Same Sex, Different Verse: Taylor Swift and Katy Perry Debut New Videos, Still Aren’t Opposites

This month, both Taylor Swift and Katy Perry debuted new videos for their new hit singles, “Mine” and “Teenage Dream” respectively. A disclaimer: while it might seem that we are less than qualified to talk about these artistic achievements as we have demonstrated our distaste for both these womens’ music in the past – in particular, that we feel Taylor Swift to be an enemy of feminism and Katy Perry to be an enemy of bisexuals everywhere – I would like to preface this post by saying that I pretty much like both of these songs, so much so that I was surprised and a little dismayed with myself when I learned who sang them.

Now that that’s out of the way, the point: there are some, like this man with glasses in this video about the video who I imagine hates his job at MTV, who argues that Swift and Perry’s new singles and videos are at odds with each other, and are in fact “opposites.”

The idea is that Swift’s song, “Mine,” deals with a kind of emotionally pure and diamond-jewelry-commercial style long-term commitment, while Perry’s “Teenage Dream” chronicles a sweat-soaked, basically physical relationship where the most you learn about each other is which method of birth control you prefer. He even goes so far as to suggest that these two videos represent different philosophies of feminism, which, HOO BOY, if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that you shouldn’t try to talk to people about Taylor Swift and feminism. You want to put that idea down and back away slowly, boy.

Anyways, we disagree strongly with his argument, but before we tell you why you should probably watch these videos. Do that and get back to me.

+++

Okay, first, I’m going to say that posing these videos as “opposites” doesn’t make sense because they just have too much in common as far as themes go, both in the videos and the song. I get that Swift’s song is about the emotional development of two people who grow into adulthood together, and that Perry’s is about, like, being a teenager. But a) what is being a teenager but growing into adulthood together? and b) have you listened to Katy Perry’s song? I have, which is saying something. It’s true that there are lyrics about “skintight jeans,” but other selections include: “You think I’m pretty without any makeup on/You think I’m funny when I tell the punchline wrong.” “No regrets, just love.” “My heart stops when you look at me.” I’m sorry, but these are both (endearingly!) sappy love songs, with slight contextual differences. In fact, two of their lines are almost identical: Perry’s “I know you get me, so I let my walls come down.” and Swift’s “You learn my secrets and you figure out why I’m guarded.” I mean, come on. These are not the same song, but they are definitely not the opposite of each other.

The opposite of a Taylor Swift song is not a Katy Perry song, it is The Naked and the Dead.

The opposite of a Katy Perry song is not a Taylor Swift song, it’s Alix Olson.

More importantly, though, I’d like to disagree with his assertion that these are two different kinds of feminism – one that’s about togetherness or holding hands or having babies or whatever it is Swift is doing in that video, and one that’s about unzipping your jeans on a hotel bed so an unshaven man can give you carpet burn on your inner thighs. Have I read too many anthologies on third-wave feminism, or are those two things not mutually exclusive? At all? Far from coming from two completely different places philosophically, I would say that anyone who’s ever been in a successful relationship has integrated both those things. That’s what a relationship is – someone that you want to roll around on a bed in a motel with and also walk on the beach with, and also make out on a beach with, and also unpack boxes with in your small-but-charming post-college apartment. That’s how life is, and how love is.

And as far as feminism goes, do we really still think that you need to pursue emotional OR sexual fulfillment? I really don’t think that even the pubescent fans of Swift and Perry still think that’s true. I think most feminists are fully aware that they can have sparkly, shiny, vignetted sex and also someone who puts their arm around them by the edge of the water; in fact, I think most feminists know that they’re entitled to both those things. Frankly, it seems like a patronizing underestimation of female pop music fans that they would be so simplistic and shallow-minded that they could only process one of these things at a time. So fans of top 40 music that often seems to us to have a slightly less-than-progressive message: rejoice! There is no need to limit yourself to only one of these summer anthems. In fact, they could go on the same mix cd. I know, that was a great idea. You’re welcome. Bespectacled and probably underpaid male VJs: feel free to use your lunch break and look up what “opposite” and “feminism” means.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1091 articles for us.

42 Comments

  1. Agreed. These songs are about the same thing and are not the opposite, except for the fact that I can’t help but love Taylor Swift’s song and HATE HATE HATE Katy Perry’s. I really dislike Katy Perry’s music (with a slight exception for “Hot ‘N Cold”).

    • I agree that they’re about the same thing and not opposites; but that Taylor Swift song made me want to stab myself in the eye after 30 seconds, at least the Katy Perry song was a bit catchy

      • ITA with KD15 except I wanted to stab myself in the eardrum. Taylor Swift makes the same song and music video over and over and over again. And her perpuated wholesomeness, sweetness and purity is annoying and boring.

  2. I wonder if Taylor Swift thinks of herself as a feminist. Ya know, kind of how I think I’m butch but am fond of wearing dresses and heels and can often be found on my back with my legs in the air.

  3. OK this totally doesn’t belong here, but i dunno how to ask otherwise: Why can’t i comment on the girl gallery 2.0 post? I wanted to say that I think Frenny had a very legitimate question/criticism and I was frustrated by the backlash they got for it.

    • Fenny’s question regarding why there were no transwomen in the transmen/genderqueer gallery is addressed in the comments of the gallery Fenny refers to, which you can read at the gallery itself: Transmen, Genderqueers & Studs: Hot Human Gallery. We shut down comments on the Lesbian/Bisexual Gallery because there’s nothing to say, it’s just pictures for you to look at, organized by a theme. We can only answer so many questions about why someone who isn’t a part of the theme isn’t represented in the thematic gallery before we start wanting to just quit and go work at the Gap.

      The more time we spend replying to complaints that have been addressed numerous times in the past 1.5+ year, the less time we have to become involved in the more legitimate, compelling conversations happening on this site

      Re: ‘this totally doesn’t belong here, but I dunno how to ask otherwise,’ please feel free to utilize our email addresses, which can be found near our names on the left sidebar of the homepage. In most cases it’s our first name [at] autostraddle dot com.

  4. i absolutely adore taylor swift. even though her songs are about boys and stuff lol. but shes a amazing songwriter and i must admit i hav pretty much every one of her songs in my itunes hehe
    Katy on the other hand, while i do like some of her songs i dont really care that much.
    but Taylor is a sweetheart and a great role model for young girls.

    • Great role model if you want your daughter to be “pure”, “innocent”, and not a strong figure. I guess I can understand that for some people it’s hard to differentiate independence from going “wild” or whatever. Thankfully you can go to the library, keyword ‘feminism’.

  5. I love Katy Perry, she’s my guilty pleasure and I do, to my disgust, adore Mine. TS manages to speak to the parts of my teenage years that I like to hide under black and glasses.

  6. my number one feeling w/r/t that MTV article is severe annoyance. it should have been titled “neither perry nor swift understand the first thing about feminism” also, why are they being held up as poster-girls for feminist ideals? no one ever presumed this, the songs don’t have any depth, and i doubt that many teenage girls across america have decided as a result of these videos that their lives can only be lived in a rigid dichotomy of single/slut versus committed/prude (much more likely that a biblical upbringing would produce a madonna/whore complex in girls). but pop stars?? give me a break.

    when i was coming of age and was bombarded by britney, christina, and mandy, i was definitely in the christina camp. she was edgier, sexier, and had a way better voice than the other two. did her lyrics or videos make me want to sleep around? no. did she influence what i thought feminists were? nooo. did she make me think that my only goal in life was to chase boys? no! why does everyone think teenage girls are so stupid? all teenage girls eventually grow into thinking, adult women, just sayin’

    • oh and rachel in case this seemed like I was saying that pop stars’ messages don’t affect teenagers, of course they do. I’m just saying that in my own youth, I managed to listen to all the bubblegum and still grow into a clear-headed feminist sans brainwashing. I just hope that most teenagers have the capacity to rise above the influence, as they say, and maybe even discover the intricacies of their sexuality and join the AS family!

  7. Not gonna lie, as embarrassing as it is I love taylor swift song. Its that corny sappy love music that turns you back into a 13 year old and makes you think of your crush/gf. So I think taylor swifts music less of a feminist statement than it is bad song writing (or good song writing since it brings me back?) Maybe TSwift just never progressed out of reading shitty teen magazines on how to get your crush to notice you during 3rd period..and what to do when you get your first period..

  8. rachel, i can’t be bothered to watch either of those videos at this hour but i just want to say that you write very eloquently and i enjoyed reading this. even though i kind of didn’t know what you were talking about because i didn’t watch the videos.

  9. I kinda un-dislike that Katy Perry song, although it doesn’t really sound like it’s being sung by a human. Also, I find it weird when 20- and 30- something popstars romanticize being a teenager, because most of my teenage dreams were about not being a teenager any more.

  10. So, I guess I wasn’t reading Autostraddle when you called Katy Perry the enemy of all bisexuals everywhere, but I am SO RELIEVED I’m not alone. I was not the only one who was offended watching the Grammys, seeing them call her “beautifully bisexual” (implying that kissing a girl once at a bar because you’re drunk qualifies you there) and the fact that she dressed all in fruit….

    Taylor = enemy to feminism?? Idk about that one. Okay, so she’s one of those Disney princesses who wants her prince charming and she thinks Romeo and Juliet lived happily ever after, but I don’t think she’s the enemy to anything. Least of all feminism. In my mind she practices a different kind of feminism, not the political movement, or the “I can take care of my self because I’m bad ass” idealogical movement. But when I look at her I imagine she thinks “feminism” is the art of being faminine. Some girls just like to feel pretty and taken care of… And they deserve it.

  11. taylor swift has scary eyes.

    the most disturbing thing about this is that in the past (pre-tswift’s new song) my girlfriend and i have told each other something similar to “you are the best thing that’s ever been mine”.

    hey, stop stealing my sappy/overly-sentimental lines, tswift!

  12. I think Katy Perry is singing about having both. She’s singing about the kind of relationship in which you have emotional connections (I let my walls come down) and unbridled sexual passion (Skintight jeans.) It’s about an adult relationship that sparks your innermost fantasies from adolescence, both sexual and emotional. And that is why I like Katy Perry more. She embraces sex as a natural and important part of relationships, unlike Swift who staunchly ignores that it can be a good thing at all.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.