Taylor Swift has popularized many things- from red lipstick and blonde bobs to writing your ex’s name into songs. But perhaps her most pervasive phenomenon has been the popularization of having a “girl squad”- a group of tight knit girl friends that act as a sort of army protecting each other from the outside world. Her squad is an elite list of A-list Hollywood stars, from Victoria’s Secret models to fellow world-renowned musicians such as Selena Gomez. One of the most noteworthy things about her squad is just that- no one is out of place. It appears to be a carefully curated list of hot, thin, in demand, rich, young women. So it begs the question, is this kind of group empowering or just an excuse to promote exclusivity among women?
Now, we can’t credit Taylor with the invention of a girl group, that goes back to the beginning of time. Girl bands such as the Spice Girls broke boundaries set by their male counterparts, providing an example to women everywhere the power that comes with females uplifting each other. Time and time again throughout history we see examples of the power women can provide for each other. We can see it now- in women’s marches bringing together millions of women, tired of the lives we have been told to live, banding together to bring about change for another generation.
The difference to note is the militaristic style in which Swift presents her group. The best example of this is her “Bad Blood” music video, in which she literally shows two competing girl squads having an explosive battle because of a catfight between the two leaders, a blatant reference to her highly publicized feud with Katy Perry. This, to me, is where the problem lies. Encouraging violence, even small scale bullying, between girl groups is doing exactly what the patriarchy wants us to do- compete. Women have been put in competing positions from the beginning of time, cultivated by the men in power promoting the idea that women are in constant competition to be granted their attention.
And the thing is, Taylor Swift is a trendsetter to millions of little girls. So groups of 13 year old girls are creating their own “Squads”, picking the popular girls to band together in school cafeterias . We see Instagram pictures of middle school girl groups with #squad, and it is eerily reminiscent of the popular girl cliques depicted in movies like Mean Girls. That’s exactly the problem- we are cultivating a society of catty girl groups that deny entry to those they don’t seem fit, and war with one another when they sense competition. And even though it is important to have a circle of strong female friends, it is just as important to make sure it never becomes a closed circle. An exclusive circle. A circle that picks and chooses based on superficial values rather than true core friendships. The girl squad idea can be an empowering one, but before it is we have to diminish the competitive aspect and focus on the idea of women banding together against a greater evil, not each other.