It is a chilly November evening. You bundle up, fashion your scarf into the best Parisian knot possible, slip into your favorite loafers, and head out the door. You decide to grace the local Vons with your presence, strolling down each aisle with your friends in pursuit of food for your bare apartment. After the fruitful journey and success in avoiding buying anything from the dessert aisle, you reach the checkout stand, only to have this glaring you down:
(Image courtesy of Us Weekly Magazine)
Goodbye lovely evening, hello anger.
Taylor Swift is a popular country/pop singer. She burst onto the music scene in 2006 at the tender of age of 17, and America is still watching her grow up at the current age of 22. To today’s generation, she is what Shania Twain was to the 1990s. Most prominent about Swift is her huge fan base of teenaged girls. The tone of this Us Weekly cover was too shameful and negative for me to tune out. I was concerned about the labels stamped upon Swift and what it said not just about her dating life, but also her as a person. Most of all, I worried about what message this sent to her young female fans.
Upon first glancing at the cover, “why she can’t find love” stands out in its big, bold font. This simple phrase carries with it many heavy connotations. For one, it speaks to societal expectations set forth for women, a concept Deborah Tolman covers in her book “Dilemmas of Desire.” It has become socially expected for women to be in pursuit of love and achieving that accomplishment, rather than have casual relationships or sexual encounters. The line “why she can’t find love” endorses the idea that in order to be successful, girls need to find love. Moreover, it shames Swift for dating so many men and being unable to “find love” with any of them, suggesting that she is failing or doing something wrong. Both lines of thinking couldn’t be more harmful to young girls and women.
Swift’s perceived failure is echoed in the cover’s mentioning of how she “repeats the same mistakes.” This gets readers to believe that in her relationships, Swift is doing something wrong. In reality, what does Us Weekly, or any consumers of popular culture, actually know what goes on between two celebrities outside of the spotlight and behind closed doors? Moreover, “repeats the same mistakes” echoes earlier ideas that something is wrong with Swift. It suggests she is continually doing wrong and unable to change her ways, forever doomed in not being able to achieve love. While the cover deems her dating methods wrong, the cover hints that there’s something even more wrong with Swift internally and being unable to find love. Who’s to say that Swift wasn’t able to find what she wanted with any of the men she’s dated, or vice versa?
It is no secret that Taylor Swift’s dating life has been highlighted in the public spotlight. Paparazzi have detailed the many guys she dates, and her breakups are popular subjects of songs she writes. Fame and being a celebrity depletes Swift’s chances of what the average person has for a relationship; the demanding career of a celebrity and the lack of privacy are crippling issues in a relationship, such that a “normal relationship” may not be a reasonable expectation. And while she has dated men that I may not have, it’s ultimately her life and her lessons in love that she needs to learn for herself. Who are we to condemn her for just trying to date and discover what she likes and needs in a partner? I find it more ludicrous that Swift, at the incredibly young age of 22, is already being pressured to find her true love. Many are still trying to grow, figure out who they are as individuals, and assimilate into the adult world at 22. For these people, how is it reasonable to keep and sustain a long lasting relationship when they’re not even sure where life’s journey will take them?
While the cover of Us Weekly was unflattering for Taylor Swift, my primary concern is for her young female fan base and women in general. The cover did nothing but shame Swift for her dating life and stigmatize her, making it seem like something is wrong with her. This sends out a negative message to women that one must achieve love in order to be successful, and failing to do so means there is something wrong with oneself. I even felt insecure about my own dating from seeing this cover. In reality, finding love and being able to keep it is a difficult aspect of life that few are able to accomplish. All of us, men and women, should focus on establishing the best version of ourselves as individuals, and let the chips fall where they may. And at all costs, never let a gossip magazine judge, shame, or reduce us as people.
(My current favorite song of Taylor Swift, from her recently released album “Red.”)
“I've been spending the last 8 months/Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end/But on a Wednesday in a cafe, I watched it begin again.”