In what universe would Julia Roberts and Joan Baez hang out with Taylor Swift? What could a ’60s folk icon and Gen-X’s Pretty Woman possibly have in common with the millennial version of Olivia Newton John? Absolutely nothing beyond the modern pantheon pop culture has dubbed the “Girl Squad.” According to girl squad logic it was totally cool for Swift to haul Baez and Roberts on stage during a California show. The whole episode was such B.S. that one fan called Swift out on it in what became a viral video. Who’s next? A hologram of Maya Angelou, indeed.
Despite the obvious bull of Swift’s “girl squad,” pop culture vultures could only howl at feminist outcast Camille Paglia’s dubbing of the artist as a “Nazi Barbie.” Of course, they did so in order to intentionally gloss over Paglia’s scathing commentary of the girl squad’s lethally faux-feminist vibe. It’s always easier to condemn the critic who doesn’t play along than to actually pay truth its due. But in latching onto the easy “Nazi Barbie” slur (much akin to Ann Coulter’s “f-ing’ Jews” tweet, published for shock value) the trending morons missed even better meat for their fangs: Paglia said girls should learn from… MEN!
Girl squads ought to be about mentoring, exchanging advice and experience and launching exciting and innovative joint projects. Women need to study the immensely productive dynamic of male bonding in history. With their results-oriented teamwork, men largely have escaped the sexual jealousy, emotionalism and spiteful turf wars that sometimes dog women.
I have always favored friendships with men and enjoyed many platonic relationships bereft of catfights, gossip and baseless chatter about minutiae best left to the pages of grocery store checkout rags. Friendships with men introduced me to the world of television and film production, through which I met my husband for whom relationships exist in order to create, innovate and produce as much as enjoy. In the bizarre alternate universe that is Hollywood, however, female celebrities are only ever seen with men in terms of sex. The women are sultry figures in pursuit of adoration akin to goddess worship. Sexuality being their most coveted possession, these women parade their boys around like the catch of the day, proof to the madding crowd that they are deserving of glory, laud and honor.
No one knows this better than Swift, reigning Queen of the sad-siren breakup ballads. Never have men been used so effectively to produce and promote the image of a simpering, heartbroken virginal queen. Paglia writes that girl squads should focus on working together to achieve results. This is impossible, because a glorified self-image is the desired “result.” Crafting oneself into a goddess is a divide-and-conquer career goal. Collaboration is only ever performed in terms of girls versus boys. Men don’t divide and conquer female friendships. Goddess egos do.
But, please, focus on the Nazi Barbie comment. It’s easier to pick on Paglia for her quick-witted flashback to the days of Sandra Dee and Doris Day, an era long-forgotten in today’s Insta-world with its Snapchat-style memory span. After all, there’s no way Swift with all her grrrl power could ever be reduced to a blonde-hair, blue-eyed, sweet-voiced celebrity goddess. She and her gal pals own their bodies and how they bare them. They’re in control of whom they sleep with and how they use their sex to advance their public image.
Perhaps Swift should add Aphrodite and Ishtar to her cadre of guest stars. They’re as girl squad as you can get.