In a new essay in the Hollywood Reporter, social critic Camille Paglia discusses Taylor Swift and Hollywood's "girl squad" phenomenon.
"Girl squad" refers to a group of young women who socialize and work together in Hollywood. Names associated with the groups (there can be more than one) include Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, Kendall Jenner, Reese Witherspoon and Selena Gomez.
In her essay, Paglia argues that girls squads can be healthy, but only if the women involved focus on mentoring and creativity and not "grievance" feminism. Some excerpts:
With gender issues like pay equity for women actors and writers coming increasingly to the fore, girl squads can be seen as a positive step toward expanding female power in Hollywood, where ownership has been overwhelmingly male since the silent film era. For all its dictatorial overcontrol, however, the early studio system also provided paternalistic protection and nurturance for young women under contract. Marilyn Monroe was a tragic victim of the slow breakdown of that system: The studio made her, but in the end it could not save her from callous predators, including the Kennedys.
Given the professional stakes, girl squads must not slide into a cozy, cliquish retreat from romantic fiascoes or communication problems with men, whom feminist rhetoric too often rashly stereotypes as oafish pigs. If many women feel lonely or overwhelmed these days, it's not due to male malice. Women have lost the natural solidarity and companionship they enjoyed for thousands of years in the preindustrial agrarian world, where multiple generations chatted through the day as they shared chores, cooking and child care.
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.
If women in Hollywood seek a broad audience, they must aim higher and transcend a narrow gender factionalism that thrives on grievance. Girl squads are only an early learning stage of female development. For women to leave a lasting mark on culture, they need to cut down on the socializing and focus like a laser on their own creative gifts.