Belfast Telegraph

Why refreshingly normal Taylor Swift is a perfect role model for girls

By Jane Graham

This week I was Taylored. Me, the Nick Cave-loving rock 'n' roll cynic. Not by the blinding spotlights, the sea of stars, or the throat-tickling bass; when Taylor Swift finally appeared onstage at the Glasgow Hydro - her long, slim body sparkling with jewels, the doe-like cheekbone-sliced face that launched a million apps finally made real-life flesh - I realised immediately resistance was futile.

The girl next door made megastar doesn't dazzle, or bewitch, like most of her peers. She does something much more effective; she makes you like her. And if you're alongside your 12-year-old daughter - whose hot, pink, glowing face is more joyfully overwhelmed than the time "Doctor" David Tennant left her a phone message - the idea of popping her balloon with an adult smirk is simply unthinkable.

Anyway, the ride is fun. The show has all the high-tech, enormo-budget brio you would expect, but even more compelling is the obvious emotional impact Taylor Swift has on her young audience.

It's charming, but it's also worth serious note. The particular appeal of this multi-million selling artist to her adolescent female fans explains a lot about the current generation of young girls.

The early response to Swift's rise spoke volumes about how the music industry - and probably the rest of us, too - regard the genders. She was roundly criticised for "exploiting her relationships" (often with famous men) by writing confessional lyrics about her romantic endeavours.

The cliche of Swift as the sexual vulture followed her around for years until she addressed it clearly and cleverly in her lyrics.

But who ever accused John of hollowing out Yoko, Mick of humiliating Marianne, Jay-Z of selling out Beyonce?

The idea that a woman acts little better than a prostitute when she writes a song about her boyfriend had strong credence until Swift pointed out its nonsense. Suddenly, she was a bastion of common sense and a championed feminist with the softest, friendliest F imaginable.

Like most women, Taylor likes dolling up and showing off her best assets. In the Glasgow Hydro, she changed outfits every couple of songs.

Her catsuits and hotpants are definitely sexy, but little about her suggests she's focussed on providing thrills for men. There aren't many of those, anyway - the vast majority of her audience is female. And what they like most about Taylor is the sisterhood she promises. And the sense of graspable power.

She is not gorgeous, nor outrageously erotic, like Rihanna, or Miley. Unlike most naturally mousy popstars, her shoulder-length hair has never gone platinum or raven.

She doesn't twerk with her male dancers, but giggles as they parade around her (she doesn't go all out to mirror their steps - she's a singer who writes her own songs, not a dancer).

But as this "super-relatable" brunette proved this week, when she managed to change the policy of Apple Music with the withdrawal of just one of her albums and a couple of strongly worded tweets, you don't need to be impossibly beautiful, or disarmingly sexual, to be the most powerful popstar on the planet.

Taylor likes to talk during her gigs. A lot. And though she may not have the rhetorical skills of her Irish namesake Jonathan, the things she says about self-empowerment, women being supportive of other women, "being who you are, not who other people think you should be", the lack of shame in, as her smash hit Shake It off puts it, "dancing on your own" when you don't have a boyfriend - these are potent things for young girls to hear.

Especially during the troubling periods of their tumultuous teenage lives. I'm convinced; Taylor Swift is worth the money.

Nice work if you can get it, Ma'am!

As a library reading ambassador, I enjoy my visits into these hallowed buildings, which often have a quiet, welcoming, almost church-like, atmosphere. Unless I happen upon a Bookbug session for toddlers, when it's an even nicer mood of raucous laughter and sing-song.

However, lately, with news of scathing austerity cuts on the way, the mood of library staff has been notably subdued and, at times, fretful and scared. This feeling is replicated across all social services. But not every public servant is trembling. The Queen whose estimated personal wealth of £340m went up 20% last year, will receive a £2m increase in public funding next year. What a comfort.

Teen rebels given more of a cause

I admire the optimism of Waterford Council, which has added a "no swearing" rule to the list of banned activities in their public parks.

They're a feisty bunch, having already outlawed smoking e-cigarettes, flying model aeroplanes and picking flowers from their green spaces.

Councillor Lola O'Sullivan says the rule is a result of "groups of teenagers who are in the park and are loud, using bad language".

I'm sure the ban will be effective - there's nothing more likely to persuade rowdy teenagers to improve their behaviour than a list of things local councils don't like them doing.

They won't be cursing, or picking flowers, any time soon.

Belfast Telegraph

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