If you Google search "Taylor Swift hates men," your search retrieves 8.75 million hits. The hodgepodge of hatred towards Taylor is more troubling then the fact that I’ve played "I Knew You Were Trouble" more than 277 times in the past month. Aside from a few admittedly flippant attack songs, most of Taylor’s songs don’t hate men at all. In fact, a lot of her songs talk about the challenges of fitting in with peers, the experience of being a 20-something, and, yes, even the joys of being with a great guy.
But she also writes songs that talk about the frustrations of dating, and her experiences with men … particularly men who’ve done her wrong.
The cultural retaliation to Taylor’s troubles (at least if you’re going by a Google search) is that 8.75 million people will tell you that if you sing about a man doing you wrong in America, then you clearly hate the opposite sex indiscriminately. (As opposed to male singers/groups whose laments dominate the top 9 of the top 10 breakup songs of all time.)
It would be one thing if this social censorship simply resided in our criticism of Taylor Swift music. But when we step back and observe the space we create to acknowledge the voices of women in the media expressing their bad experiences without the repercussion of social censorship, we start to see it doesn't exist. Instead, we see this same sentiment of social censorship perpetuate into other areas of our culture, most glaringly in the legal system.
Censorship of women's bad experiences is strikingly exemplified in both high and low profile cases of sexual assault. We live in a rape culture that punishes survivors who come forward with allegations of sexual assault or abuse by making an example of them through social, legal, and media driven platforms. Further, we defend the perpetrators as if they were the victims, as if the woman brings forth the charges is doing so to ruin the lives of the rapists.
Just look at our media’s reaction to the conviction of the two 16-year-old-football players convicted at the Steubenville trials. Their sentiment was that the convictions were gross overreaction. CNN correspondents Candy Crowley, Poppy Harlow and Paul Callan stated multiple times during the post trial that the conviction was heartbreaking and ruining the future of these boys. (Let's get one thing straight: The conviction didn’t ruin the future of these boys. These boys ruined their own futures.)
But what this attitude tells the survivor that her experience, her violation, isn’t really real. It doesn’t count. Any mental suffering she endured is just Jane Doe being emotional, and perpetuating a gross overreaction to something she should be dealing with silently lest she ruin the lives the two people who have ruined hers. How could she harm their futures with her words?
This social censorship pervades our college campuses and businesses. Just last month at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a student faced suspension and expulsion because her report of rape was creating an ‘intimidating environment’ for her rapist. Let's not forget about the lawsuit brought against Kleiner Perkins Caufeild and Beyers, in which a junior partner accused another junior partner of sexual advances, and faced heavy work place ostracism as a consequence of her actions.
And now, this social censorship isn’t just hitting high profile, media glamourized cases. This censorship is affecting the legal system in your town.
In a small sleepy town snuggled next the Mississippi river by the bluffs of downstate Illinois, Melisa Vistain walked up the stone steps of the Jackson County courthouse, and into her pre-trial for a felony conviction. Her crime? The false accusation of rape. Vistain’s initial report stated that what started out as a consensual act quickly became uncongenial. This is the stance she maintains. You can read Melissa’s story here.
Over 20 rape crisis centers statewide drew together to support Vistain. Their stance is simple: prosecuting a sexual assault victim is devastating for the victim, and chilling for current and future sexual assault victims.
The message from the state's attorney, though, is clear: Sweep the incident under the consensual rug and put the blame on yourself. After all, you ‘got yourself’ into a sexual situation with someone you knew was trouble. The legal blame is on you.
When we live in a rape culture that punishes survivors who come forward with allegations of sexual assault by making an example of them through social, legal, and media driven platforms, we are creating an adversarial climate for future survivors to bring forth their claims and undergo a just and due process by law. We are perpetuating a social censorship that demoralizes women’s experiences as petty complaints, emotive behavior, and something that should just be "Swifted" away.
So the next time you complain about a Taylor Swift song, do it because you can’t stand her voice. Do it because you loathe country pop and if you have to put up with one more four-chord top 20 hit, you’ll seriously rip your roommate’s iPod out of the wall socket. Do it because you respectfully disagree with the way Taylor publically talks about her breakups.
But don’t do it because Taylor Swift hates men. She doesn’t. And neither does any the other woman who speaks up against a criminal act she experienced, especially if a man commits that act.