An Open Response To “Dear Taylor Swift, You Are Not A Victim, So Stop Acting Like One”
I don’t often get heated about Taylor Swift haters. Ever since “Teardrops On My Guitar” was uploaded onto my iPod shuffle, I’ve resented her at different points for things like not speaking out about politics until it was arguably too late. I’ve skipped reptuation songs when they’ve come on shuffle for fear that if people on the subway saw I was listening to it, they’d think that I, too, was a “white feminist.” I’ve thought that the way she’s slammed certain exes was a little ~much~. But while reading a USA Today opinion piece called, “Dear Taylor Swift, You Are Not A Victim, So Stop Acting Like One,” I was angry — particularly at the writer’s suggestion that embracing femininity cancels-out experienced misogyny.
The writer mostly critiques Taylor’s track on Lover called “The Man,” a song that stipulates some of Taylor Swift’s most public actions would be less condemned if she were a celebrity guy. Perhaps the lyric that most fully details this, to me, is, “Let the players play / I’d be just like Leo, in Saint-Tropez.” Of course, she’s referring to Leonardo DiCaprio, whose long list of ex-lovers includes mostly younger, white, skinny models but is still emblematic of the perfect celebrity to many. He’s aged gracefully and resisted going under the knife excessively, he speaks out about politics and climate change, he’s #BFFGoals with Kate Winslet, among his other creative triumphs. Taylor, whose long list of ex-lovers includes Harry Styles, Calvin Harris, and Jake Gyllenhaal is instead defined by her “serial dating” tendencies — and her penchant for writing bops about her exes.
“If anything, Taylor Swift’s gender has not been a hindrance to her — it has been an asset. Her incredibly successful brand is uniquely feminine,” the writer asserts.
She continues, “Look at the way she dresses, the way she sets up her stages or the cover art she chooses. Her newest contribution, Lover, is adorned with a blue sky, pink fluffy clouds, and writing that could only have come from a sparkly gel pen. Part of Swift’s appeal is her unabashed femininity.”
Let’s put aside that this writer is downgrading the intelligence of her songwriting with her reference to “sparkly gel pens” — which is sexist in itself. But in essence, this claim suggests that if one appreciates her femininity then she must appreciate all that comes with her gender. You can’t love wearing short dresses if you don’t love the men on the side of the street whistling at you while you walk by, right? You know — the ones who shout at you to “suck [their] dick” because they like the short dress you’re wearing, too. It’s classic victim-blaming and, yes, Taylor Swift is a victim. You might not love her music, you might think that she should have told her fans not to vote for Donald Trump during the 2016 elections, but just because you don’t like her doesn’t mean that you can diminish the fact that she was groped by DJ David Mueller and won her court battle against him. The writer conveniently mentions she was “grabbed from behind during a photo-op,” without referring explicitly to the gender-based violence that she endured.
It’s worth noting I, too, would consider myself to be “unabashed [in my] femininity.” Why shouldn’t I be? Why shouldn’t Taylor Swift be? Anyone who identifies as a woman should be allowed to appreciate what it means to express their gender without forfeiting the right to say that being a woman can be unfair. I’m allowed to like makeup, short skirts, the color pink, and Ariana Grande, while also saying — loudly, usually — that it feels pretty shitty knowing that most of my women friends and I have been the victims of sexual assault.
Taylor Swift is not faultless. In fact, she’ll admit her bad choices herself if you listen to “Daylight” or “Afterglow,” but attacking women for playing ‘the victim card’ and asserting that you’re not a victim of patriarchy if you embrace your womanhood ultimately exacerbates the problem.