Taylor Swift Has Been Problematic But Still Deserves Support During Her Assault Trial

Taylor Swift

UPDATE: A judge has dismissed the case of David Mueller, a DJ who sued Taylor Swift after she alleged he groped her in 2013. Mueller claimed Swift got him fired for the assault, which he denies. A judge said there was insufficient evidence that Swift was liable for his termination or even set out to get him fired.

Google “Taylor Swift problematic” and a spate of headlines like “How Taylor Swift Played the Victim for a Decade and Made Her Entire Career,” “Taylor Swift: America’s Problematic Sweetheart,” and the very direct “Reasons I Can’t Stand Taylor Swift” pop up. Certainly, Swift’s transgressions are many. Any one of the aforementioned articles calls out her privilege, her repeated use of cultural appropriation in her videos, and her claiming to be a feminist while also displaying an utter lack of awareness of that problems exist for women outside those she’s experienced as a wealthy, thin, cisgender white woman. 

All of those things are true; however, Swift is currently involved in a lawsuit and a trial after she accused radio DJ David Mueller of reaching under her skirt and grabbing her butt during a pre-concert meet-and-greet in 2013. Swift reported the incident to the radio station and Mueller was fired, so naturally, he victimized her for a second time by suing her and placing her in the position of having to defend herself against her groper. While all of that deeply disturbing garbage has gone down, some of the most vocal feminists and internet advocates for women, with a few exceptions, have remained bizarrely quiet. So are the pro-woman voices on Twitter or the average feminist blog only there to defend women who lack a checkered history? Because that’s a problem in and of itself. 

Swift, 27, countersued Mueller for $1 to make a point that sexual assault, although we live in a time when Donald “I grab them by the pussy” Trump is in the White House, is never acceptable. On Thursday she faced her groper in what is fast becoming a master class on how to not to cave under a system laden with misogyny. She shouldn’t have been forced into that situation, but she was, and she handled it with grace and power. 

“It happened to me. He had a handful of my ass. It happened to me. I know it was him,” Swift said when Mueller’s lawyer suggested she’d made a mistake in identifying just which man grabbed her butt in the picture they took together. “I didn’t need a picture. I could have picked him out of a line of a thousand. This is not alleged. I don’t need you to grill me about the tiny details of this photograph,” she said, according to Salon.

When the attorney attempted to lay guilt on Swift for Mueller's firing, she was unwavering. “I didn’t have a reaction to a strange person I didn’t know losing his job. That was a product of his decisions, not mine,” she said. “I’m not going to let you or your client make me feel like this is my fault.”

Sites like Slate and Salon have praised her testimony for its steadfastness, but even Salon couldn’t help but offer a barb with its headline “With Her Tough Testimony, Did we Just Meet the Real Taylor Swift?” the headline suggesting that only the palatable, approved-of Swift must be the real one. 

Prior to her testimony, the trial had been referred to in the media as the “butt-grabbing trial,” and not just by tabloids. Variety ran the egregious headline “Taylor Swift Butt-Grabbing Trial Begins Today,” reducing the \ accusation to a punch line, and yet there was no throng of voices on Twitter calling out Variety’s insensitivity. 

One of the few writers to note the lack of support for Swift in a year when women’s issues have bubbled to the surface was HuffPost contributor Anne Catherine Demere, who wrote:  

Am I missing something? I was under the impression that, now more than ever, feminists were loud and present and defensive. I thought I was seeing a wave of even braver men and women on social media, calling out bullshit and striking down misogyny. I thought the last nine months built an online army of journalists and Twitter users and anyone else who’s fed up with sexism and its disturbing presence in the administration, fighting every day against the trails of normalized misogyny Trump leaves behind and defending the women who speak out about it.

It would not appear that Demere missed anything. Online support for Swift was paltry at best until her testimony emboldened a few celebrities to share words of encouragement and thankfulness for her testimony. “Fight Song” singer Rachel Platten, singer Nelly Furtado, and Lena Dunham (a friend of Swift’s who’s also got a reputation for being problematic) all praised Swift for her courage in bringing the issue of standing up to sexual assault to the fore. 

It remains to be seen if leading feminists and typically vocal pro-woman tweeters will weigh in on Swift's empowering testimony. What seems clear, though, is that no woman, when faced with assault of any kind, deserves the silent treatment. 

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