to it. of course people are going to be critical of her intentions when she reacted to that line, particularly since she has such a dodgy record on issues of race.

  3. Thank you so much for linking to “Growing Up Emo.” It resonated strongly with me, and I’m so glad to have read it.

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