Op-Ed: Should we stop hating Taylor Swift?
Posted: by The Editor
Netflix original Miss Americana shows Taylor Swift’s transition from a people-pleasing country star to a resilient pop icon. The documentary is insightful, but it’s integral to note that it very well could have been crafted to cast her in a flattering light. Feel free to venerate her, but approach it with caution.
The film revisits memorable career moments, like Kanye West intercepting her acceptance speech at the 2009 VMAs by spouting “Imma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best albums of all time.” Holding an opinion is fine, but clouding someone else’s joy to express it is inconsiderate. And Beyonce’s loss wasn’t cataclysmic. She still continued to have a flourishing career after that night.
Perhaps, this interruption foreshadowed Kanye’s more recent overt bigotry. Asserting slavery is a choice and tweeting about Bill Cosby’s innocence are obviously far, far more insulting than heckling someone, but parallels can be drawn between these events. They all suggest West craves attention enough to be willing to hurt others to obtain it.
Years later, Kanye rapped “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / why? I made that bitch famous” in his song “Famous.” The discourse in Miss Americana largely surrounds West’s decision to use the epithet “bitch,” noting that Swift was taken aback by his verbiage. But I find the line preceding that one to be troubling, too. It hinges on the notion that sex can be earned, arguing that he has more of a chance of engaging in it with her because he granted her clout. But sex should be mutually agreed upon, and no one is entitled to it just because they did someone a favor. The lyric is tangential to the concept of coercion, in which men employ manipulation to present evidence that they are deserving of sex.
And for what it’s worth, the line is hardly accurate. West didn’t kick start her career; Swift was famous before he interrupted her. After all, when he did so, she was on stage to…accept an award. Career success is a prerequisite to earning a VMA.
Swift spent much of her career circumnavigating controversy by remaining apolitical and demure. Eventually, she grew tired of being bombastic and decided it was time to grow a spine. In 2018, Swift openly criticized Tennessee senator candidate Marsha Blackburn for voting against the interests of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Initially, it didn’t impress me. I didn’t think it was incredibly courageous. She could’ve taken a stand a lot sooner, and it felt like she waited until being progressive ideals were ubiquitous enough to no longer threaten the livelihood of her career.
But Swift offered more perspective in the film. Her publicity team pressured her into not taking a stand, pointing out that it’s not necessarily a dire need. It’s worth noting that politician Mike Huckabee said Swift’s endorsement was futile because teenagers cannot vote anyway.
Circling back to West, he didn’t respect her very much, either. He sexualized her. He insisted his obnoxiousness was the reason she had a career. This isn’t conducive to making someone feel empowered. We know he silenced her that night in 2009, but it’s also possible that his decision had a lasting effect that made her feel undeserving of occupying space. It’s understandable that she was hesitant about speaking out for so long.
It’s harsh to expect perfection out of everyone. Rather than denigrating her for not being political sooner in her career, I’m happy she eventually did it. People change, and we should encourage them do so. I used to have an aversion to Taylor Swift but now, I regret not empathizing with her more. I’m glad she found her voice and became forthright, even if it took some time.
Bineet Kaur // @hellobineet
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