Opinion: Taylor Swift is shifting women’s narratives in media
After years of criticism, language surrounding Taylor Swift is finally changing
Women in the spotlight have long been the targets of questions about dating, breakups and marriages, which reduces their accomplishments and talents to nothing compared to the much more pressing story: who they’re dating.
Pop icon Taylor Swift is a prime example of the media scrutinizing a woman’s every move, even for things she can’t control. From the notorious MTV Video Music Awards in 2009, when rapper Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech, to more minor incidents like when the Netflix series “Ginny and Georgia” dragged her in a misogynistic joke about running through men, Swift has been made fun of and targeted by the media for the entirety of her 17-year career.
The main thing Swift is targeted for is her past relationships. Although she is considered one of the greatest and most influential artists of all time, she is frequently criticized for her dating history. Take Swift’s many interviews on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” where she was bombarded with questions about men she did or did not date, and who her songs are about. In a 2013 interview, Swift was even pushed to the point of near tears when DeGeneres didn’t stop prying.
However, an interesting phenomenon arose in recent months that is incredibly different from the way the media has treated Swift in the past. Earlier this year, she embarked on the Eras Tour, a career-changer for Swift that has grossed over $2.2 billion in North America alone, not to mention the boost in her streaming numbers. She has gone from pop icon to music legend, and with the Eras Tour changing how Swift is talked about in the media, she is at the frontline of a shift in public perception of women.
Both fans and music journalists are now recognizing Swift as one of the most influential artists of all time rather than a public figure open to criticism about her love life.
A fascinating turning point in this narrative came recently, ironically in an incident that pertained to her love life. In September, Swift attended a Kansas City Chiefs game to cheer on tight end Travis Kelce. The media went wild for this newly rumored relationship, but in a different way than usual.
In a shocking turn, the media didn’t slut-shame. Instead, the coverage surrounding Swift and Kelce’s whirlwind romance cheered Swift on and encouraged Kelce. Swift infiltrated the incredibly male-dominated space of the NFL with cameras panning over to her after every play, her music playing during breaks and even Kelce’s jersey sales skyrocketing 400 percent after they were seen together for the first time. After the Chiefs’ game, the postgame interview focused heavily on questions about Kelce and Swift, with reporters berating a man over his relationship with a woman rather than the other way around.
No one should be berated over their relationship status, especially to the point that it overshadows their careers. But there’s something almost Barbie-movie-esque about the role reversal here.
Women have, unfortunately, always been defined by the men they associate with. Swift and Kelce show that the media can report on relationships without taking over the subject’s life. Celebrities can't escape from certain aspects of being a public figure; we will always be interested in who is dating whom. But it doesn’t have to be the sole story that defines women in the entertainment industry.
Taylor Swift has worked her entire career to separate herself from the narrative that she is “a player,” — see her song, “The Man.” The media is showcasing a level of understanding and respect for her life in recent reporting of her and Kelce, and I hope to see more women treated this way in the future of media.
Alana Parker is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle.
This article was edited by Jelinda Montes, Alexis Bernstein and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti.