Opinion: Taylor Swift is more than who she dates

By Serenity Corbett-Richardson, Carlmont High School

Just days after news broke of Taylor Swift and her longtime boyfriend’s split, betting pools for her next romantic endeavor surfaced online. However harmless this may be, it is not a one-time occurrence. For years, Swift and her fans have been subject to unfunny and tired jokes that are some variance of: “Don’t date Taylor Swift, she’ll write a song about you!” or “Taylor Swift goes through men like a train!” or “Taylor Swift only ever writes about her exes!”

Though Swift’s career is at an all-time high, a bar she is constantly raising, we seem to cling to one thing: her dating life. Even after unprecedented success by her own merit, people value her at the price of her exes. This behavior is damaging and it needs to stop. But why do we do it?

To put it simply, it’s because she is a powerful woman. Swift has tackled this issue herself, most forwardly in her song, “The Man.” In the song, she makes the statement “If I was a man, then I’d be the man.” In other words, the disrespect with which she has been confronted would be to a lesser extent if she were not a woman. And she would be right.

The same criticism and insensitivity are not given to contemporary male musicians such as Chris Brown or John Mayer, whose dating lives are significantly more problematic; the former is known to be violent towards women, and the latter courted Swift herself when she was a teenager and nearly half his age. While these men continue to thrive in the music industry despite their alarming behavior, Swift receives backlash for simply ending a long and healthy relationship that ran its course.

In 2016, Swift called herself a “national lightning rod for slut-shaming.” This is not an unfair assertion for her to make. Since the beginning of her career, Swift has been characterized by the media as a maneater (as she has been linked to at least a whopping ten men), which overshadows her historic role in pop music; she was the first woman to win three Album of the Year GRAMMYs, projected by Forbes to hold the record for the highest grossing female tour of all time, and was the highest earning female entertainer of the decade. One needn’t think hard to make the connection between her unprecedented success as a woman in music and the undue criticism she faces.

As a fan, the misogyny-based ridicule of Swift’s dating life is frustrating. As a young woman, it’s frightening.

Swift has been one of my idols for as long as I can remember. And with every year her success increased, so too did the vitriol directed towards her for…dating. Because it was so common, I grew up thinking it was not only normal but okay to reduce a woman to the men in her life or to take a well-crafted song and not analyze the lyrics but the man it’s allegedly about. Which message are Swift’s young fans supposed to take away when they watch how the world treats their hero: that their personal life exists only to entertain others? That their success doesn’t matter if they dare to try their hand at love and fail?

It’s time for the world to recognize that Taylor Swift is a human being who exists separately from the people she dates. She will inevitably have her failures in love and life and these will be public due to the nature of her career. But these publicized failures do not give us the right to mock her for making art out of her heartbreak or to use her as a punching bag for unloading misogyny.

Swift has had 16 years to develop a thick skin off which irrelevant criticism will ricochet, but the children who look up to her internalize the twisted messages directed toward their idol and end up bearing the brunt of the attack.

This story was originally published on Scot Scoop News on April 26, 2023.