Navigating girlhood remains one of the most gut wrenching, confusing, and undoubtedly juxtaposing experiences of modern day teenage development. As a society we are defaulted to reject femininity as we age–specifically women who impact our culture–all while maintaining a perfect image and acting ladylike. While I myself reflect on this, it has become an apparent trend over the last several years for women and young girls to reject successful or well known women in popular culture, whether that be a music artist, politician, sports players, etc. All while the men sit still, looking pretty, continuing to climb up the social pyramid of success and approval.
Expressing her idea on powerful women in the media “Why Women Can Be Likable or Successful – But Not Both” by Sady Doyle from METRO magazine, Doyle is adamant about the predicament at hand. The writer states “We don’t hate ‘successful women.’ We hate women, period – it’s just that, the more visible a woman becomes, the more appealing she becomes as a potential human sacrifice.” Women struggle in this society to form a sense of identity and find respect, because one wrong move can turn people away from the identity they have created for themselves. Whether a reader agrees or disagrees, the facts are indisputable. From the crippling pressure from the early 2000’s media, Britney Spears was subjugated by the media—where everyone felt they had a right to voice opinions about Spears evolving career—watching her every step, while male counterparts performed “art” that degraded women. The oversexualization of women and the massive wave of conservative pressures from the media lead to Spears’ career to be picked apart by adults and ridiculed by the public eye for being too promiscuous for such a “young woman.” Soon after the media left up to themselves to “save” the rising artist, she was locked into a conservatorship which would go on to completely ruin her life, taking away the essential autonomy of human existence.
Most relevant in today’s pop culture—and has been for almost two decades—is the steady rise of fame held by none other than Taylor Swift. Number one on every chart at some point in her career, breaking historical music records left and right, Swift’s musical empire has grown into one of the most phenomenally successful careers of all time. Excluding the successful kickstart from her self titled debut album, the blonde artist exploded in popularity by her second album, Fearless, gaining herself her first large scale force into stardom. After songs such as “Our Song,” “Fearless,” and “Love Story” hit the charts Swift’s “smooth sailing” rise of fame was put to a momentary halt at the 2009 VMA’s (a music award show) when rap artist Kanye “Ye” West infamously walked up on stage during the 19-year-old’s acceptance speech for “Best Music Video” for that year. In later years, from 2015-2018, Swift’s further tussles with West would create a divide between Swift fans and West fans.
Why do men feel the need to discredit women for their successes, and why do we go along with it? It repulses me to think back to 2016 when Swift was canceled (a concept I find most ridiculous in today’s society) as West attempted to tarnish the pop stars name and fame. This was the year when it became trendy or popular to dislike Taylor Swift, and more importantly, regularizing a hatred towards successful women, primarily due to the fact that they are popular… or just a woman. Growing up listening to Taylor Swift opened my eyes to the alternate path of listening to other genres of music or predominantly male artists; especially as social media became an overtaking presence. Rejecting Swift’s girly music or the idea of being a “Swiftie” due to Swift’s femininity represents the default to reject femininity as we age. This is toxic. Crafted from this concept, “The Man” by Taylor Swift from her album Lover addresses this concept to a T. The three minute and twelve second song shows the contrasting sides of life in the spotlight as a woman compared to that of a man’s. Listen to the song. Please.
Without coming across too feminist and biased on this opinion—because of course who would I be to constantly defend celebrities—the media needs to grow up and get out of the way. Stigma towards femininity in pop culture is undermining women’s success and must reverse now. When pulled away from the constraints of modern day pressures, it stands detrimental to societal structure to unite as women unless we are prepared to turn on women and let men continue to do whatever it is… they are doing currently.