Response paper for my fall Argumentation (COMM3700) course. 2017.
Taylor Swift’s application of emotional refusal throughout her career not only benefits her brand, but also silently takes down her aggressors.
According to Heinrich, emotional refusal is “when being bullied or heckled, refuse to show the emotion the bully wants. Gain the audience’s sympathy by trying to look calm and above it all” (Heinrich, 109). In a nutshell, emotional refusal is a common defense mechanism that means simply ignoring the opponent’s argument—it’s the grown-up way of saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Emotional refusal is best used in situations when facing a real-life bully, because if you react, you are liable to show emotion, which is exactly what the opponent is hoping for. Although it may seem to be admitting defeat in ignoring the opponent and giving him or her the last word, utilizing emotional refusal and shaking it off is actually taking away the opponent’s voice—because having nothing new to work with or bounce off of, they will run out of substantial arguments other than what has already been established, thus making the opponent’s argument trite. In brief, emotional refusal is a defense mechanism used when arguing where the opponent is not acknowledged, meaning the best way to react in some cases, is not to react. A lot can be said in the unsaid, and using emotional refusal can tear down the opponent by invalidating their claims.
We see Taylor Swift utilizing emotional refusal in her “feud” with Katy Perry. I put feud in quotations because Taylor Swift has yet to acknowledge her existence, thus applying emotional refusal. The feud began when Swift released “Bad Blood” from 1989 and said in a 2014 Rolling Stones interview it was inspired by an unnamed artist who tried to sabotage Swift’s arena tour (Eells). The following day, Perry tweeted “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing…” and later confirmed to Billboard magazine it was directed at Swift: “If somebody is trying to defame my character, you’re going to hear about it” (Ringen). Since 2014, Perry has yet to quit talking about Swift in interviews, tweets, and even a failed song titled “Swish Swish,” whereas Swift has simply said, “I’m not giving them anything to write about,” continuing to use emotional refusal (Sutherland). Additionally, we see the consequences Perry endures from not using the silent tactic day her 2017 album Witness debuted. Swift simultaneously and quietly released her entire discography on Spotify, which outperformed Perry’s album release. That first day, Swift’s three-year-old album 1989 alone was streamed 1,686,673 times, whereas Perry’s Witness was streamed 1,109,471 times (Farley). Perry’s one-sided dialogue in her feud with Swift proves how effective emotional refusal is; like Heinrich says, looking calm and collected has made Swift seem to be above it all. Swift’s use of emotional refusal on the matter has not affected her career, whereas Perry’s constant outspoken comments have made Perry out to be the villain, causing her career to struggle. Look what you made her do, Katy.
Eells, Josh. “Cover Story: The Reinvention of Taylor Swift.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 8 Sept. 2014, http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/taylor-swift-1989-cover-story-20140908.
Farley, Donovan, et al. “Taylor Swift Is Out Performing Katy Perry on Spotify.” Consequence of Sound, 11 June 2017, consequenceofsound.net/2017/06/taylor-swift-is-out-performing-katy-perry-on-spotify/.
Ringen, Jonathan. “Behind the Scenes with Katy Perry as She Rehearses for the Super Bowl.” Billboard, Billboard, 30 Jan. 2015, http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/6457879/billboard-cover-katy-perry-talks-super-bowl-and-fame.
Sutherland, Mark. “Taylor Swift Interview: ‘A Relationship? No One’s Going to Sign up for This’.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 23 May 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopfeatures/11430433/Taylor-Swift-interview-A-relationship-No-ones-going-to-sign-up-for-this.html.