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  • Jayne Samborn

“That’s What People Say”: How Stereotypes Have Stained Swift’s Success

“No one likes a mad woman / You made her like that.” Taylor Swift’s song “mad woman” is about the universal female rage that develops from how women are treated and manipulated to be the villain, even when they are acting in self-defense.

Swift has grown up in the limelight, beginning her career as a sixteen year old in 2006, and now releasing her tenth studio album at almost thirty-three. She has had to learn a lot about life and love while everyone is watching her and judging her.

With nine confirmed public relationships, and many more dating rumors, news sites have constantly attacked her for not being able to keep a man. Twitter is plagued with aggressive tweets calling her derogatory terms for all the men she’s dated. Conversely, the number and age range of her previous partners are exceeded by those of many famous men such as George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, and many others. These men are beloved by society and labeled “heartthrobs” by the media rather than the belittling terms used against Swift.

In 2019, she addressed the double standard in her song “The Man.” The chorus declares “‘Cause if I was a man / Then I’d be the man,” capturing her point that if she were male then many of the things she is criticized for now would be things that people admire. That song perfectly describes the primary reasons she is constantly attacked by society– her gender. If people were to look at her accomplishments and music independently, she would likely be applauded and admired more.

During her career, Swift has written several other immensely popular, satirical songs about these situations, including the song “Blank Space.” This song is about how people believe she goes through men too fast. It currently has nearly a million streams on Spotify and three billion views on the accompanying music video posted to Youtube. With lyrics like “Got a long list of ex lovers / They’ll tell you I’m insane” and “Darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream,” Swift took the cruel words people spoke about her and turned them into one of her most popular songs.

Aside from the criticisms concerning her former relationships, she has also been deemed overly dramatic. In 2016, after a social media fight between Swift, Kanye West, and Kim Kardashian, the hashtag “Taylor Swift Is Over Party” was the top trending hashtag on Twitter. People believed she was making a big deal out of the situation for attention and were celebrating the fact that she would be canceled for good.

Furthermore, on the CBS Sunday Morning show in 2019, Swift addressed the differences between the media’s treatment of men and women. She explains that if “a man does something, it’s strategic. A woman does the same thing, it’s calculated.” The difference in terminology used creates a negative connotation for the actions of women in the music industry, while it applauds men for similar actions. Swift continues acknowledging that “a man is allowed to react. A woman can only overreact.” This goes back to the 2016 drama with West, and the way her response was criticized. Oftentimes when Swift addresses an unfair situation, she is labeled a “drama queen” and consequently ignored by the public.

Aside from her relationships, the press has ridiculed her weight, her friends, and her performances. As a young woman who is in an industry where success comes from a fanbase and societal support, the constant combat between her and the media can sabotage her career and drastically hinder her mental-wellbeing.

Society’s implicit sexism that comes from a long history of gender stereotypes are one reason people dislike Swift. Stereotypically, women are more passive and dependent than men, yet on her own, Swift has broken records only the Beatles have reached. With eleven Grammy wins and forty-two nominations, she is the only female artist to win Album of the Year three times. Nevertheless, there are still people who say they do not like her or her music, and the media still barates her.

Today’s society is more accepting of Swift, seeing her re-record her masters after the originals were sold to her long time foe, Scooter Braun, is a momentous step in the music industry that empowers female and small artists. Her ability to be so successful in remaking her old music and getting her loyal fans to listen and support the new “Taylor’s Version” has gained her a new-found respect. She will be rerecording all six of her albums of which the rights were sold so that she owns her own music. So far, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” and “Red (Taylor’s Version)” have been released with four more albums to come.

Society, as a whole, needs to work on their internal sexism that is taught to us based on outdated stereotypes. If we can look past gender, it would open so many doors to so many women who have important stories to share. One way to start, is to listen to Taylor Swift’s new album, “Midnights,” and listen to her share thirteen untold stories of her life.


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