In Defense of Taylor Swift’s Female Friendship Renaissance


Taylor Swift graces the cover of Rolling Stone once again this week, and the most striking thing about the Josh Eels-penned profile is its focus on Swift’s female friendships, as opposed to her previously active, now dormant dating life. Of course, Swift’s newfound friendships — namely those with supermodel Karlie Kloss and Girls creator Lena Dunham — have been pointed to again and again with a bit of head-scratching in the press, particularly Swift’s Dunham-inspired discovery of feminism and a style transformation that nods to Kloss’ own. Admittedly, it is slightly unsettling how Swift and Kloss have morphed into a single six-foot blonde monster with an endless supply of designer cutoff shorts, but the Rolling Stone cover takes it to new heights — and sheds some light on this new phase of the 24-year-old’s growing independence as she makes her first home outside Nashville, in a $15 million Tribeca apartment, no less.

Swift’s Fourth of July “family portrait” on Instagram, featuring Ingrid Michaelson, Jaime King, Stone, Dunham and more.

As I’ve chronicled previously, Swift’s brand is the relatably awkies bestie, not the overly sexualized vixen. So I would argue that Swift’s public persona shifting towards “beach house hostess to Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield” is more on-brand than “would-be fling of Andrew Garfield,” anyway. But damn if it doesn’t get just a wee bit Single White Female:

Swift leads the way into one of her four guest bedrooms. “This is where Karlie usually stays,” she says – meaning supermodel Karlie Kloss, one of her new BFFs, whom she met nine months ago at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. There’s a basket of Kloss’s favorite Whole Foods treats next to the bed, and multiple photos of her on the walls. Against another wall, there’s a rack full of white nightgowns. “This is a thing me and Lena have,” says Swift – meaning Lena Dunham, another recent friend. “We wear them during the day and look like pioneer women, fresh off the Oregon Trail.”

Still, I feel like this is an exciting frame of mind for a songwriter like Swift to be in. She’s become notorious for putting her personal life to song, so much so that she perceives how her “dating life has become a bit of a national pastime” — one that she’s no longer comfortable with. “I don’t like it when headlines read ‘Careful, Bro, She’ll Write a Song About You,’ because it trivializes my work,” she tells RS. And so, she hasn’t gone on a date since her breakup with Harry Styles more than a year and a half ago.

The ongoing criticism of her female friendships comes from the same place as the dissection of her relationships, which is funny, since her female friendships are a product of not dating. There hasn’t been a new boy-toy for the paparazzi to snap Swift with; instead of drama on the Kennedy compound, there are merely rumors that Swift is in love with Kloss. There’s something about mutual admiration between disgustingly famous people that irks the general public in a way that feels not unlike the popular hatred for cutesy, nicknamed celebrity couples.

“When your number-one priority is getting a boyfriend, you’re more inclined to see a beautiful girl and think, ‘Oh, she’s gonna get that hot guy I wish I was dating,'” Swift says. “But when you’re not boyfriend-shopping, you’re able to step back and see other girls who are killing it and think, ‘God, I want to be around her.'” As an example, she cites her pal Lorde, whom she calls Ella. “It’s like this blazing bonfire,” Swift says. “You can either be afraid of it because it’s so powerful and strong, or you can go stand near it, because it’s fun and it makes you brighter.”

I recognize — and I think Swift does, too — that she says a lot of things that are typical to her character, be it that she may be undateable because she has two cats or that she has thought “a lot” about which Girls character she is (Shoshanna, though Dunham says Taylor’s more of a “Hannah, minus the horrid sexual behavior, or Marnie, if she wasn’t an asshole”). But at some point it feels like homegirl deserves a pass on something. Must she receive constant, immense criticism over every aspect of her personal life? It’s a small thing in the grand scheme, but maybe we could leave her positively gushing Twitter convos with Dunham alone. (I mean, hey, if this is how Taylor Swift discovered feminism…)

Whether friendship is a prominent theme on 1989 is yet to be seen, but Eels does mention that the album is “mostly wistful and nostalgic, not finger-pointy or score-settling” (except for “Bad Blood,” which is about a peer) and that only “a few of the songs are about her relationships and love life.” Not to suggest that Swift is making the pop-music take on Little Women, but worst-case scenario, maybe she has a bit of Girl Power in store. There are worse things that a Swiftian take on “Wannabe,” chief among them John Mayer revenge songs.