Someone sent me a link to the recent back and forths between the Swift and Kardashian-West camps these days, and they encouraged me to write about it. Even as I do so, I'm highly ambivalent, as the whole affair is rather unsavoury, to say the least.
For those of you living on a different planet, it all began in 2009 when Kanye West famously (infamously?) stormed the stage while Ms. Swift was receiving the Best Female Video award at the MTV Video Music Awards, and he interrupted Swift's acceptance speech, insisting that Beyoncé should have won the award.
From Mr. West, there were apologies, retractions, further apologies and further retractions over the years. West and Swift were enemies, then colleagues, then on-the-outs, then possible collaborators, and now, the latest:
This past February, West released a video, "Famous," in which there's a line that goes, "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b**** famous." West insists that he spoke with Swift on the phone before releasing the track, and that she had found it funny and had given her approval.
Swift says that she did no such thing, and just now, Kim Kardashian has weighed in, saying that she has a secret recording of Swift speaking with West on the phone and approving of the song lyric.
If you're a rich, male celebrity, you can behave like an utter jackass... but if you're a successful female celebrity, heaven help you if you make the tiniest misstep.
Swift then released an Instagram message saying that West "promised to play the song to me, but he never did," and that the recording of her approving of the lyric "doesn't exist because it never happened." She said that she's being "falsely painted as a liar" and "was never given the full story" by West.
She labels his and Kardashian's actions "character assassination," and ends by saying that she "would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009." And on it goes.
So, what can we learn from this mess? Well, first of all, if you're a rich, male celebrity, you can behave like an utter jackass and suffer minimal to no consequences, but if you're a successful female celebrity, heaven help you if you make the tiniest misstep.
It also shows how dangerous, toxic and unrelenting a narcissistic personality can be. When someone challenges a hardcore narcissist, it's like poking a dragon with a sharp stick. Is it a coincidence that West's song and video and Kardashian's accusation toward Swift both come out following Swift's acceptance speech for Album of the Year at the February 2015 Grammy Awards? I think not.
In her speech, Swift speaks to "all the young women out there," going on to say that "there are going to be people along the way who (will) try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame..." and that "if you just focus on the work and... don't let those people sidetrack you... when you get where you're going... you'll know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there."
The problem for Ms. Swift is two-fold: she's a super-successful female in a world that is deeply ambivalent, at best, about female success, and also, she mines her life for her music, angering a lot of people in the process. If she happens to poke the wrong person, or dragon, they'll rain down fire upon her.
I don't know who's telling the truth in this three-sided he-said, she-said, but I can't imagine that Ms. Swift would have agreed to be portrayed in Mr. West's lyric in that way, and I certainly can't imagine that she'd accept being depicted (in the form of a naked waxwork dummy) as lying in bed with the Kardashian-Wests, along with a number of other folks, including Bill Cosby, of all people.
All of this is totally out of character for Ms. Swift, and people tend to be consistent. I mean, all one has to do is observe the behaviour, over the years, of the Kardashian-Wests.
In our society, stupidity is rewarded, but even more than that, narcissists and bullies are, for some bizarre and horrifying reason, highly revered. Just look at the current political circus in the Untied States and it will be clear how much this is true.
I feel for Ms. Swift, as she seems to have attracted more than her fair share of narcissists and bullies over the years. It appears, however, that she's attempting to rise above the fray and not allow herself to be sullied by the tactics of those on the other side of this debate. I wish her the best of luck. After all, Hell hath no fury like a narcissist who doesn't get their way.
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It all began in 2009, when Kanye West made headlines all over the world by he interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV VMAs. S he was collecting a prize for her ‘You Belong With Me’ music video, but ‘Ye clearly thought Beyoncé’s ‘You Belong With Me’ was a more worthy winner. The worst of it is, he famously told her ‘Imma let you finish’, and then didn’t let her finish.
The backlash started almost immediately, with singer P!nk declaring he was the “biggest piece of shit on earth” and Katy Perry - who would later have her own beef with Taylor, and collaborate with Yeezy on the song ‘E.T.’ - tweeting simply “fuck Kanye”. The most surprising Taylor supporter, though, was Barack Obama, who called Kanye a “jackass” during an off-the-record moment, which raised eyebrows.
The worst part of the Kanye backlash was when Lady Gaga chose to cancel their scheduled joint world jaunt, the ‘Fame Kills’ tour, allegedly due to “creative differences”. Gaga later went on her highly successful ‘The Fame Monster’ world tour solo, while Kanye chose to take “a break”.
In the ensuing months, Kanye’s attitude towards the incident switched between apologetic and defiant, posting - and then deleting - a remorseful blog post on his website. However, he later suggested that Taylor had “ridden the wave” of publicity that he claimed to have created for her with his interruption, while not sticking up for him in any ensuing interview.
Far from sticking up for Kanye, a year after the incident she performed the song ‘Innocent’ at the VMAs, which alluded to the ‘Dark Fantasy’ rapper in a number of ways, a move that was praised by some critics, but branded “bitter” and “petty” by others.
In May 2011, Kanye and Taylor came face to face for the first time at a fashion show, where it was reported that they shared a casual high-five, seemingly putting the past behind them.
Indeed, by 2015, Taylor was on top of the world, following the release of her first purely pop album, ‘1989’, and happily posed for a photo with Kanye at the Grammys (where, at the same ceremony, he jokingly took to the stage when Beck was awarded Album Of The Year over - you guessed it! - Beyoncé).
Speaking about their reconciliation that summer, she explained: “I feel like I wasn’t ready to be friends with him until I felt like he had some sort of respect for me, and he wasn’t ready to be friends with me until he had some sort of respect for me - so it was the same issue, and we both reached the same place at the same time.”
On the sixth anniversary of Kanye’s infamous stage invasion, Taylor took to the stage to introduce him at the 2015 VMAs, where she alluded to the incident before he collected his Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.
What we weren’t expecting was for Kanye to then defend the incident, explaining: “I often think back to the first day I met you also. You know I think about when I’m in the grocery store with my daughter and I have a really great conversation about fresh juice… and at the end they say, ’Oh, you’re not that bad after all!’ And like I think about it sometimes. … It crosses my mind a little bit like when I go to a baseball game and 60,000 people boo me. Crosses my mind a little bit.”
Still, Taylor was adamant things between them hadn’t turned sour, sharing this snap of flowers that her “BFF” had sent her, along with the hashtag #KanTay2020, referencing Yeezy’s vow to run for the next presidential election
And then… things took an unfortunate turn, when in 2016, Kanye unveiled his song, ‘Famous’. Debuted at his ‘Yeezy Season 3’ fashion show, he’s heard rapping: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous, I made that bitch famous.”
Taylor initially kept schtum about his remarks, though her friends and family were quick to slam Kanye, including her brother, who uploaded a video of himself through his Yeezy trainers in the bin. Kanye, meanwhile, was adamant that he contacted Taylor about the lyrics, insisting she gave him the thumbs up.
However, a representative for the ‘Shake It Off’ singer was quick to dispel his claims, saying that she would never approve a “misogynist” rap such as Kanye’s.
Taylor eventually discussed the controversy herself during her acceptance speech at the 2016 Grammys, telling her young fans not to let any man take credit for their accomplishments or, more crucially, their “fame”.
Shortly afterwards, Page Six published leaked audio of Kanye backstage at ‘Saturday Night Live’, claiming that “fake ass” Taylor had left him feeling “bummed”. The feud rolls on...
Follow Marcia Sirota on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marciasirota