“Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,” Taylor Swift famously sings in her her mega-hit “Shake It Off.” Isn’t that the truth.
Swift may have been featured on TIME magazine’s Person of the Year cover as a silence breaker, but not everybody agrees that the popular singer deserves such a distinction. And some are being quite harsh in their assessment of TIME’s inclusion of her on its latest magazine cover. Swift was featured on the cover for her role in raising awareness about sexual harassment after she countersued former Denver county radio DJ David Mueller for assault and battery — the DJ had initially sued Swift, claiming that she got him fired when she publicly outed him for lifting her skirt and groping her during a meet-and-greet in 2013. In the case, Swift famously provided blunt testimony while on the stand.
“Gabe, this is a photo of him with his hand up my skirt — with his hand on my ass,” Swift told Mueller’s lawyer, Gabe McFarland, after he questioned whether the DJ had really groped her. And after McFarland tried to claim that Swift must be critical of her bodyguard if he really didn’t stop Mueller from groping her, she responded: “I’m critical of your client sticking his hand under my skirt and grabbing my ass.” Other tactics used by McFarland met similar responses.
According to TIME, Swift’s “clear-eyed testimony marked one of several major milestones in the conversation around sexual harassment this year.” In an interview with the magazine, Swift also gave a strong response to people such as Geraldo Rivera, who have claimed that women shouldn’t be able to speak out about sexual harassment if it happened a long time ago.
“You should not be blamed for waiting 15 minutes or 15 days or 15 years to report sexual assault or harassment, or for the outcome of what happens to a person after he or she makes the choice to sexually harass or assault you,” she said. “I think that this moment is important for awareness, for how parents are talking to their children, and how victims are processing their trauma, whether it be new or old. The brave women and men who have come forward this year have all moved the needle in terms of letting people know that this abuse of power shouldn’t be tolerated.”
Not everybody is convinced of Swift’s sincerity, however. In a scathing opinion piece for The Daily Beast, Amy Zimmerman criticized Swift for refusing to speak out against Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, or to acknowledge the claims of 16 women who have accused the now-president of sexual harassment or assault. Swift, Zimmerman points out, was also conspicuously absent from the Women’s March on Washington — even if she did issue a tweet in support. Swift’s pointed silence about Trump, and even her own neo-Nazi fans, Zimmerman writes, is all about making money. Swift’s feminism, she claims, is similarly motivated.
“TIME’s decision to laud [Swift] as a “silence breaker” is ironic on multiple counts, and suggests that the magazine was willing to barter some integrity for star power and social media buzz,” Zimmerman concludes. “Because of her spineless feminism and political passivity, Taylor Swift is hardly the figure of female empowerment that TIME is making her out to be.