Taylor Swift is going through possibly the worst week of her career. In case your Internet has been cut off for the week, you know that Kim Kardashian leaked a recording of Kanye and Swift’s phone conversation that seemingly confirmed she actually knew about his desire to include the line, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex.” Back in February when West first dropped the song “Famous,” he assured everyone that he cleared the line with his former VMA Awards nemesis.
Swift’s representatives were quick to let the world know that she had no knowledge of the “I made that b**** famous” line. Swift turned the whole fiasco into a rallying cry of sympathy from America at the Grammys. The whole scene was masterfully orchestrated by the Swift camp to further endear her to middle America as a helpless White woman fighting against the cruel abuse of the mean, loud-mouthed Black monster. Well that narrative came crashing down with the release of the phone call video. Regardless of the technicality of which line Swift actually knew about, at the very least she was less than forthright about her information. At the very most she lied and manipulated a situation to make herself look more innocent against a raging Black lunatic. As soon as the video of Swift hit the net, the jokes, memes and backlash soon followed. The murmurs of Taylor Swift being more conniving than she lets on have been around for a while, but there seemed to be no denying it anymore.
Of course as soon as people started firing shots at the megastar, there were as many defenders rushing to shield America’s sweetheart. Instagram blocked any negative comments and emojis from hitting her page. Swift fans fought tooth and nail for their deity’s honor. But no single comment showed the Taylor Swift coddling more than this one from Joseph Kahn, who directs her videos.
Comparing Taylor Swift being mocked for being caught in a lie to a woman who was murdered in cold blood is peak White privilege. It’s the height of needing to defend the honor of the White woman — a practice America loves no matter who it has to run over to make it come to pass. Yes this was probably the worst week of Taylor Swift’s career, and the worst thing that happened was a few memes and jokes made about her — and an army of people rushing to her defense.
Then there’s Leslie Jones. The actress is one of the four women starring in the Ghostbusters remake, which hit movie theaters July 15th. The all-woman remake of the 1984 classic has offended sexists who are angry that women are involved at all. But as is the case, Leslie Jones, the lone Black woman in the group, felt the worst wrath. For the better part of the week, her Twitter feed has been full of racist language, images of gorillas and sexually abusive pictures that forced her to leave the social media site for good.
And all she did was star in a movie.
Taylor Swift will never understand what it’s like to have a week like Leslie Jones just had. Yet the trumpet of White feminism blows for Swift and Swift only. Or Melania Trump, who blatantly plagiarized the work of a Black woman and has had the Fox News army behind her in defense of her wrongness.
Leslie Jones doesn’t get the same defenders as Swift and Trump. Jones’ own (White) costars have remained silent, having yet to give her any support or even ask people to stop tweeting their racism. Of course that’s what happens, though. The Black woman is instrumental in leading a charge for feminism but is left to deal with the consequences of the movement while the White women get praised for their progressiveness.
The entire Ghostbusters movie has bothered me since I saw the first trailer. The movie had been trumpeted as the feminist progression in storytelling Hollywood needed. And four women as protagonists in a major summer blockbuster is progressive and important. But, as is the case in American history, Black women get left behind. That’s how, despite the movie’s “progressiveness,” Leslie Jones’ character was still portrayed as the simple outsider who wasn’t qualified to be a scientist like the other women. Her contribution was being street smart and a possessor of superhuman strength. As forward-thinking as the movie’s feminism is, its racial representations are as dated as the Stepford Wives. So while Jones represents 25 percent of the movie’s feminist cast, she’s still left to carry the bag of a stereotypical Black character. Her character didn’t get to live in the modern times in which the movies proclaims to exist.
In the end there’s just Leslie Jones. Left alone to fend off the racism without the help of the same so-called feminists who ran to Taylor Swift’s aid this week. Taylor Swift’s worst PR week will never be like the week Leslie Jones just had. Swift’s privilege allows her to go through her career without having to worry about being targeted in the way Leslie Jones was. Jones pushed and was critical in the furthering of a feminism that lifted up White women. But when it came time to support her, the same people she lifted up fell silent. It’s the American way.
There’s an old saying in the Black community: when White America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia. The premise is simple. When something afflicts White America ever so slightly, it’s sure to affect Black America tenfold. Look at poverty, education, housing crises and on down the line. Taylor Swift had to “endure” jokes and a blemish on her career due to a lie she perpetrated. Leslie Jones had to deal with real-life trauma simply for accepting a movie role as a Black woman. It’s a level of abuse that Swift will never understand. And it’s up to us in the Black community — men just as much as women — to stand behind Jones and lift her up in the face of the abuse. Because we’re never quite sure if anyone else will.