By Vinitha Raj
I remember two headlines from the Grammys: Adele’s technical difficulties during her performance and Taylor Swift’s “slam” at Kanye West in her acceptance speech. Adele’s technical difficulties were definitely newsworthy, as they impacted her performance—but didn’t really, because she still sounded great. However, did Taylor’s acceptance speech really need to be blown up by every news source? I did not read a single headline about who actually won which awards, but I did learn about the entire Swift controversy, simply by browsing news sources. Reporters claim her speech encouraging young girls to ignore critics and work hard was directed at Kanye’s recent insulting posts about Swift on social media.
Why is the world so fascinated with Taylor Swift? Media sources scrutinize everything she does, even if her actions are not actually controversial or news-worthy. While media outlets obsess over the decisions of most celebrities, others’ stories involve greater scandals or negative news. Swift has won the heart of America as an all-American girl. She built her image as a small-town country girl singing love-songs that teenage girls swooned over. Most do not realize she actually grew up in the suburbs of Pennsylvania and moved to Nashville to pursue her music career because her family had the resources to do so. Other than writing songs about heartbreak, she donates her time and money to charity, spends her nights in baking, and goes on beach vacations with her friends. There have not been any major scandals involving Swift related to fights, drugs, alcohol, or money. The greatest gossip about her life concerns men she dates, which is relatively harmless compared to scathing articles about Britney Spears, Lady GaGa, or Beyoncé.
The media portrays Swift as a perfect person and expects her to act accordingly. With her long legs, bright lips, cat eyeliner, and sweet personality, she comes across as the kind of girl anyone would want as a best friend. Lost by her charm, many are not cognizant of her business cunning that has helped her ascend to her status as a pop icon. In the way she presents herself, Taylor Swift has carefully crafted her innocent appearance. The brands she endorses, like Coke or Vans, and the Instagrams she posts are wholesome. Her strategies or manipulation do not matter because in the end, all-American sells. Parents support their daughters’ love of Taylor Swift because she they see her as a traditional, innocent role model. Swift has definitely done her fair share of work in promoting feminism and acting as a role model. However, this expectation of how she should act has caused people to quickly criticize her for being less than perfect instead of respecting her for being human and making mistakes.
A powerful, famous artist that juxtaposes Swift, is the one and only Beyoncé. As a pop female icon on the opposite side of the spectrum, her image contrasts with that of Swift. Although both ladies do not care what others think about them, Beyoncé has taken a bolder approach in her career; she sings and behaves unapologetically about her power and her appearance. Many love her because she does not fear expressing her emotions or her sexuality. Her confidence causes some to dislike her, though. Critics claim that she does not act her age or that she is too assertive. However, why can’t she embrace her body, regardless of her age?
The media and the American public’s endearment towards Taylor Swift coupled with their less receptive attitude towards more unconventional artists reveal that we prefer women to exercise their supposedly equal rights in a more private manner—not for the world to see in the media. What’s the point of having the right to be yourself, though, if you cannot actually exercise that right? Taylor Swift may keep us comfortable in our bubble as a traditional role model for young girls, but Beyonce and other provocative female artists pop it. Their “controversial” behavior facilitates discussion that redefines a woman’s proper role: to be whoever she wants.