Existential Story; Or, What Does Taylor Swift Have To Do With Martin Buber?

Martin Buber, the Austrian philosopher, is best known for his I and Thou theory. In it, he explains that human existence is a constant series of encounters, and that all of them fall into the category of I-Thou (interacting with another living thing, equal to yourself) or I-It (interacting with an inanimate object, inferior to yourself). An I-Thou relationship has no particular structure and no particular content. You could have such a relationship with a lover, a cat, a tree. What is important is that you and your companion are approaching each other without preconceived notions; you are encountering their true, authentic self, and they are also encountering your authentic self.

The opposite of the I-Thou relationship is an I-It relationship, in which two living beings don't actually meet. You could be talking to someone right now, but if you are thinking of them as an object or an idea, you're not really talking to them. Instead, you are communicating with a mental representation of that person in your own head. Anytime you approach a living being with the sole purpose of using or experiencing them, you have failed to have a meaningful encounter with anyone but yourself.

The general public tends to see celebrities as some sort of distant Other, a being from another world, sent to inform and entertain us. We watch morning television interviews, read tabloids, listen to music, and watch movies, all hoping to get a little closer to these Others. Sometimes, we even feel like we really know them. But we don't. Even if we spoke to them personally, we've built them up so much that we will try to relate to their public image, rather than their private persona. And on that note, let's discuss Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift has been getting quite a bit of attention from feminist bloggers, such as Amanda Hess , Sady Doyle, Alyssa Rosenberg, and Kate Harding. Some of it is positive ("mature and lovely songwriting) and some of it is very negative (see any of Sady Doyle's over-capitalized sentences). But why so much analysis of a person who I personally find to be light and non-controversial?

It's because everyone sees her as a symbol. The Christian Right sees her as a blessed paragon of virtue, sent to battle Miley, Britney, Gaga, and the rest of the party girls (I think Lady Gaga is in an entirely different class than those first two, but that's a topic for another day). Music snobs see her as yet another terrible pop/country artist, polluting the airwaves with saccharine acoustic guitar. And angry feminists see her as a Barbie doll, bent on dragging us back to the 50's.

I think all of that is ridiculous. She's a 19 year old girl. Yes, technically she is an adult, but in an age where it's considered reasonable to live at home when you are 24, that doesn't mean much. I feel that her refusal to act older than she is, is refreshing. She writes about topics that are meaningful and important to herself and to her audience (which is pre-teen and teen girls) and there is nothing wrong with that.

You do, of course, have the right to call her whatever you want, but I don't think that you should say things about people-and celebrities ARE people-that you would not say to their face. And if you would call a (from all accounts, incredibly nice) young lady a "cartoonishly innocent and pure, white-dress-wearing, blonde blue-eyed white girl thing" to her cute little face? Well, then you really ARE a bitch. And not in an empowered way.


NAMBLA Members
Circle I Limbo

Creationists, Parents who bring squalling brats to R-rated movies
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind

General asshats, Militant Vegans
Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow

Circle IV Rolling Weights

Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled

River Styx

Osama bin Laden, Jerry Falwell
Circle VI Buried for Eternity

River Phlegyas

PETA Members
Circle VII Burning Sands

Bernie Madoff
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement

The Pope
Circle IX Frozen in Ice

Design your own hell


We Find Our Heroine At the Brink of a Grand Adventure

Subnormality is a pretty excellent comic. If you've never read it before, you should check it out. The latest strip totally sums up the wonderful variety of human nature.

It also excellently sets the tone of my blog, which is going to be a patchwork of interests and opinions. I'm not going to say much about my personal life; this isn't Twitter or Facebook and there's no need for "I went to the mall today..." posts.