Shake It Off

Ever since we were young, we were told that we had two options – let the bully win or stand up to the bully. Of course, it was imprinted in our minds that we were to always stand up to the bully. Taylor Swift’s chart topper “Shake it Off” has proven this notion wrong. And the reviews have not all been good.

In her new song, Taylor Swift writes about shaking off her haters and, in turn, has been criticized about it. Reactions to her new song have been mixed. And I find it quite ironic.

In “Shake it Off,” the bullied writes a song about bullies in order to stand up to them, which is what we have always been taught to do. However, the bullies continue to bully the bullied back. Is this a never ending cycle? Who ultimately wins, and how do we stop this cycle?

The Take Down Culture, a vein of bullying that is intrinsically a public action, has effectively been around for a long time. It has become more and more widespread through the growth of social media and there has never been a better public forum. Perhaps it was pop culture phenomenon movies like “Mean Girls” in 2004 that first popularized how “funny” and “interesting” being mean could be. While the movie only does this through the “burn book”, teenagers have found a much louder forum to write the same kind of rude comments, directly and exclusively to a specific person. Rather than gaining attention by being smart or interesting, the person who is taking down another individual gains all the attention, simply by being snarky and mean. Furthermore, their comments are even reinforced by their number of Facebook likes, Twitter retweets, or supportive YouTube comments.

Taylor Swift’s problems are bigger than just a burn book. At any given time, I’m sure there are hundreds of pro and anti-Swifties discussing her all over the web. Taylor Swift’s problems are bigger than just a burn book. At any given time, I’m sure there are hundreds of pro and anti-Swifties discussing her all over the web. What options does she have to address all of them? Quite literally in every rap song, rappers will address their haters—it’s a very accepted as part of the culture. Everything from “Haterade” by Gucci Mane with Nicki Minaj and Pharrell, to Drake’s more recent “Started from the Bottom” addresses all the haters who told they couldn’t reach the top. So why there is an uproar or why is it even a surprise to anyone that a well-adjusted pop sensation would wanted to make a similar song? Are the people who are criticizing her and the video simply living in a double standard?

She actually “shakes it off” in two ways: first, obviously, with the actual lyrics of her song, but secondly, she does it in a very public, big way, recognizing her haters through an entire video and song dedicated to them. It is not simply the content, but the medium through which she conveys her message that is significant. On the other hand, people may think that dedicating an entire song to haters is recognizing the impact of their “hating” and is only reinforcing their negative behavior. However, given the ways in which anti-Swifties may proliferate through many types of social media, one, ultimate Swift swoop against them is the only way to address them. Perhaps we don’t have the capabilities to create a world-renowned music video in hopes of addressing the people who are against us, but perhaps there is a solution. The solution is scarily, almost overwhelmingly too simple—if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  Don’t try to retaliate against the bullies, simply remove yourself from the situation.

– Sonya Xu