Pop-Culture | Posted by DrewsieDrewsie on 12/15/2009

A Feminist Analysis of “Fifteen”

Taylor Swift’s song, Fifteen:

I love country music. I love it with a burning passion. And inside of my love for country music also comes a love for Taylor Swift. I like her because she is my age, her songs are extremely easy to play on the guitar so I feel like I have some musical talent, and I can relate to most of her songs. Her song Fifteen is now climbing the charts. This is a fine song, and some of the things in it were true in some degree to my life. When I was a sophomore at a new school, I just wanted to be wanted (“when all you wanted was to be wanted”) instead of feeling isolated and friend-less. However there are a few lines of this song I disagree with.

After my “very first date” with a boy who “had a car” I did not “feel like flying” and never thought “he was the one.” In fact, I stopped liking him after our second date and told him I just wanted to be friends. The assumption with this section of the song is that fifteen year old girls will fall for anyone because they’re so unaware. Oh, silly girl, you and your blonde curls think you love him, but one day you will learn. Yes, I have had some friends who have fallen for their first boy, but not because they were being ditzy.

The one line that really grinds my gears is “Abigail gave everything she had to a boy, who changed his mind, and we both cried.” First of all, if anyone of my friends had sex, the last thing I would do is cry, even if they regretted it. At this point (I’m 17) if one of my friends got laid I would congratulate them. I would be proud. We would not cry about it. If they were upset and cried, I would tell them sex may be a big deal in our culture but in truth it really is not. I would not join them in said crying.

This also implies that “everything she has” is her virginity, her purity. Does Abigail have anything else? Maybe a killer sense of humor or good history study guides. Can she make a three-pointer on the basketball court? And then if Abigail did not actually bone this guy but instead gave him her humor and study guide, did her and Taylor cry after he did not think Abigail’s jokes were funny and study guide sucked?

Taylor Swift is a huge influence on teenage and preteen girls (and boys!) and I really hope she uses her influence wisely instead of making it all seem like girls are ditzy and are not smart enough to not sleep with stupid boys.

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  • Amy CT @ at 11:38 am, December 15th, 2009

    Wow… I never read (heard?) that line about Abigail in that way – I’d alwas thought of her”giving everything she had” as in putting a lot of effort in to the relationship… and to be honest, I still do.

    Does thaat change your perception of the song at all?

  • Suzie @ at 1:34 pm, December 15th, 2009

    I would agree with the above poster.

    But even if it wasn’t, while the wording is problematic, I don’t see anything wrong with crying after breakiing up with someone – even if it’s because you’ve slept with them. Yes, our culture places a lot of emphasis on virginity, and that’s as creepy as fuck – but really? Sex is about being close to someone. And when that’s gone, that can hurt. And you know what? If my friend was heartbroken over something, as much as I know she’d eventually move on, I’d cry, too.
    And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But hey, I’m an individual, we’re all people, and there’s no right way (there may be some wrong ones) to react to a situation.

    I’d really appreciate it if you guys keep the judgmental tone out of your posts. There’s been way too many in the last month and a half that have me gritting my teeth. And please don’t tell me it’s because I don’t understand “proper feminism” – this point that you keep pushing – because I think I do. I’m just all for being people, not robots.

  • dare2believe @ at 3:45 pm, December 15th, 2009

    I agree with AmyCT. I thought giving everything she had had to do with her emotions and stuff.

  • Becca @ at 3:54 pm, December 15th, 2009

    Unfortunately– despite her influence on preteen and teenage girls– I do not see Taylor Swift as a feminist. In fact, one of her most popular songs (“Love Story”) seriously bothers me, even more so than this one.

    I can only hope that as she grows older, her outlook (and lyrics) may evolve a bit. :/

  • allie @ at 5:42 pm, December 15th, 2009

    i love taylor swift but if my friend got her heart broken with the first guy she slept with i would cry with her and tell her that there are other men out there. sex may not be a big deal to you but it is to some people and you have to respect that. not saying you have to be pure or anything. not at all but there would be an emotianal attachment to somebody, thats why she would cry. it isnt because she lost her virginity, but because she gave her heart to him and he didnt want it. that hurts, when you love somebody and they dont love you back.

  • Jenna @ at 8:44 pm, December 15th, 2009

    If your friend got her heart broken by a boy she loved enough to give her virginity to, yes, you probably would cry.

  • Harriet @ at 9:18 pm, December 15th, 2009

    I agree with the post, and believe that DrewsieDrewsie has a valid point. Taylor Swift writes songs that are up for different interpetations and everyone is open to hold their own opinions, but I do agree that this song is somewhat over emotional.

  • Susy @ at 9:26 pm, December 15th, 2009

    Wow, I am so glad that someone finally pointed out what this song is really saying. Abigal didn’t “love” this boy at all, she was simply young and naive and wanted to get with an older guy. The idea of the freshman having sex with the senior and then him dumping her is pretty common, ladies learn this lesson already. However I think that we should all consider the fact that Taylor Swift is dating Taylor Lautner. Taylor Swift is twenty and he is seventeen. She is definitely showing that teenage guys don’t have to be the only ones to hook up with younger girls, it can be reversed as well. Go Taylor!!!! But I agree with DrewsieDrewsie about the connotations of this song.

  • Michelle E @ at 11:40 pm, December 15th, 2009

    Jenna- you say “give her virginity too.” is virginity a gift?

  • K8 AH @ at 3:46 am, December 16th, 2009

    Does she even write her own songs???

  • Tinnie @ at 4:49 am, December 16th, 2009

    i took it as sex too. i think it’s kinda brave of taylor to talk about sex, since shes usually sings light songs. but shes saying that “a guy left my friend after she gave her all to him, and it hurt us both. we were young, but now we know that not everyone who says i love u means it”

  • Amy CT @ at 5:31 pm, December 16th, 2009

    @K8 AH

    Yes, all of them. With help, but still.

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 1:22 pm, December 17th, 2009

    Mistake one – Listening to country music(words can not express how much I despise country and everything it stands for) :D :D :D

    But that’s more of taste rather than feminist issue.

  • Kat @ at 11:04 pm, December 17th, 2009

    The thing that first bothered me was how Abigail and Taylor laugh at all the other girls who think they’re cool. This could have been mitigated if she had mentioned laughing at boys who thought the were cool too, but currently it comes off as slut-shaming. (C’mon sisterhood!)

  • Steph @ at 2:35 pm, December 18th, 2009

    @Alex Catgirl: there’s good country out there – it’s kind of harsh to diss an entire genre just because the popular bits that play on the radio suck.

  • Valerie B. @ at 5:25 pm, December 18th, 2009

    dude. Seriously?
    You wouldn’t cry if something that emotional happened between your best friend? even if the line doesnt imply what you thiink it does, if a boy she really thought she loved ‘changes his mind’, you wouldnt even feel the slightest bit of emotion?
    I’m sorry, but is this what being Feminist is about? Giving up your emotions and feelings and hardening your natural female reactions? If it is, then I suppose Im not a complete feminist, only a half feminist-cuz Im not going to do it.

  • Amy CT @ at 5:33 pm, December 18th, 2009

    I have to agree with @Valerie B on this one.

    I should also probably apologise for the sheer number of comments I’ve posted… :-/

  • Kelly @ at 1:38 am, December 23rd, 2009

    I totally agree with Suzie and Valerie B.!

    I do agree though, that she should use her fame to help girls. I like that she doesn’t seem to be silly and parade around half naked and such. (Ahem, unlike some other teen stars out there.)

  • Colleen @ at 9:00 pm, January 5th, 2010

    I agree and disagree a lot with this post haha.
    I think that Taylor Swift’s song Fifteen IS like the embodiment of all stereotypes of naive fifteen year old girls. But I feel like just like any piece of poetry or art, the song is not like saying every single girl is like this at 15, but its just symbolic that every person has their own process growing up and there are many regrets and mistakes that allow them to grow older and wiser.
    I think by reading into Taylor Swift’s personal story we are forgetting the true meaning of the song. But in response to what you say about sex not being a big deal, I disagree, I think that society is making it seem like its too casual and it is becoming too casual, if we allow ourselves to have such a strong physical connection with someone without accepting the emotions that must come with it, that can be very unhealthy and emotionally damaging even if we don’t realize it. However, I don’t like how Taylor swift said “everything she had,” since it can be misinterpreted very negatively to say women are only worth sex. I think more what she was aiming for was literally she gave everything sexually, or “went all the way.”

  • Katie @ at 3:26 pm, January 13th, 2010

    Reading this has just opened my eyes. Obviously, Taylor Swift is a big influence on young girls and women out there and, reading from the lyric sheet accompanying her CD, I have to admit I am a little bewildered. How can such a beautiful, lucky young woman feel the need to let men walk all over her, if only to write good songs?
    I love her music, and admire her success, but I feel she should be sending out a more positive message to young girls – she seems to think that all a young girl thinks about is that gorgeous new boy she’s crushing on, probably as a distraction from the lastest guy who she has let walk all over her, and ‘give everything she had’ too!

  • Ana @ at 11:35 pm, October 28th, 2010

    She’s crying with her friend who had her heart broken.

    They’re not crying because she had sex.

    There’s nothing odd about that at all.

  • Linda @ at 11:43 pm, October 28th, 2010

    I didn’t take it as they’re crying just because she had sex.

    I think it’s because she lost her virginity to him, (and that is a big deal. especially to a fifteen year old. I totally disagree with what you said about sex not meaning anything.)and put her all into this relationship where he’changed his mind’.

  • Ariel @ at 6:44 pm, November 8th, 2010

    sorry if this song does not jibe with your creed, but it is very real to many teenage experiences…i suggest that several people open their eyes and shut their mouths.

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