Taylor Swift, Stanley cups and a brewing backlash to MAGA’s sexist snobbery

Thursday brought people who are worried about the survival of democracy welcome polling news from Quinnipiac University: For the first time in months, Joe Biden is cresting 50% in a head-to-head match-up with Donald Trump. That puts the current president 6 points ahead of the former president, who had been enjoying an alarming lead in polls for months, despite being under 91 felony indictments in four separate jurisdictions. We have women to thank for this swing towards basic sense and decency in the polls. 

“Women 58 – 36 percent support Biden, up from December when it was 53 – 41 percent,” explains the Quinnipiac analysis. “Men 53 – 42 percent support Trump, largely unchanged from December when it was 51 – 41 percent.”

So you enjoy bashing Taylor Swift, Republicans? Well, how’s that working out for you?

Okay, it’s probably not just about the hyper-famous pop star whose romance with a Super Bowl-bound football player has driven Republicans batty. Trump has been on TV bragging about how he’s the one who got Roe v. Wade overturned, a clip that has thankfully drowned out mainstream media efforts to paint him as somehow “moderate” on abortion. He also lost in court again to E. Jean Carroll, which resulted in a massive amount of news coverage reminding voters that, in the words of the judge, “Trump sexually abused — indeed, raped — Ms. Carroll.” Plus, Trump won both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, causing a lot of voters who were previously skeptical to understand that yes, the sexual assailant who attempted a coup really will be the Republican nominee for president again. 

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But let’s face it: The Taylor Swift thing is not helping Republicans. For those remaining 7 people still unaware, there’s been a growing amount of Republican hate towards the beloved singer-songwriter and her beau, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. They’re mad that she is an unashamed cat lady, that she’s more interested in being a superstar than a housewife, and, of course, that she is a Biden-endorsing liberal. But mostly the right is mad that Swift and her fans crush the stereotype that cat-loving feminists are ugly and unloved. This is why the fury metastasized over the weekend when Swift kissed her hunky boyfriend on the field after his big win. 

We have women to thank for this swing towards basic sense and decency in the polls. 

Fox News went ape with outrage at this young (ish) love. Trump got involved, pathetically lying by saying he’s “more popular” than Swift while his allies dramatically declared “holy war” on her. The combination of overkill, silliness, and pop culture relevance sent the story of GOP angst over Swift into every corner of the media. So even people who pay very little attention to politics were hearing about MAGA’s beef with America’s sweetheart. Most people, however, did not react how Republicans had hoped, by deciding they now hate Swift. Instead, they were grossed out by the misogyny. As popular sports commentator Colin Cowherd said in a viral video this week, the hate is coming from “weird, lonely, insecure men” who “are often misogynistic and resent women.”

Or, as the big brains setting the MAGA strategy might say, their voting base. 

Starting in 2014 with “Gamergate,” an online harassment campaign against women in the gaming industry, Trump advisor Steve Bannon has championed the idea that misogynist tantrums in the face of “girl power” pop culture would attract young male voters to the GOP. That’s why there’s this targeted GOP hate at everything from Cardi B’s hit songs to the “Barbie” movie.

As Adam Serwer recently wrote in the Atlantic, Republicans hope the overt misogyny is “a way to expand their base of support beyond the core of white Christian conservatives,” by reaching some men of color and non-religious men. The strategy has had some success, especially in radicalizing angry young men by blaming feminism rather than their own hygiene/video game addictions for their romantic failures. But what Bannon and his crew failed to account for is that women can also vote, and they are getting increasingly angry about this crap. 

The pandemic exposed how much the nation still relies on women’s unpaid labor to keep the economy running. The thanks women got for holding things together, however, were abortion bans.

It doesn’t help that these misogynist pile-ons are happening against a backdrop of rising frustration from women over being overworked and underappreciated. As Melanie McFarland wrote at Salon, regarding the cultural impact of the “Barbie” movie, there’s a reason audiences gushed for America Ferrara’s “being a woman is impossible” speech. The pandemic exposed how much the nation still relies on women’s unpaid labor to keep the economy running. The thanks women got for holding things together, however, were abortion bans and a cascade of media stories demanding that women settle for unsatisfying marriages so men don’t have to suffer the indignities of wifelessness. The injustice of it all is getting harder to ignore. 

I’ve been struck, for instance, by this bizarre and sudden freakout over the Stanley cup — not the hockey trophy, but the thermos that has suddenly become a hot commodity among lady influencers and their legions of fans. As Daniela Pierre-Bravo at MSNBC documented, the Stanley Quencher model has been around since 2016, but exploded in popularity after three online influencers convinced the company “to start marketing to women for the first time.” The campaign focused on moms by highlighting that it’s a great way to caffeinate and hydrate while driving kids around to soccer games and, oh yeah, it’s dishwasher-safe. 

But of course women can’t simply enjoy something, even something so innocent as a water bottle, without it kicking off a massive moral panic. We’re now deluged with scare stories about how the cups are dangerous (they’re not) and sensationalist stories about how women are going too far in their enthusiasm for the cups. “Saturday Night Live” even had a sketch about the “big dumb cups” that went viral despite being only mildly funny. 

I admit I laughed a few times, but basically the joke of the skit was a series of stereotypes about middle-class soccer moms being vapid. Which isn’t just unfair, but frustratingly so. These are women who are doing everything they were told they’re “supposed” to do. They got married and had kids. They try to stay sexy and fashionable, and keep their marriages interesting despite being overwhelmed with responsibilities. And their reward for hard work and sacrifice and conforming to social expectations? They get shamed because they want a nice cup to make their endless responsibilities a little easier. Because a woman’s job is apparently to sacrifice and never want the slightest creature comfort for herself. 

So far, the right-wing noise machine has mostly left the Stanley cups alone, though give it time. But the cup discourse adds to the larger aggravation that comes from the Taylor Swift hate or the parade of hand-wringing articles demanding women lower their standards to get married to Trump voters. It really is impossible to be a woman. Even if you clip your own wings and marry someone who is beneath you, the next phase of your life is being told you’re a bimbo because you want your coffee to stay hot in between PTA meetings. Complicity, it turns out, buys you nothing but more bulls**t.

I know that Biden’s campaign will reject my proposed slogan: “Stanley cups and free abortions.” Still, it’s a vibe and one they’d be wise to ride throughout what is going to be, if the Swift paranoia is any indication, a ridiculously sexist campaign from the other side. 

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about the right’s obsession with Taylor Swift


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