Taylor Swift And The Internet’s War On Women

If you’re wondering what a web-based grudge match between a 40-something music critic and two Rookie Mag feministas would look like, look no further than the recent (as in the last 48 hours) spat between New York’s Jody Rosen and Rookie music editor Jessica Hopper and Rookie writer Hazel Cills.

A brief rundown: Yesterday, Cills published a generally razor-sharp criticism of men who either dismiss the cultural opinions of teenage girls or meet those opinions with surprise when they align with what Cills calls “the Most Important Opinions” and “The Right Taste” as formed by male critics. In her article, Cills singled out Rosen and his recent cover story on Taylor Swift for New York (where, full disclosure, I just completed a seven-month internship), which she regards as one of a vast number of poorly written articles about young females penned by male writers “deeply out of their element.” Soon after, Cills tweeted the link to her article and, I’m guessing, went about her business.

Less than an hour later Rosen dropped by to say, “You didn’t read my piece very carefully,” thus igniting one of those increasingly frequent Twitter wars. Long story short, music editor Jessica Hopper jumped to Cills’s defense and the spat ended this morning with a half-formed mea culpa on Rosen’s part.

So, where are we now as an internet culture? For my part, I’m wishfully thinking that maybe everyone involved in the battle read both Cills’s and Rosen’s articles in full. If so, then they would know that Rosen’s article is much more than a distillation of how ridiculous Swift’s fame and fandom are—it’s a nuanced and measured piece. Rosen wants the reader to fully understand how much he wants to appreciates her as a phenomenon if not entirely as an icon of 21st century be-the-woman-you-want-to-be feminism. Cills failed to point out Rosen’s attention to how female cultural critics, her own and Hopper’s peers, have called Swift a “feminist’s nightmare.”

Rosen’s article is a lot of things, but it’s anything but simplistic. It can’t easily be whittled down to any fine point, and it was perhaps wrong of Cills to use it the way she did. However, Rosen made a mistake in openly criticizing a young writer and doing the very thing she spoke of in her article: not taking the opinions of teenage girls and young women like Cills seriously. He dismissed her and in doing so dismissed the careful thought she put into an issue that continues to plague female writers.

This also comes at a time when women are getting fed up with men misusing the controlled chaos of the comments section and Twitter as a front for saying truly disgusting things to female bloggers and writers. The same day Cills’s article appeared, journalist Amanda Hess asked “Why Aren’t Women Welcome On The Internet,” herself a victim of disturbing threats of rape and murder. Rosen’s comment and subsequent “1000+ words…insulting @hazelcills” on Hopper’s Facebook page is nowhere near that horrific, but it’s on the spectrum.

 Follow Nikita Richardson on Twitter @nikitarbk

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