How to be Just Like Other Girls (Taylor’s Version), by Eleanor Prytherch
I had an epiphany recently which—as all great epiphanies do—came as a result of a Tumblr post I found on one of my increasingly seldom scrolls through the old blue dashboard. Found here, the post unapologetically expresses appreciation for what it’s like to be “just like other girls”—one of the “taylor swift and twilight and rom coms” type of girls. With this week’s release of Red (Taylor’s Version), this particular post has been on my mind as I’m realizing just how fun it is to be just like other girls.
Most people that have been a teenage girl are aware of the “not like other girls” phenomenon: the desire to set yourself apart from other girls your age that’s rooted in internalized misogyny. I fell victim to the “not like other girls” phase as a teenager, and to be honest, it’s hard to escape even now. Particularly for a queer and neurodivergent girl like myself, rejecting mainstream “girl culture” tends to be a method of self-preservation against a culture that won’t fully accept me anyway.
Through no fault of my own, I’ve never been able to be “like other girls,” even if I wanted to be. The social intricacies of female groups leave me feeling utterly lost, and my queerness puts a baseline level of distance between me and most straight girls I talk to. I’ve found a level of safety and empowerment in rejecting that dynamic of my own accord and being proud of my identity as a butch lesbian. And yet, there are still some things that tie me firmly to that old sense of “girly girlhood,” and Taylor Swift lies at the center of it all.
Girls get made fun of for anything. It’s old news that we can't win no matter what we do in the eyes of society. There’s a long history of media with a predominantly young female audience being deemed frivolous or shallow. To give an often cited example, the Beatles weren’t taken seriously during the first years of their career because their fans were mainly teen girls. To be fair, a lot of what falls under this category in this day and age has legitimate criticisms against it. Twilight’s representation of indegenous peoples leaves a lot to be desired, and Harry Styles’s lauded gender bending fashion is far from original, to name a few. And yet, these criticisms are lobbed far more harshly at the pop culture entities propped up by audiences of predominantly teenage girls. I remember my friends in high school laughing off my excited suggestion that they should listen to the freshly released Reputation.This exemplified their pattern of looking down on her for no good reason, other than her mainstream status in pop culture.
Although the term is new, I’ve been a Swiftie since the age of seven, when my mom showed me the music video for You Belong With Me. Twelve years later, I now consider myself more of the indie-folk persuasion when it comes to music, but I have a deep loyalty to Taylor after growing up with a new album to underscore each chapter of my life. I remember dancing in the living room to Speak Now with my sister when we were little kids. Red was the album for my transition to middle school. Folklore became the soundtrack for navigating my first semester of college during a pandemic.
I’ve never felt more like a teenage girl than in the moments I’ve spent passionately lip-syncing to songs from Fearless over homework at my childhood desk, or crying over my latest crush to Last Kiss. Her poetic lyricism has kept me coming back for every single new release, and I’ve found myself just as excited about the re-release of Red as I have been for any of her new albums. There’s something liberating about allowing yourself to genuinely and unabashedly enjoy the things that so many other girls like, and to reject the shame that’s always threatening to crop up.
I’ve noticed, with this latest release especially, how much of a role her music plays in my own ability to relate to my peers. I’ve had girls I’ve never talked to before respond to my Instagram story with their own thoughts on my rant about the casting in the All Too Well short film. As I walked to the Rec last Friday listening to Better Man, one of the “from the vault” tracks on Red (Taylor’s Version), I walked past a girl in a car blasting the same song. I’ve felt a kinship with all the girls on Miami’s campus who have grown up with Taylor’s music, leaning into it as the soundtrack to adolescents in a culture that pokes fun at them for their melodrama, their tears over breakups, and their abusive friendships that get written off as “drama.”
Even when there’s so much about girlhood I don’t understand, I can still participate in enjoyment of this kind of media that society has decided is covertly gendered, and I can bond with other young girls over the struggles we all share. Girls can look down on each other for the media they enjoy, they can even try to separate them from their associations with girlhood. None of that really feels as good as screaming the ten minute version of “All Too Well” with the windows down, knowing that so many girls have done the same.