As a longtime fan of Taylor Swift, the last few weeks have been pretty rough, to say the least. I've watched her break-up with her boyfriend of over a year; start a sudden, hugely-publicized romance that caused speculation that she cheated on said ex-boyfriend; get called out by the media and fans alike for being a "social climber" and a "serial dater"; and, most recently, been slammed by her ex on Twitter for taking undeserved credit on a song and using him as someone to "try and bury." Some of this criticism, I'll admit, has been well-deserved; even as a fan, I'm not immune from admitting that Swift is far from perfect. Yet right now, in part due to those latest Calvin Harris tweets, it seems that the world is set not on calling her on her flaws, but on tearing her apart — there's even a #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty hashtag circulating around Twitter. And in my eyes, that's not only wrong, but dismissive of everything Swift has worked for throughout her career.
For years, now, Swift has been the subject of non-stop criticism from the public and the press: for her looks, for her songwriting, for her friendships, and most of all, for her dating life. No matter who she dated or for how long the romance lasted, the relationship, and Swift's attitude towards dating, became immediate media fodder. Did she date too much? Did she use guys for attention? Did she need to, in the words of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, "stay away" from boys for awhile and take "some ‘me’ time to think about herself"? No matter the situation, everyone, it seemed, had an opinion about Swift's dating life, with many dismissing her as a serial dater who never actually cared about the guys she romanced.
When faced with this kind of criticism, many celebrities would choose silence as their response, letting people say whatever they wanted, even if they weren't happy with how they were being portrayed. Not Swift, though. Through songs, interviews, and speeches at awards shows, Swift showed that she had no intention of letting the media write her story for her; instead, she took it into her own hands and make her version the only one that mattered. If people thought she was boy-crazy? "Blank Space" would mess with that exact perception. If a fellow celebrity said that he, not she, was the cause for her fame? Her Grammys speech would reveal the truth. No matter the situation, Swift made sure that she, not anyone else, was the only person in control of her story.
It's as if no one even remembers a time when they actually supported Swift and what she stood for; instead, they're taking her down and gleefully celebrating her destruction.
This attitude earned some criticism, of course. Some people deemed Swift too image-obsessed, unable to let go and be at all spontaneous. They called her out for being manipulative and too controlling, with every word she said and photo she posted meant to benefit her image. Personally, I never saw this as a problem; why shouldn't one of the most powerful people in entertainment want control over her portrayal in the media? And considering what hell the media put her through every day, didn't Swift have a right to set her story straight?
As the years went on, the anti-Swift frenzy began to die down, perhaps due to her own maturity; she still talked openly about her personal life and dated regularly, but she also sounded less petty, less victimized. Even people, including stars, who wouldn't call themselves major fans of Swift grew respect for how she handled herself. They found her controlling, sure, but they also found her smart, capable, and truly impressive — an artist who'd found enormous success by refusing to let anyone else tell her what to do or who to be.
This would've been impressive for anyone, but for a young woman, in sexist, gender-imbalanced Hollywood? It was a massive accomplishment, and something that deservedly earned Swift acclaim. Yet now, in the span of a few weeks, this respect has all but been forgotten. The moment Swift and Harris broke up, the same old sexist backlash began flying: why couldn't Swift stay in a relationship? Was this romance — over a year long, mind you — just fodder for her next album? Was she ever really OK being alone? And it just got worse from there, once the photos of Swift and Tom Hiddleston were released. Suddenly, countless people, including those who'd defended her just weeks prior, dismissed Swift as nothing more than the dating-obsessed girl she'd already proven, year after year, that she wasn't. And now, with the Harris tweets, it's as if no one even remembers a time when they actually supported Swift and what she stood for; instead, they're taking her down and gleefully celebrating her destruction — perhaps even literally, as that Twitter hashtag suggests.
It goes against everything Swift has supposedly taught us throughout her career — that a woman's worth is not about who she dates or how long the romance lasts.
As a fan of Swift, this attitude frustrates me immensely. I don't mind people calling her out for her flaws; I don't deny that Swift still seems to sometimes like playing the victim when it comes to romance, or that some of her actions come off as petty or immature. But they're not noting her flaws — what they're doing is tearing Swift, someone they only recently had the utmost respect for, totally apart. All it took for attitudes to switch, apparently, was for the star to enter a new romance, because apparently, once a serial dater, always a serial dater. No matter that Swift's last relationship lasted 15 months, or that she is allowed to move on and date other people, or that she's 26 years old and hey, maybe it's OK for someone that age — or any age — to still be figuring out what they want out of their love life. When the opportunity presented itself for Swift to be the subject of ridicule again, "fans" everywhere decided to pounce.
This takedown is wrong, and it needs to stop. Not only is it simply offensive, but it goes against everything Swift has supposedly taught us throughout her career — that a woman's worth is not about who she dates or how long the romance lasts. Just recently, Jennifer Aniston wrote a powerful op-ed about how frustrated she is that the media has deemed her dating life and child-bearing capabilities her only values; how hypocritical are we if praise Aniston for that letter, yet tear Swift apart for dating a new person?
I'm not saying Swift is flawless or that she doesn't deserve the occasional reality check. But perhaps, let's think twice before hurling insults and celebrating her supposed demise.