#IWD2020: Taylor Swift’s New Music Video Challenges Double Standards
By now, Swifties are well aware of the genius that is Taylor Swift. Almost everything she does has a deeper meaning – from her lyrics, the accompanying music video, the accessories she chooses and the posts she puts up. Her latest album release, “Lover” was no exception. And on that album is the song, “The Man”.
Speaking to Vogue back in September, Taylor described the song as being an experiment that tested what differences life would have held should she have been a man, stating, “If I [were a man and] had made all the same choices, all the same mistakes, all the same accomplishments, how would it read?” And she does exactly that in her song, continuing the theme of taking back her narrative by referencing all the times she was given flack for something that a man would not have gotten. The song is here to remind us that we don’t need to live by the standards of society and if “someone uses name-calling to bully you on social media, and even if a lot of people jump on board with it, that doesn’t have to defeat you. It can strengthen you instead.” Here’s what Taylor Swift has called out in her lyrics and music video that strengthens the argument that women are not always treated equally –
1. “When everyone believes ya; What’s that like?”
It’s no understatement to say that Taylor Swift has been on the receiving end of backlash, criticism and endless media scrutiny since she made it big in 2006 with her debut album, “Taylor Swift” – but that’s the price you pay for being in the spotlight. However, she has been on the receiving end of such negativity more than her male counterparts, who are also in the music industry. Despite her rebuttals for most of the accusations thrown at her, very rarely did people leave it well enough alone – hence the powerful line that points out how women’s voices are marginalised and often ignored.
2. “They’d say I played the ﬁeld before I found someone to commit to. And that would be ok; Every conquest I had made would make me more of a boss to you.”
If you look closely, the headline on the front page of the newspaper reads, “What Man Won The Year In Celebrity Dating?” This alludes to the fact that Swift has been labelled a “serial dater” and gotten hate for the fact that “all she wrote” was about boys, exes and more boys. Back in 2014, Swift challenged these double standards when promoting “1989” in an interview with 2Day FM, Sydney:
You’re gonna have people who are gonna say ‘Oh, you know, like, she just writes songs about her ex-boyfriends.’ And I think, frankly, that’s a very sexist angle to take. No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says it about Bruno Mars. They’re all writing songs about their exes, their current girlfriends, their love life, and no one raises a red flag there.
3. “They’d say I hustled; Put in the work. They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve.”
In 2019, Scooter Braun bought Big Machine Records and effectively became the new owner of the master records of Taylor Swifts older albums – Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation – meaning that they will profit from sales and use of Taylor’s old music. Taylor took to social media to fight for the rights to her music, publically calling Scooter out. In the video, Taylor (as “The Man”) is seen peeing on the wall of a subway station with the names of her albums spray-painted on the walls. Also on the walls are the signs, “MISSING: If found, return to Taylor Swift” and a “no scooter” sign. In an Instagram post addressing Braun’s acquisition, Swift said:
“For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.”
Artists like Kesha, Lil Kim, Iggy Azalea an JoJo have all had to fight for their rights to release the music they wanted or to leave the contracts that they signed under false pretences or were not being honoured.
4. “I’m so sick of running as fast I can. Wondering if I’d get there quicker; If I was a man.”
In the video, The Man is seen running through a very familiar hallway as he high-fives a bunch of colourful, disembodied hands sticking out of the wall. Why is this hallway familiar? Well, it seems to resemble the very creepy hallway that’s part of the Wests – a.k.a. Kim & Kanye West – house of h̶o̶r̶r̶o̶r̶ minimalism.
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) February 3, 2020
Everyone knows the connection between TS & the Wests, having seen the drama unfold online as Taylor is heard agreeing to give Kanye approval for the line “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex”, the clip of which was released after her publicist released a statement regarding the rest of the sentence, “Why? I made that bitch famous”. The release of the clip had torrents of hate sent to Swift, with people branding her a snake and forcing her to withdraw from the eye of the public. This scene suggests that if Swift had been a man, she might have had more supporters on her side.
5. “If I was out ﬂashing my dollars, I’d be a bitch, not a baller.”
Often accused of being money-hungry and power-hungry, Swift’s contributions to charity and her fight for better pay for artists with Apple Music have not been publicised as much. The claim that women are judged more for their spending – i.e. on their outfit choices, nail choices, etc. It’s not just Taylor that has received this critique – Ariana Grande got flack for “7 Rings”. And yet, many a man has sung about money and women.
6. “And I’m so sick of them coming at me again. ‘Cause if I was a man…”
The inclusion of this scene in the video shows Taylor going the extra mile to include instances of sexism that other women have faced in their own careers. It mirrors the occurrence with Serena Williams, where she was unable to keep her cool with a chair umpire at the finals of the U.S. Open in 2018. She was given a penalty for receiving coaching from the stands, where her coach was. This incident was the start of a huge debate on how male and female tennis players are treated differently.
Serena was criticised for her reaction at the US Open final, even though men who've reacted worse in the past were just called "passionate"
Taylor including this in the video for "The Man" while literally singing "If I was a man, then I'd be the man" whew pic.twitter.com/0KDIVyEhEW
— notagainben (@NotAgainBen) February 27, 2020
Swift ends the video by turning the tables on men, projecting the same expectations of women onto them as she asks the actor to be “sexier, more likeable”.
Taylor took on the role of Director for this music video, taking it up a notch from being co-director of “Lover”, “You Need To Calm Down” and “Me.” She states, “If I [were a man and] had made all the same choices, all the same mistakes, all the same accomplishments, how would it read?”. The end of the video credits Swift as the Director, Writer, Owner & Star.
Here’s to more amazing boundaries, standards and stereotypes broken, challenged and overcome by all women around the world.