Taylor Swift made it to the cover of Time Magazine’s People of the Year. The Silence Breakers were named the POTY, all of the victims of harassment, abuse, assault and rape who have found their voices this year. The Time cover story was important and moving and gratifying, because 2017 has been utter f–king garbage. This toxic waste dump of a year has mostly been about Donald Trump, so it was great to see Time give Trump “credit” in their cover story for being such a sexual assailant and misogynist, and really spurring women around the country and around the world to speak up and speak out against their harassers, their bullies, their assailants.
As I said yesterday, I didn’t have a problem with Taylor’s inclusion in the story. My problem was that she was featured prominently on the cover, like Taylor is one of the faces of the movement. She is not. She has every right to speak up and speak out – she was assaulted, she got the guy fired, and he sued her, so she countersued and won. She put her life on hold to fight that battle, and I know she inspired a lot of women and girls to do the same. Good for her.
So, what’s the problem, really? Why did Taylor start trending on Twitter yesterday? Why were there heated tweets thrown back and forth about Taylor’s feminism? Well, it’s very complicated. Basically, Tay’s defenders argued that there is no Oppression Olympics – that Taylor speaking about her assault is no more or less important than another woman telling her story of rape. I think that’s a strawman argument – again, no one was seriously arguing that Taylor shouldn’t have a voice in this story. We were arguing that she shouldn’t be on the cover, like she’s a face of the movement, when she’s just not.
There’s also a problem with the fact that Taylor is entirely silent on social, political, reproductive and economic issues that don’t affect her personally. She will literally spend years giving interviews and writing songs about that guy who interrupted her VMA speech that one time, but she couldn’t be bothered to denounce white supremacists, and actively sought to silence anyone who questioned her silence on white supremacy. She couldn’t be bothered to publicly say that women should be believed, or that maybe Donald Trump is a bad president and a sexual assailant. Again, if you’re arguing that she has every right to be apolitical, I agree. She has every right to be publicly (and privately) apolitical. But that should mean she doesn’t agree to a Time Magazine cover shoot in which she’s positioned as the face of a massive feminist movement. She doesn’t get to pick and choose what she’ll speak out about if she’s positioning herself as the great white hope for #MeToo-ing. The Daily Beast had an excellent piece on all of this too, and they do a better job of explaining the mixed emotions of seeing Taylor’s face on this cover.
Some valid tweets that summarize the variety of opinions:
Taylor Swift spent the last year-plus staying mum on any issue of social importance (so as not to harm her Walmart album sales) and gaslighting a famous black musician until the guy had a mental breakdown.
— Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) December 6, 2017
It’s kinda weird that “silence breaker” Taylor Swift tried to sue a blogger for an op-ed about white supremacists who like her music. 🙃🙃🙃
— Tyler Coates (@tylercoates) December 6, 2017
"it’s absurd and disingenuous to ignore how she has nurtured and exploited silence in other areas for her own personal gain." https://t.co/EGQvdscCFz
— hunter harris (@hunteryharris) December 6, 2017
Stop it. Just. Stop. Nobody is saying Taylor Swift wasn't victimized. Nobody is saying Taylor Swift doesn't deserve to speak about her experience. People are just wondering why she was picked to be the face of a movement over the woman who ACTUALLY CREATED THE MOVEMENT.
— 🏳️🌈Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) December 6, 2017
Cover courtesy of Time, additional photo courtesy of Getty.