This morning, we all woke to the news that Time Magazine had named the Silence Breakers; the brave people who came forward about their experiences of sexual assault which began a movement to send powerful predators running for the hills, as Person of the Year for 2017. I sipped my morning cup of Earl Grey and was delighted to see the list of runners up, which included powerful men that weren’t able to have as much influence on this year as the women who graced the cover. Soon, discussions began on social media and I was pretty taken back by the response to Taylor Swift being recognized.
Just to refresh our memories, during a meet-and-greet in 2013, Taylor Swift claimed that radio host, David Mueller, grabbed her bare backside under her skirt while they were taking a photo together. Immediately after, she reported the assault to her mother and her management team who reported the assault to the station. The station launched their own investigation into the incident and fired Mueller. She did not seek criminal charges. His response was to file a civil suit against Swift and her mother, Andrea, seeking more than $200,000 in damages, blaming them for what he claimed was an unfair job loss based on false allegations. TS counter-sued him for assault and battery, seeking only $1 in damages. The courts sided with TS and it’s been reported that Mueller has still not paid her that dollar. At the trial’s conclusion, Taylor Swift made the following statement:
“I acknowledge that the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to help multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves."
This entire ordeal predated the growing #metoo movement and is being recognized as a contributing factor to it’s growth. So what’s the issue? Her Reputation. There’s no arguing that Swift has built great success in part by throwing her ex boyfriends and ex friends under the bus for what she believes was the cause of their fall-out. And we can’t forget that infamous phone call released by Kim Kardashian where we found out that Kanye had shared parts of the lyrics in his song “Famous” that referenced TS and she gives her approval for him to go-ahead with it, which her camp previously denied. This was the famous snap-chat debacle that earned her the “Snake” label and changed the public’s perception of her. So the argument that I keep seeing is “Taylor Swift is a liar and her inclusion as Person of the Year hurts this cause because it’s so hard for women to be believed as is.” And this is where my head starts to spin.
Saying that Taylor Swift’s voice and experience should be minimized because she’s known for “lying” about events completely unrelated to sexual assault or that she’s always “playing the victim” are the exact same arguments that have scared women out of hospitals, police stations, and witness stands. Those are the arguments that make women scared to say “no” in the first place. I don’t care if TS isn’t really the brokenhearted good girl. I don’t care if she’s actually the heart breaker who capitalizes on it. I don’t care if she really was the villain in some reality-TV worthy celebrity feud. Hell, I don’t care if she literally has a split tongue and sheds skin three times a year. Not in this scenario, not when we’re talking about sexual assault - it’s all irrelevant in this discussion.
To me, her presence on that cover says that woman’s voice shouldn’t only be as significant as her current likability. You don’t have to be the good girl, the nice girl, the girl without faults, the girl who never had a lapse in judgement, the girl who’s always told the truth, the girl who people respect or appreciate or who never does or says something problematic. You don’t have to be any of those things to be a victim. You don’t have to be any of those things take a public stand. Therefore, I urge people who are bothered by Swift’s inclusion to stop and ask themselves if their gut reaction is to defend against a misogynistic ideal that negatively impacts women or if they’re just perpetuating one themselves.