The fact that Taylor Swift’s assault trial – now on its fourth day – has been in the headlines since it began isn’t unusual. Everything the megastar does is dissected within an inch, and the court case is no exception. A brief rundown of events: The trial is examining an incident that took place during a meet-and-greet before a 2013 Denver concert in which Swift claims David Mueller, then a DJ for KYGO, groped her buttocks; Mueller has repeatedly denied her claims and sued Swift and her team for $3 million in damages. Swift countersued – the fact that she’s only seeking a dollar in damages is symbolic – saying she wants to use the case as an example and inspiration to those who suffered sexual assault.
She didn’t have to take the stand. Her mother said she at first she tried to persuade her to keep quiet to avoid the humiliating publicity. But her speaking out is a statement in itself; she’s refusing to be shamed into silence.
But is it unusual that few seem to be sympathetic to Swift’s claims of sexual harassment? Sadly no. For it seems she never “recovered” from the Kanye West drama (Part II, FYI), and will never step up on a pedestal again. A quick Google of the pop star would suggest that she has brought her “downfall” on herself. The girl who was once America’s Sweetheart has been reduced to having a case of the “Anne Hathaways” – i.e., the masses hating on her for no reason other than because she’s an ambitious, successful woman. And it’s a well-documented problem; that success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. Her success is treated with suspicion; the way she always acts surprised to win awards is fake and annoying, and her unapologetic demeanour means she must be told her place. Whereas the Justin Biebers and Tiger Woods of the world can always be forgiven.
Taylor Swift is that girl everyone wants at first before realizing that she’s literally a psychopath #KimExposedTaylorParty
— Ryan Caldwell (@ryancald) July 18, 2016
Swift is regularly criticised for seeking publicity, either through her relationships or her “feuds”, and, in some, cases, she does seek it. Her brief relationship with Tom Hiddleston is a fair example. There’s no doubt that at least some of their public appearances were staged to a degree – nobody goes on a date to the Colosseum (as they did early on) in an effort to avoid crowds – but it was Swift who was the fodder for gossip columns for trying to ascertain some control over the insane PR machine that has become her life; it was she who was ridiculous, subjecting poor, helpless Tom Hiddleston to whims of an “insane control freak.” The implication was clear: she was in no way good enough for the smooth talking would-be Bond. She was beyond redemption, but he had a lucky escape.
Then Calvin Harris went on an aggressive Twitter rant after Swift revealed that it was she who wrote the biggest song of his career – and her reward was a mass of snake emojis on her Instagram. Because how dare she take the credit for the successful male’s work? And was the fact that she released her entire back catalogue of music to Spotify the same day her supposed rival Katy Perry released her new album the ultimate genius business move or downright petty? It was a bit of both – definitely smart and the same level of pettiness we should probably all aspire to, being honest.
But by judging Swift in this manner, that’s the message we’re sending to women: that you shouldn’t enjoy your success and if you do, it’s acceptable that you will be shunned by the masses for simply dating or looking your best. The singer isn’t without flaws or fault; she knows how to paint herself a certain way, even when the evidence would suggest otherwise. But even if Kanye West was right – Single Ladies was a better video than You Belong With Me – no one deserves to be the subject of such abject hate and dislike, and certainly not referred to as an “Obnoxious Barbie Nazi” for speaking her mind and acknowledging that yes, she deserves her success.
But we never give her a break, and that is the root of the problem. Swift makes us uncomfortable because she’s simply a successful woman and society has always been uncomfortable with that. She can exist and be self-contained without a man and then write her own songs when she finds a man who cheats on her and sell millions of records about him, and we’ll automatically turn and gleefully wait for her to fail, reducing her to less than she is.
This isn’t about Taylor Swift – she was never the problem. So maybe it’s time to stop, once and for all, throwing stones at her.