Kim, Kanye, Taylor & The Power of Whiteness

Published: Tuesday 19th July 2016 8:32AM

Updated: Tuesday 19th July 2016 8:33AM

Same old shizzle, Taylor’s white privilege is her trump card…

Another day, another celebrity feud. The tabloids are at it again.

Kim K did what? Taylor said that?

The tabloids are all over it as us commoners sit patiently on the side-lines, ready to indulge in the foreign world of #RichPeopleProblems. At least it seemed foreign. Until I realised that in actuality, this situation did not happen in a bubble on la-la land, but rather planet Earth. Thus, they drew on real life and so society’s power structures were at play.

For those who don’t know, Taylor Swift – America’s quintessential national treasure – with her country roots, blonde hair and blue eyes has been at loggerheads with none other than Kanye West – the epitome of America’s most hated. Rich. Black. Male. A Chicago-born rapper, who routinely denounces corporations, likens himself to society’s most revered figures and told the world that George W. Bush did not care about black people. To put it simply, Kanye West has done himself no favours in creating a likeable image, much in contrast to Taylor Swift – the sweet, ol’ Nashville gal who has upheld her wholesome, golden girl image for far too long it seems.

I woke up to #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trending and questioned what I’d missed. Apparently, Kim Kardashian had posted footage of her husband Kanye West talking to Taylor Swift on the phone about his infamous “Famous” song. In the video, we hear Taylor assent to Kanye including the lyric about having sex with her, despite the fact she publicly denounced the content of his lyrics when she accepted her second Album of The Year award at the 2016 Grammys.

But what is interesting about this situation is not so much its content, but the dialogue which surrounded it. After Taylor denied having the conversation about the song to Kanye, the topic of feminism arose. Why was this self-absorbed, egotistic, grown man trying to tear down this young, innocent, successful young girl? Taylor must be a victim of patriarchy – being the first woman to have won the Album of the Year award twice, Kanye must have been narked that a woman was progressing so well in a male-dominated industry.

At least that’s what it seemed to be. But this is where it gets juicy. Last year, Taylor Swift was seen to have been perpetuating this same victim trope with a woman: Nicki Minaj to be exact. After “Feeling Myself” and “Anaconda” were snubbed by the VMA’s, Nicki tweeted about the lack of representation of curvy bodies in music videos – highlighting the double standard that only videos that featured women with slimmer bodies were nominated for awards. Taylor, somehow managed to place herself at the centre of this conversation and claimed Nicki was trying to pit women against each other, completely ignoring the intersection of feminism Nicki alluded to. Once again, the media were all over it: presenting Nicki as the angry black woman by posting unflattering images of her with an angry expression; Taylor was presented as the victim, despite the fact she had not been attacked.

What makes the present situation between Kanye and Taylor more interesting however, is the power dynamics it demonstrates. Despite being a woman and therefore a victim of patriarchy, Taylor’s whiteness arguably overrides Kanye’s blackness, highlighting race as a factor in this power struggle. This is most closely exemplified in the dynamic of Kim and Kanye’s relationship. For the first time in a long time, I watched an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians to get the inside scoop on how Kimye were reacting to Taylor’s denouncement. Kanye seemed aloof, whilst Kim took the reins and wanted the truth to be known. She posted the footage of Kanye and Taylor’s conversation, but hasn’t been heckled the way Nicki Minaj was, despite the fact that both simply protected their point of view.

Of course, the likes of Taylor’s white feminist girl squad came to the rescue and hypocritically proclaimed that we should be focusing on topics that matter. But when questioned on why she hadn’t spoken about #BlackLivesMatter and the recent police shootings, Selena Gomez declared she was not picking sides – an ambivalent response that echoed the sentiments of the non-existent #AllLivesMatter movement. In translation: I am deflecting on the issue at hand because I don’t want to talk about it.

The true issue at hand is not that Taylor lied; it is the fact that her position in society as a fragile white female gave her the mandate to do so without question. There has been no interrogation into why she lied but rather, what did she do to deserve this? Yet, when black women are smeared in the lyrics by black men without their consent, there is little to no outrage. We expect this behaviour. So the fact that Kanye even called Taylor for her permission in the first place highlights the esteemed position she holds in society.

What I found most peculiar about this whole situation however was not Kanye, Taylor or Selena. It was Kim. Ever the social phenomenon, I am always puzzled as to where she stands in society. She is so far from the quintessential white woman, sometimes I question whether she has traded in her white race card for a black one. However, the fact that Kim was able to “clap back” at Taylor without being vilified as angry like Nicki or as predatory as Kanye is an assertion of her white privilege. The fact that she had to defend her husband in the first place, reeks of white saviourism.

Despite seemingly superficial, all of these situations are allowed to occur as a result of the socio-political climate in which we exist. Do not be fooled into thinking this supposed “attack” on Taylor Swift is one-dimensional, there are far too many power structures at play. Though two very different women, both Kim and Taylor were able to engage in a dialogue as they shared a commonality that overshadowed Nicki’s gender and Kanye’s male privilege and that was whiteness.

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