Students who do cool things: Clara Beyer ’14 (a.k.a @FeministTSwift)

(BlogDH) Cover Photo

“I’m sick and tired of… what?”

Clara Beyer ’14 is in her uncle’s New York apartment, thinking about Taylor Swift’s “Tell Me Why.” She’s lying on the couch, brainstorming her next tweet. There’s no process to it: sometimes, the idea comes first and then the lyrics, and sometimes, she starts with the song. “I’ve got no one to believe in … role models!” She finishes her message, rereads it, and hits “Post” to publish it for her over 100,000 followers.

Welcome to the life of the author of FeministTaylorSwift, the latest Twitter sensation. If the name Clara seems familiar, that’s because it’s not the first time the rising senior has gone viral. She’s part of the team behind Cosmarxpolitan, Tumblr’s go-to source for 50 steamy ways to throw a revolution. (Seriously, though, you should check it out). Fellow Cosmarxist Kevin Carty ‘15 encouraged Clara to pursue her single-purpose Twitter idea, and helped her compose the first couple of 140-character bites of heartbreak, young love, and gender role deconstruction.

Since starting the parody account on June 13, FeministTaylorSwift has blown up on the Internet and has been featured on BuzzFeed, Washington Post, HuffPo, and TMZ (not to name names or anything). BlogDH had the chance to sit down with Clara over Blue State iced coffee to talk about her process, Taylor Swift’s brand of feminism, and how it feels to go viral overnight.

BlogDailyHerald: So this idea came to you like a random burst of inspiration, or had you been thinking about something like this?
Clara Beyer: I was walking home from work, and I was listening to Taylor Swift. I have this idea, “idea for single-purpose Twitter: Feminist Taylor Swift.” And I tweeted it, and I thought that was it, I’ll never think about it again. And then I get home, and I get a phone call from my friend Kevin Carty ’15, and he’s like, “Clara, you need to do this.” And so he and I talked about it for 10 minutes, and brainstormed, and it happened.

BlogDH: And do you write most of the tweets yourself?
CB: Yeah. Most of it is just me. Kevin and I collaborated on the first 3 or 4, and then I just kept doing because I have a really long commute and don’t have much to do at my internship… So there are, like, a 100-some, and I’ve written all but 5. I also retweet ones that people send to me.

BlogDH: When did you realize that this had exploded?
CB: When BuzzFeed wanted to interview me. And even that — the number of followers I had at that point, 6,000 or 7,000, in retrospect, that seems like a small number to me. But it was overnight. And when the BuzzFeed article came out, [I was getting] followers every minute.

BlogDH: So we’ve seen Huffington Post, Washington Post, TMZ…
CB: Oh my god, TMZ happened.

BlogDH: What was the most exciting call to get, from a news source or a publication interested in the account?
CB: I think the most exciting thing so far has been that I’ve gotten a couple of e-mails from literary agents who are encouraging me to think about writing a book with this concept.

BlogDH: So you could have a Feminist Ryan Gosling-type situation with this.
CB: Yeah. Maybe I could write a book, maybe if I did that people would read it. And maybe the people that would read it would have one more reason to think about feminism, like at least enter that conversation. I’m going to keep tweeting until I run out of ideas.

BlogDH: Has anyone meme-ified you yet?
CB: No, but someone made a music video using the feminist Taylor Swift lyrics.

Screen shot 2013-06-23 at 2.11.21 PM

BlogDH: You’ve spoken extensively about the intersectionality of Taylor Swift’s songs and feminism, and how Taylor Swift is unknowingly feminist. How do you cope with being a feminist and a Swiftie?
CB: Liking Taylor Swift and being a feminist, there is tension there, but you can’t only like unproblematic things. It’s not like I stopped watching Disney movies when I became a feminist— there’s a lot of stuff out there that doesn’t agree with feminism, but that I still like. That’s kind of what inspired this whole Twitter thing. Saying, “So, feminism is this… it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, as long as you work hard, you’ll be able to get success.” And that might not be true in society right now, but it should be true. And if you believe that to be true, that’s feminism.

BlogDH: How would you introduce Taylor Swift to feminism?
CB: My interest in feminism isn’t very academic… But people on Twitter have credited me with making feminism accessible to a bunch of preteen Taylor Swift fans. Taylor Swift’s message has evolved a lot. In her first album, she said things that were not okay, but she was 16 when the album came out. You grow up, you grow out of it. Since then, it’s only been getting more and more progressive. In “You Belong With Me” she’s hating on the girl wearing high heels but in “Begin Again” she’s like “He didn’t like me when I wore high heels but I do” so other people can go fuck themselves. [Ed note: Clara quickly added that those were her words, not T-Swift’s.]

BlogDH: How has Brown helped you create and manage this account?
CB: I feel like Brown is a really easy place to be a feminist, and I forgot that this was a controversial thing to call yourself. Not that I’ve been in a lot of environments since I’m 21, but Brown is the most creative, intellectual place and environment I’ve ever been ever. It’s so fun, and every time I have some crazy idea, there are three people to back me up, and think it’s awesome.

BlogDH: What kind of ideas?
CB: I had this one project that never took off at all, which I was doing in my spare time ‘cause it was fun, and it’s called “Sad Quotes, Girly Backgrounds.” It’s just sad quotes on girly backgrounds. I made this and showed my friends who were like “Clara, this is great!” but if I were out in the real world, in non-Brown zone I feel like it would not be as well received. This is just fun stuff I do.

BlogDH: Do you have any swag campaign for Feminist Taylor Swift?
CB: We actually have a Teespring campaign going on.

BlogDH: So, having 100k followers is pretty sweet. But you must receive hate every once in a while. Can you give us some examples of the most ridiculous hate mail you’ve received?

Grab 2013-06-24 at 2.28.54 PM

BlogDH: This might be the toughest question we have for you: what’s your favorite Taylor Swift song?
CB: Oh, that’s a hard one… Maybe “Ours”.

BlogDH: What’s your favorite @FeministTSwift tweet thus far?
CB: “I like glitter and sparkly dresses / And feminism” — FeministTaylorSwift (@feministtswift) June 22, 2013

[It’s from her 2009 SNL monologue, which was a song, so these qualify as “lyrics”. Not to our surprise, Clara really knows her TSwift.]

BlogDH: Your message to Taylor Swift, in 140 characters or fewer:
CB: @taylorswift13 Guess what: you’re a feminist! Shh, don’t worry, it’s okay. We can make cookies and talk about it. #letsbefriends

BlogDH: Last but not least, we’d like you to play a round of BergeMash, using T. Swift’s discography. Show us what you’ve got. 

PHIL1590 – Forever and Always: Interrogating Eternity
GNSS1945 –  Dear John: Women and Sexuality in the era of the World Wars
LITR1774B – Better than Revenge: Deconstructing the Motives of a Personal Narrative
POLS1220 – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together: Reflections on the 21st Century from Former Soviet States
BIOL2665 – A Perfectly Good Heart: Advanced Topics in the Human Circulatory System

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