I was toying with the idea of making a short post on the Nye and Ham Evolution vs. Creationism debate, but I couldn’t help but think 1) Why is that even a debate? And 2) What about Taylor Swift’s hair, though?
An article from The Toast, On Her Blondeness: The Semiotics of Taylor Swift’s Hair, examines the romanticization of blondness throughout history, and its chameleon-like powers to shift between angelic and virginal to provactive and devious. The way blondness is regarded in society allows blonds to “move back and forth between two sexualized fetishes.”
But why is Swift’s blonde hair so powerful? Its power isn’t about Swift qua Swift, it’s about the literary power of blonde hair and writerly preoccupation with that power. Swift’s carefully choreographed hair flip tapped into that long cultural fascination.
The author of the article, Stassa Edwards, then takes you way back, to the era of the Romantic poets, and examines how blondness was an obsession: not just on the sex level, but on the religious level, the nationalist level, and the poetic level. Blondness was used to signify immense power and influence, depending on how you wanted to use it. And the more we used these images, the more we bought into them. According to some people like Charles Dickens, blondness even had ACTUAL superpowers.
It’s not as crazy a narrative, even today. If you don’t want to buy into the “superpower” metaphor that is Taylor Swift’s blondness, one might actually think of one of Disney’s more recent projects, the movie Tangled, in which Rapunzel’s long blond hair helps heal people. But with great power comes great responsibility, and [spoiler] when her hair is cut short, she becomes a brunette and is relieved of her powers, and her burden.
Yeah, but what about Taylor Swift? It’s not like this article needs more views for being as historically and literarily aware as it is, but it’s worth reading the whole analysis. There is a substantial difference on the way white women are treated and regarded based on their hair color. We give them that power. As a woman, she’s still subject to whichever misogyny happens to be thrown at her (too much hair flipping, and she may fear that she’ll pull a full Miley), but Taylor Swift is an excellent example for how a blond can navigate between society’s views of Madonna vs. Whore in a matter of minutes.
You can read the full article on the semiotics of TaySwift’s hair here.