By Sasha Tucker
New York City, New York
The early hours of July 24 found me lying on the floor of my bedroom, staring up at the ceiling fan and blasting music. The album in question was Folklore, Taylor Swift’s 16-track eighth studio release, and a part of me was ashamed that I loved it so much. I’ve never been hesitant to broadcast my eclectic music recommendations, but something about this being Taylor Swift––the Taylor Swift––made me hesitant to share.
I never wanted to like the color pink, either. I’d ask specifically that no one buy me pink clothing and went out of my way in elementary school to never purchase fuchsia binders or coral notebooks. Sparkles and sequins, which I secretly loved, fell into a similar category. I’ve never been uncomfortable with my femininity, but I did not want to be associated with glitter or pink.
I don’t want to make any broad claims about a gendered society or a capitalist world, but I think it is clear that the color pink carries a lot more weight than, say, orange. In my head, pink is for girls and blue is for boys: implicit association. Some proof that this phenomenon is not limited to my own psyche: once, when I was a baby, my mother dressed me in blue. Strangers praised her “little boy.” “She’s a girl,” my mom told them. They did not believe her.
Internalized misogyny is loosely defined as when women subconsciously project sexist ideas onto other women and even themselves. My own internalized misogyny, which I only began acknowledging this summer, is the reason I associate pink with being delicate and fanciful. To put it explicitly, the connection my brain makes is pink––girls––weak.
Taylor Swift fell into the “Things Girls Like” category. So I, a girl happy being a girl, refused to listen to her music. I’d claim to hate her when I only knew the bare minimum about her. It took my watching her documentary, Miss Americana, to finally break out of that mindset. In November, months after I reluctantly became a Taylor Swift fan, I could easily discuss Miss Americana for hours. I first watched it in July, though, and it was the first time I saw Taylor Swift as a victim of vicious media portrayal and a sexist society. I will acknowledge that it is still a movie that crafts an image of an international celebrity, but it shattered my perception of her.
She is, undoubtedly, an incredibly talented songwriter. And she is not, despite what I believed for years, a weak and frivolous woman. For over a decade, she has created a space for herself in an industry notoriously cruel to women. My attempts to “not be like other girls” and hate Taylor Swift were a product of sexism in the media and my own internalized misogyny. I didn’t even listen to her music––it’s almost laughable how much I hated her and how little reason there was for that hatred.
Any devoted Taylor Swift fan reading this article is probably waiting for me to mention her 2010 song “Better Than Revenge,” the hook of which is “she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.” It’s a nice little example of slut-shaming. I won’t lie––this song does not sit well with me. I’m not going to get into the very complex subject of cancel culture, but I want to emphasize that personal growth is possible, even for celebrities.
After July, I fully immersed myself in the entire Taylor Swift discography. Folklore is my favorite album of hers (I even listened to it throughout the writing process for this article), likely because it aligns most closely with my personal music taste. She has a ton of other good songs, though––songs that I did not listen to on account of being conditioned to hate her. I am not ashamed to be a Taylor Swift fan now, but the confrontation of my internal misogyny did not happen overnight. I’m still working through random prejudices I barely knew I had.
Yes, Taylor Swift writes songs about love and dating, but what artist doesn’t? She has had to endure a tremendous amount of extra prying and hate because she is a woman in the industry. As a woman, it is my responsibility to uplift and support other women; we’re all dealing with the crush of the ever-present patriarchy. Not liking her music is not an excuse to hate her without cause.