I get that Taylor Swift has done bad things. I get that she has slut-shamed, that she has played into the Madonna/Whore dichotomy, and that she is not terribly nice to people who date the boys she likes herself. None of these are good things, especially not when you’re extolling their virtues in songs directed to millions of young, impressionable girls who look up to everything you say and do as Gospel.
I get that.
However, and I know I’m going to ruffle some feathers here, because the internet seems to have descended on T. Swift with a hatred that calls to mind the scene in a Nat Geo documentary where the starving lioness finally catches up to the zebra, our hatred has gotten a little weird. Like, we seem to think it’s okay to write the most horrible, cruel, mocking things we can about this woman with impunity and are somehow immune from any moral responsibility because she has labeled herself “not a girl’s girl” and there is thus completely open season on her.
We have even gone so far as to engage in serious slut-shaming directed towards her, I suppose justified with her decision to do the same in a few of her songs. We make constant fun of her for dating a lot of guys and talking about them in her music — something countless male artists do, by the by — and somehow believe that this is not a completely hypocritical example to give to all of the young girls we claim she is poisoning with her lyrical penchant for dissing other women. The response to her decision to judge other women based on how many people they date has become to do it to her, en masse, with absolutely no remorse. We’ve come full-circle on our slut-shaming, and see nothing strange about this.
What’s so odd about this, though, is that the insanely salacious headlines and satirical ripping-apart we are only so glad to give her is somehow not reserved for the aforementioned male artists who a) date tons of women and then write songs about them or b) have openly misogynist lyrics throughout their body of work. I’m sure we could all rattle off a dozen male artists off the top of our head who have either abused women in their lives or written flippantly about the topic, and yet Gawker isn’t racking its collective brain trust for the most insulting headline possible they can pen about them. We are not dragging them through the mud for the very real crime of helping the subjugation of women, but we are happy to do so with Swift.
There seems to me to be something very primal in the frothing hatred of Taylor we see everywhere on the internet, something that almost seems to stem from the high school desire of wanting the pretty girl (the pretty girl who, despite her popularity, was never benevolently kind to those not like her) to fall. We want to drag her around because she was once America’s sweetheart, and wielded her lyrical power for what we perceive to be evil. And while, yes, she has made some pretty unfortunate decisions about the way she talks about other women, many of the offending lyrics were penned while she was still in her teens. It seems strange to direct all of this hatred for the young girl who is still figuring herself out, as opposed to the many male artists who continue to be sexist well into old age.
I am not saying that everyone who dislikes Taylor Swift is a bad person, or jealous, or is actively wanting to see her get hurt. (I’ll be honest, I don’t really like her music that much and don’t care for her persona.) But it seems completely disingenuous to throw her under the proverbial bus for her crimes in slut-shaming and not being supportive of other women, when there is a laundry list we could never fully tally of men who have done much worse and fly completely under the radar. If we want to have the discussion about sexism in pop music, let’s have it, but let’s not burn the effigy of Taylor Swift while people like Eminem manage to walk out of the room unscathed.