Look What Taylor Swift Made The Media Do

As usual, Taylor Swift’s haters are going to hate. Hate, hate, hate, hate.

The pop star found herself embroiled in another controversy last week, this time about her appearance on the cover of Time’s 2017 “Person of the Year” issue.

Though the cover story focused on the #MeToo movement and the many men and women from a diverse array of industries who spoke up about their harassers and abusers, Swift’s inclusion on the cover struck some as a curious choice.

Swift was included in the Time story because of the August lawsuit she won against David Mueller, a Colorado DJ who groped her during a photo-op in 2013 and was fired from his station after Swift reported the incident. He sued her for defamation, and she countersued him for $1, an amount intended to convey the nonmaterial importance of her victory over a man she believed could be a serial abuser.

“I figured that if he would be brazen enough to assault me under these risky circumstances and high stakes, imagine what he might do to a vulnerable, young artist if given the chance,” Swift told Time in an interview about her testimony against Mueller.

Even though she has not spoken out publicly in support of the #MeToo movement, her inclusion in the Time cover story makes sense given her victory over a powerful man months before reports of Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior opened the floodgates for more victims of abuse to tell their stories.

“Suggesting that Swift’s experience wasn’t sufficiently serious for her to merit Time’s attention is offensive not just to Swift but also to victims everywhere,” wrote the Washington Post’s Molly Roberts.

She also mentioned the good Swift has done for feminist causes in 2017, like the $250,000 she donated to fellow pop star Kesha during her battle with her producer and abuser Dr. Luke, and the fact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network received a 35 percent increase in calls the weekend after her trial.

However, as Roberts put it, “[I]t does rankle to see Swift achieve this sort of PR coup in a year when, in so many other ways, she has shrugged off the ‘Silence Breaker’ mantle. The #MeToo movement, after all, started with a black woman — and detractors have always said Swift stands mostly for white feminism, or feminism that’s convenient for her.”

That is the main argument against Swift: It’s not that she doesn’t deserve to be a part of a #MeToo retrospective, but Time’s decision to feature her on its most-coveted cover over the likes of #MeToo originator Tarana Burke, activist and Weinstein victim Rose McGowan, or even (if they wanted a famous singer) Kesha, feels to some more like a blatant attempt to sell more magazines than an effort to honor men and women who have loudly spoken out against their abusers.

“When these women do decide to speak out, they risk mammoth personal and professional repercussions,” wrote the Daily Beast’s Amy Zimmerman in an article with the blunt headline “Taylor Swift is no Silence Breaker.” “Meanwhile, Swift consistently offers strongly worded statements only when she has something to gain from them.”

Newsweek’s Zach Schonfeld criticized that standalone Time interview with Swift for not asking her “to reckon with the broader political moment,” never bringing up her continued silence regarding the behavior of President Donald Trump (incidentally, the runner-up for Time’s “Person of the Year”) and the time her lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to a blogger for writing an article about the pop star’s appeal for neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Some jumped to Swift’s defense, most notably “Game of Thrones” actress Sophie Turner, whose character Sansa Stark spent many seasons of the HBO show dealing with the unwanted advances of a creepy, powerful man.

HuffPost’s Tawny Engleman wrote a piece defending Time’s decision with the headline, “Wanting Taylor Swift Excluded From the Time Magazine Cover is Victim Silencing.”

“To me, her presence on that cover says that a woman’s voice shouldn’t only be as significant as her current likability,” she wrote. “You don’t have to be the good girl, the nice girl, the girl without faults … You don’t have to be any of those things to be a victim.”

Vox’s Constance Grady wrote an explainer on the Swift controversy that laid out the pros and cons of her on the cover. She posited that even though Swift’s place on the cover “doesn’t quite feel as though it’s part of the cultural moment,” the pop star still went through a harrowing experience on behalf of all sexual assault and harassment victims.

“[N]one of that changes the fact that Swift was a victim of assault who was then sued by her attacker, and that in order to get justice for her case, she had to sit through a humiliating, intrusive and public line of questioning,” Grady wrote. “And she handled those questions with aplomb, delivering endlessly quotable testimony that made it very clear that Mueller, and Mueller alone, was responsible for making the choice to assault her.”

Whether the motives behind Time electing to put Swift on its “Person of the Year” cover were altruistic, financial or a little of both, making her a prominent face of the #MeToo movement is bound to spark larger conversations about Swift’s allegedly opportunistic feminism and the general representation of the movement in the media.

Taylor, look what you made the media do.

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