I’m a Taylor Swift fan and I don’t need male approval to enjoy her music
Taylor Swift joined the ranks of Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon after winning her third Album of the Year Award at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards.
Taylor Swift broke the glass ceiling on 15 March when she joined the elite club of legends like Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and Paul Simon after winning her third Album of the Year Award at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards. The 11-time Grammy winner broke another record by becoming the first woman to win the honour thrice, this time for her delightfully surprising album Folklore, which wasn’t her only album of 2020 — she had also released the full-length album Evermore. If this isn’t talent, I don’t know what it is.
And yet people still have the audacity to scoff at a ‘Swiftie‘. Swift’s music has been for years dismissed as mere ‘break up songs’, some have even gone to the extent to say she shuffles through men just to get material for her music. No other artist has gone through such scrutiny, although it’s very well understood that art is shaped by life experiences. This has led to slut-shaming Swift as well — which she recently called out.
Taylor Swift is only 31-years-old but her music has been iconic for so long, from ‘Teardrops on my Guitar’ to ‘My tears ricochet’. An entire English-speaking generation has grown up listening to her. Her music perfectly captures the romantic dilemmas and struggles of women in a certain stage of their lives, yet it has also been the butt of all jokes in pop culture and friend circles. For instance, one Quora thread titled ‘Why do guys get embarrassed when they are caught listening to Taylor Swift?’ demonstrates how ‘fragile masculinity’ has largely led to many feeling ashamed for enjoying ‘girly’ Swift music. Some other questions include ‘I am a guy and I like Taylor Swift, is that weird?’, and the regular ‘do guys listen to Taylor Swift?’. Just liking a critically acclaimed artist’s music is now perceived as an existential question for many men.
Taylor Swift talks to us, about us, as if she’s our best friend. Her music has captured the jitters of first love, the longing for young romance, the pain of break-ups, and the victory over a toxic ex. And that’s what music is precisely supposed to do — speak to us. Anyone who thinks Taylor Swift produces inferior music is the kind of person who’s never allowed to play music in a car with his friends.
In fact, bullying of Taylor Swift and her fans once gave Kanye West the audacity to get on stage during the MTV Video Music Awards 2013 and tell her she wasn’t good enough, that she was undeserving of an award. He also later wrote a song about how it was him, and that incident, that made her famous — not her nine studio albums, 45 million monthly listeners on Spotify, or ability to cross over from being a country-music darling to pop icon. Now, I don’t quite enjoy West’s music myself, but his entitlement didn’t come from any delusion that he harbours; it came from the constant takedown of anything ‘girly’, especially something teenage girls like.
Women’s music taste is always ridiculed
From the colour pink to ‘chick flicks’, everything that appeals to a woman, even in entertainment, is ridiculed by the self-appointed taste police, usually comprising men who think testosterone-filled noise is tasteful music. Well-written, relatable music doesn’t cut it for them, for they’re willing to hail wife-beating-romanticising music by artists like Eminem as lyrical-genius or whose favourite songs are literally just someone singing about cars and girls but on a new tune.
Listening to Honey Singh and Badshah’s brand of sexist music, sometimes centred on female genitalia, other times glorifying rape, was somehow cool in school and ‘dude bros’ still talk about the music with a hint of nostalgia. Emo rap king Drake has also produced a bunch of below-average problematic lyrics in his ‘revenge music‘ over and over again, most famous being ‘Hotline Bling’ where he’s constantly complaining about a girlfriend who found better things, enjoyed more freedom and got rid of him the moment she got some space from him. But God forbid someone likes ‘Love Story’.
It’s the same with other artists women enjoy too — pop artists like Backstreet Boys, Justin Bieber, One Direction, Selena Gomez, Jonas Brothers, and now Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa are always categorised at the lowest of the lowest rung of the music chain by self-appointed gatekeepers.
Music that women enjoy has been put down in the past too — a popular example being The Beatles. The band rose to popularity in the 1960s because of their female fanbase and their ‘Beatlemania‘. Their fame rose to an iconic level and then was slowly appropriated by men once they were already chartbusters. According to some reports, the band’s music had to eventually evolve to appeal more to men, because the stamp of male approval is necessary if your music is to be taken seriously.
Teenage fangirls and their icons are forever criticised for just existing, while anything male-pleasing puts the taste in tasteful. But fan bases comprising young girls are as loyal as ever, propelling their icons forward to achieve more success in life. It’s time to stop ridiculing the Swifties — you don’t want bad blood with us.