Shake it off

Abby Hanson, Opinions Editor

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In the video for Taylor Swift’s new single “Look What You Made Me Do”, the singer, clad in gold jewels and a red dress, sips from a teacup held out by one of the twelve snakes slithering around her gilded throne. The symbolism is hard to miss.

What began as a petty Twitter insult has now become a battle cry of Swift’s critics, and the once-adored songstress now finds herself in a sea of online jokes. She is called a phony, a drama queen, a snake. But there’s another side to Swift, one of honest talent and compassion, obscured by sexism and tabloid drama.

In July 2016, after Taylor and her fanbase objected to an offensive line in Kanye West’s song “Famous”, Kim Kardashian West fired back with the snake emoji heard round the world. Ever since, Swift and snakes have been inextricably linked, with countless Tweets and memes to follow.

Woah, woah woah… hold on a second. Since when did we start taking advice from Kim Kardashian? As someone who has her own reality television show, I doubt she can accuse Swift of being dramatic. So why did the insult catch on?

Now that she’s not the cutesy, naive girl with curls and a Southern twang, Swift is intimidating. With ten Grammys under her belt, she’s one of the best-selling music artists of all time, so every move she makes is subject to public scrutiny. But many of the problems people seem to have with Swift, like her business with other artists and her presence on Spotify, are not personally controlled by her. When you produce three platinum albums in a row, you’re likely to have a manager or two.

And consider this: many of the criticisms that people hold against Swift, like the claim that she’s phony, have been dealt with time and time again by other female artists now regarded positively by the public, such as Lady Gaga and Lana del Rey. Yes, I am implying the involvement of sexism, and I won’t take it back.

Before you protest, consider this: in a world where women and deceitful snakes have been inseparable for centuriesfrom Eve to Medusa to Hillary Clintonis that really so hard to believe?

Even since the beginning, tabloids have portrayed Swift as a seductress who speeds through one relationship after another for songwriting material, always glazing over the word they really mean: slut. Many of her exes, like singer Harry Styles, don’t share this negative image, despite dating just as much.

Swift herself realizes these issues. Just this year, she sued her sexual abuser for a symbolic one dollar to make a point about sexual assault against women. Last year, she donated $250,000 to pop star Ke$ha to support the other artist’s legal battle with the subject.

I’ll readily admit that I don’t know Taylor Swift personally. I can’t say that she’s a saint. But the thousands of people that criticize her from behind laptop and iPad screens don’t know her, either.

What I do know is that she frequently goes on unpublicized visits to children’s hospitals. She sends flowers to fallen troops. She donated over a million dollars to Louisiana flood relief in 2016. And this list excludes the things she does for her fans, like baking cookies and sending personalized responses to fan mail.

So, has Taylor Swift changed? Yeah, after 10 years on the charts, her doe-eyed look has evolved to be rougher, bolder. She’s made friends; she’s made enemies, and she’s had her share of losses and successes. Now, in 2017, it’s become cool to hate Swift. But I challenge you, reader, to look beyond the masses of Twitter posts and memes ridiculing her, and make up your own mind.

And Swifties? The tide of society’s favor will turn eventually. Until then, stick to your guns and think for yourself. T-Swizzle says it best in her 2010 hit “Ours”: “People throw rocks at things that shine, but they can’t take what’s ours. They can’t take what’s ours.”


This story was published in Issue 1, Volume 48 of the Mill Stream. Published alongside it was a companion editorial by sports editor Eli Maxwell. Read his story here.