TIME Magazine chose ‘the silence breakers’ as their person of the year. The silence breakers are the women and men who have spoken out against rape; the cover includes Ashely Judd, one of the many women who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and rape; Susan Fowler, who spoke out against sexual harassment at Uber, Adama Iwu, who is an activist against rape; Isabel Pascual, a strawberry-picker from Mexico who experiences sexual harassment; and Taylor Swift.
That’s right. TIME Magazine has named Taylor Swift a silence breaker. And the internet, including myself, has very mixed feelings about this.
Here’s the argument for why Taylor Swift ought to be on the cover.
During the singer’s Red tour in 2013, a radio host, Mueller, groped her before one of the shows. In 2015, Mueller sued her for defamation; she responded boldly by filing a sexual harassment countersuit. Swift won the suit with a symbolic settlement of $1.00. This entire scenario took place in mid-2016, but Swift’s harasser only recently mailed the settlement to her on November 28.
Taylor Swift has also donated to large sums of money to causes related to the prevention of sexual harassment and rape. Even before her trial, she donated $250,000 to Ke$ha, who sued a music producer for rape and physical and emotional abuse. Swift also made a statement about her dedication to the issue after her trial.
“I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”
Now for the argument against her.
The case against Taylor Swift being labelled as a silence breaker agrees that she has suffered sexual harassment, and it is a victory for her and other assault-survivors that she was able to sue and win. No one should contest this. To try to ignore Swift’s tragic experience with sexual harassment would be absolutely hypocritical.
However, the designation of ‘silence breaker’ may exaggerate her involvement in the problem.
For years, Taylor Swift has been criticised of ‘white feminism’, which refers to her failure to incorporate women of colour and other marginalised groups into her activism. Swift has also been called an ‘opportunistic feminist‘, alluding to her pattern of not taking stances on more controversial but important women’s rights. In essence, Swift has been accused of only choosing equality when it promotes her business. This is exemplified in her lack of criticism of Trump, a man who has been accused of rape and sexual assault multiple times. Swift also refused to do the TIME interview unless TIME agreed not to ask her about Donald Trump.
Therefore, some wonder if she deserves a place on the cover of TIME magazine, when other, such as Tarana Burke, Rose McGowan, and Ke$ha have ostensibly contributed much more to the movement against sexual abuse.
I’m not sure if Taylor Swift truly deserves her spot on the cover. I think there are other women and men who are much more qualified to be on the cover. On the other hand, Taylor’s clout as celebrity will bring more attention to the issue and will likely sway more to the side of feminism.
Perhaps this isn’t a matter of moral rightness or wrongness. Perhaps this is about making the decisions necessary to promote feminism in the long run, and I must say, what better way to get people talking than to put Taylor on the cover?
What better way to get people talking than to put Taylor on the cover?
Image Credit: TIME Magazine