It’s 2017 and Taylor Swift is Still Exploiting Feminism for Her Brand
Remaining politically neutral while a majority of the population faces systemic oppression is Taylor Swift’s trademark.
After a peaceful year of silence during her recluse from the public eye, I regret to inform you Taylor “Snake-Ass Becky” Swift is at it again. Swift’s name has resurfaced in the media over the past couple of weeks with the details of court proceedings in DJ David Mueller’s lawsuit and her respective countersuit making their way around the Internet.
Mueller filed a $3 million lawsuit claiming defamation over Swift alleging that he sexually assaulted her at a meet-and-greet while she was on tour in 2013. The allegations, reported to his bosses by Swift’s mother, resulted in Mueller being fired from a Denver radio station. Mueller claimed that she ruined his career. Swift responded to the lawsuit by counter-claiming for sexual assault—she alleged that he grabbed her ass under her skirt while she posed for a photo with him and his girlfriend. She requested a whopping $1 in damages.
Surprisingly, the judge hearing the case dismissed Mueller’s lawsuit and found that he was guilty of sexual assaulting Swift. She won her $1 and, in a statement, acknowledged “the privilege that she benefits from in life” that allowed her to afford legal counsel, and pledged to donate to organizations that help survivors of sexual violence defend themselves.
No one deserves to be sexually assaulted or to endure brutal gaslighting in the form cross-examination in court. Survivors so rarely get to see justice served on the people who attack and traumatize us, and we all know that the system is adversarial against us and re-traumatizing. Swift’s victory in court is a significant milestone for survivors, and given that RAINN reported a 35% increase in calls to their crisis line the weekend following her testimony, her strength has certainly inspired confidence in many to seek support.
As a Filipina woman and survivor of sexual violence, I was hesitant to engage with Swift’s trial, especially given her status as Queen Becky of the White Feminists. From her “girlsquad” of thin, able-bodied, cishetero women, to accusing Nicki Minaj of tearing women (read: Swift) down while Minaj called out racism, Swift only ever cries feminism when it benefits her.
You can imagine how disgusted yet unsurprised I was when Swift wiped her social media presence following conclusion of the trial. Stan accounts across Twitter assumed she would be releasing new music, and they were right in their predictions. Shortly after her social media blackout, she announced her forthcoming album Reputation, and released the lead single “Look What You Made Me Do” last night.
Great, Swift donated to charities to help survivors, and she chose to fight back against her assailant in court. I’m glad she admitted that she’s in an incredibly privileged position—but she doesn’t get a cookie for pointing out the obvious. The work that goes into creating and marketing an album is time-consuming and laborious. Swift’s been planning her comeback for months, and legal proceedings are scheduled well in advance. The timing here is far too convenient to believe that the lawsuit and her subsequent victory aren’t a part of her strategy to promote her album. Feminism has never been a moral or ethical imperative for Swift—it’s a marketing strategy.
During the week of the trial, I came across a headline that read, “Taylor Swift Faces Alleged Assaulter in Trial, Suddenly We Aren’t Feminists Anymore” and my resulting eye-roll dislodged a contact lens. To sum up the article, a white woman, of course, exclaims, “you all love tearing her down, but when she’s kicking ass in court, suddenly you’re all silent!”
That’s rich, Becky. I can count on one hand the number of times she’s used her massive platform to take a stance on social issues: that time she donated money towards Kesha’s legal fees, and that time she tweeted about the Women’s March. She didn’t even bother to comment on last year’s election, and hasn’t said a word about Trump.
Remaining politically neutral while a majority of the population faces systemic oppression is Swift’s trademark. Leveraging feminism for a profit without doing any of the actual work has been her business model since at least 2014. Swift clearly isn’t interested in supporting anyone but herself so why should I waste one of my limited fucks on her? Why would I cape for someone who would rather fake-date Tom Hiddleston instead of using her platform to amplify major social issues?
White women love demanding emotional labour from other people. They love co-opting progressive social movements to feel better about themselves. But when you ask them to return the favor, when you turn to them for support, suddenly they’re too polite for politics. Suddenly, even the chattiest Becky is silent. Next thing you know, you’re being thrown under the bus and they’re driving.
In teasers leading the promotional effort behind the album’s announced, Swift’s seemingly embraced the snake imagery that Kim Kardashian West branded her with last year following the gossip around Kanye West’s “Famous.” Along with the collage of tabloid headlines on the cover, reminiscent of Britney Spears’ iconic, anti-paparazzi anthem “Piece of Me”, it’s no surprise that Swift’s lead single continues to push the image that she, a fragile, innocent white girl was victimized by a black man.
I get it—write what you know. Some of the best art is born of our most painful experiences, and frankly, if you’re gonna suffer, you may as well make money off of it. Swift, however, is excessively milking her victim narrative. She’s manipulates it to her advantage, often distorting the truth in the process. She was labelled her a snake because even though she knew and okayed the lyric with West beforehand, Swift still claims that she was a victim. Unsurprisingly, despite being exposed, “Look What You Made Me Do” only double downs on this narrative, even a year later.
I genuinely had some small glimmer of hope that the lawsuit proceedings would have had some profound effect on Swift, and inspired her to affect real change in the world. That kind of experience has the potential to change someone at their core. Of course, everyone’s version of healing is different, and we each have unique coping mechanisms. Being sexually assaulted magnified my capacity for compassion. If there were any lessons I took away from my experience, it was that no one deserves to feel the way that I did and still do as both a survivor and woman of color. I hoped Swift would have the same epiphany.
As I’ve been saying all along—trust no Becky.
Based on how her album promotion is playing out, it’s clear that Swift hasn’t learned any lessons in the past year. She’s hasn’t grown. She remains silent on the current political climate, she most likely planned to leverage the publicity around her sexual assault countersuit, and she’s still perpetuating the narrative that she, an innocent white girl, is being demonized by a vicious black man. Swift’s view as a self-proclaimed feminist remains as shallow and exclusive as ever—I just hope she doesn’t get in the way of the people actually doing the work.