Earlier this year, Netflix’s dramedy series Ginny & Georgia garnered a significant amount of attention since its release but not for the right reasons; despite being a television show that presented sex-positivity, diversity, inclusivity as well as mental health awareness, a particular piece of dialogue has managed to overshadow all the favourable aspects of the series. In the series finale, Ginny (Antonia Gentry) sneers the now-infamous line after her mother Georgia (Brianne Howey) inquires a bit too much into Ginny’s personal life and relationships- “What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.”
Taylor Swift’s dating life has been widely perceived as a punchline of Hollywood’s many misogynistic jokes, but the scrutiny on her romances has died down considerably in the past year. With the progression of the gender equality movement over the last few years, Ginny & Georgia‘s unprovoked attack on Swift’s character predictably invited national outrage and criticism, particularly from fans of Swift and women’s rights activists. Even Swift herself commented on the hypocrisy of Netflix for letting the dialogue air, especially after profiting off Swift’s documentary, Miss Americana; the documentary was distributed by the streaming service and highlighted the deeply personal issues Swift faced during a transitional period in her career, such as her battle with body dysmorphia and eating disorders.
The vilification of Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s romantic history has been in the public eye ever since her the release of her album Fearless, notably due to her long list of famous exes including Joe Jonas, Tom Hiddleston and Calvin Harris. Several media outlets, tabloids and even other celebrities have contributed towards smear campaigns attempting to mock, humiliate and ‘cancel’ Swift for her notorious dating life. In a 2012 interview with Ellen DeGeneres, the 63-year old host repeatedly harassed an uncomfortable Swift about the string of dating rumors that followed her presence, going as far to present a slideshow of men Swift had rumored to date, on air. When Swift admitted her discomfort, DeGeneres avoids apologizing; instead further shaming her for being a woman who dated.
Even outside of her romantic history, Swift was criticized as being the center of Hollywood drama for her alleged feuds with industry heavyweights. From Katy Perry to Scooter Braun, Swift has been embroiled in some of the most notable scandals, most famously her dispute with rapper, Kanye West, which began in 2009 at the MTV VMAs. The feud with West reached its peak when West’s then-wife, Kim Kardashian, released alleged audio of Swift agreeing for her name to be included in a slew of derogatory lyrics – something Swift had vehemently denied in the past. Many, including Swift’s own fans, turned against her for her apparent dishonesty, accusing her of always playing the ‘victim’ and bombarding her social media with snake emojis. It even reached a point where the hashtag #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty was trending number one on Twitter for days.
When Swift began to rise against her adversaries by shedding her sweetheart popstar outlook with a darker, more confident image – ironically referencing a snake – that promoted her 2017 Reputation era, it was still not enough to protect her from public condemnation. Critics referred to her album as “the worst album of her career” in spite of many of the album’s songs being positively reviewed and charting well. The media’s attack on Swift is parallels the scrutiny on Britney Spears; both are female artists that entered Hollywood as minors and rose to fame at a young age. Similar to Spears, when Swift fought back those who antagonised her, the media was more than willing to crucify her before the public eye.
Double standards between Swift and male artists
Despite the monumental achievements Swift had earned over the course of her career, she has gained more recognition for her infamous romances which are rumored to be the subjects of her best lyrical work. Compared to her male counterparts in the industry, Swift was subjected to consistent sexism that enabled her songwriting talents to be diminished via the excessive coverage of her personal life. In an article by Deadspin, Swift’s music was even deemed as “training bra music.”
Like Swift, many male artists such as Adam Levine, Charlie Puth, John Legend, Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars have written several of their hit songs based upon their love affairs and relationships. However, these artists have never been inflicted the same level of criticism that Swift has experienced in her career. Similarly, their relationships and personal lives have also never been under as much scrutiny compared to Swift and have been mostly exempt from being antagonized by the media for their musical talents. These male artists were considered the new generation of music while Swift, in spite of her achievements, was perceived as a maneater instead.
“When I was, like, 23 and people were just kind of reducing me to kind of making slideshows of my dating life and putting people in there that I’d sat next to at a party once and deciding that my songwriting was like a trick rather than a skill and a craft.”– Taylor Swift, in a 2019 interview with Beats 1
There is no doubt that the stereotypes following Swift are related to the patriarchal influences surrounding her, particularly her fanbase. Swift’s audience primarily consists of women, mostly teenagers and young adults. More than often, it has been considered ‘fashionable’ or ‘cool’ to consider the opinions and preferences of young women as inferior and this has applied to Taylor Swift for majority of her career. When she was at her loudest, she was considered shallow and a sellout whereas when she disappeared from the public eye, she was deemed apolitical and victimizing herself. Regardless of what action Swift took, it was rejected and recognized as the wrong move. Swift addresses these double standards in classic Taylor Swift fashion: a hit song aptly titled The Man, in which she calls out the misogynistic narratives society allocates for men and women.
The legacy of Taylor Swift
In the end, it doesn’t matter how many men Swift has dated as her musical legacy cannot be overshadowed by her fleeting personal life. Even those who do not consider themselves fans of Swift cannot deny her influence on the music industry or the relevance of her songs in our most vulnerable moments. With over 324 awards won, including over 500 nominations and 11 Grammy Awards, Taylor Swift’s impact on pop culture has been monumental. Her songs have taught us that it is okay to feel, to be emotional, to love and to crave affection and that there’s nothing wrong with being real with ourselves. Swift emphasises on being authentic and continues to prove that women are more than the men they are associated with.
It’s undeniable that Swift is an embodiment of classic femininity; her character revolves around vulnerability, being emotional and wearing her heart on their sleeve in a world that defines these characteristics as inconvenient and socially unacceptable. Despite the progressions of the feminist movement, it seems that the misogynistic stereotypes surrounding Swift is still prevalent in today’s culture. This is not to say Taylor Swift is without fault. But in a society that is working towards dismantling patriarchal norms and striving for gender equality, it needs to be more evident that we can no longer fault Taylor Swift for being what she is: a woman.