Friday nights are a sacred space.
I enjoy coming home to do my laundry, tidy up my room…and shamelessly sing off pitched lyrics to ditties that are oddly reminiscent of my high school freshman diary while I simultaneously dance around in my running spankies and jump on top of my bed. Friday night is Taylor Swift ‘n Sing Karaoke Clean-up Nights. Please knock before you enter.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my old roommate had a somewhat (understated) problem with this. No, no. It wasn’t that he grew up in a land that knew no Dixie. Or that country was clearly not the blade of grass that got his John Deere sheers a ‘spinnin. It was the fact that Taylor Swift hates men.
Credit Image: © Jeff Blake/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com
Yes. Taylor Swift hates men.
“She dates boys, then writes songs about all the bad things they’ve done.”
Writing about bad things men have done, implies an innate hatred towards them? I mused the thought over in my mind. Then, I quietly pushed my open diary – haphazardly open on the floor - under my bed with my foot.
I’ve since moved out of that apartment, but I have to wonder what my old flatmate thinks about Taylor’s new song, “I Knew You Were Trouble”. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s a little number one tune in which Taylor takes full ownership of her own choice to be in a relationship with a guy she knew was, well, trouble. And in the end she clearly states,
The blame is on me.
My old flatmate must be rejoicing in the now vocally vacant halls of our old flat. And he is not alone. I did a quick Google search of the term, Taylor Swift Hates Men. There were 8.75 million hits. This hodgepodge hatred of Taylor is more troubling then the fact that I’ve played Trouble more than 277 times in the past month.
It’s troubling because people aren’t calling Taylor out because she often juxtaposes women in candy coloured depictions of virginal saints versus sexually active, boyfriend-stealing whores. It’s troubling they are calling her out for being a man hater. This is a problem. Aside from a few admittedly flippant attack songs, most of her songs don’t do that at all. In fact, a lot of her songs talk about the challenges of fitting in with peers, the challenges of growing up, and yes…even the joys of being with a great guy.
But, there are songs that talk about the frustrations of dating, and her experiences with men…particularly men who’ve done her wrong. And apparently, if you’re a female in America and you call men out on the things they’ve done to hurt you (as opposed to male singers/groups in America, whose breakup songs dominate the top 9 of the top 10 breakup songs of all time) then you clearly hate the opposite sex.
It would be one thing if this social censorship simply resided in our criticism of Taylor Swift music. But when we step back and observe the space we create to acknowledge the voices of women in the media expressing their bad experiences without the repercussion of social censorship, we start to see it doesn't exist. Instead, we see this same sentiment of social censorship perpetuated into other areas of our culture, most glaringly in the legal system.
Censorship of women's bad experiences is strikingly exemplified in both high and low profile cases of sexual assault. We live in a rape culture that punishes survivors who come forward with allegations of sexual assault or abuse by making an example of them through social, legal, and media driven platforms. Further, we defend the perpetrators as if they were the victims, as if the woman who brings forth the charges is doing so to ruin the lives of the rapists.
This past month, in a small sleepy town snuggled next the Mississippi river by the bluffs of downstate Illinois, Melisa Vistain walked up the stone steps of the Jackson County courthouse, and into her pre-trial for a felony conviction. Her crime? The false accusation of rape. Vistain’s initial report stated that what started out as a consensual act quickly became uncongenial. This is the stance she maintains.
The legal action has caused over 20 rape crises centers state wide to draw together in support of Vistain. Their stance is simple: prosecuting a sexual assault victim is devastating for the victim, and chilling for current and future sexual assault victims.
There has been a sound battle cry that the States Attorny on the case is using Vistain to convery a message: Sweep the incident under the consensual rug and put the blame on yourself. After all, you got yourself into a sexual situation with someone you knew was trouble. The legal blame is on you.
The most glaring example of silencing in our culture can be seen in the recent Steubenville Trials. A young, intoxicated 16-year-old-girl was raped several times throughout a night by two prominent high school football players. Fellow teammate Erin Westlake walked in on his two boys in the basement, and found the girl naked on the floor. One perpetrator was slapping his penis on the girl’s hip. The other perpetrator was behind the girl, violating her with two fingers.
The rapes were videoed, and then uploaded onto the Internet.
Many, including Westlake, have stepped up to defend his teammates and their violation, stating “It wasn’t violent,” and thus, doesn’t count as a ‘real’ assault.
This attitude tells the victim that her experience, her violation, isn’t really real. It doesn’t count, because no one jumped out of a bush to attack her. Clearly, any mental suffering she endured resulting in the conviction at a trial is just Jane Doe being emotional, and perpetuating a gross overreaction.
In fact, if you ask CNN correspondents Candy Crowley, Poppy Harlow and Paul Callan, the conviction of the two 16-year-old-boys who created irreparable damage to the life of another, is heart-breaking. Obviously, the punishment these two boys must face for their crime is much worse then the mental, emotional and social repercussions this young woman must face. Because Jane Doe doesn’t just have to deal with the emotions of sexual assault, her peers have socially ostracized her and have threatened her life multiple times on online social media.
This past February, a University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill student faced suspension and expulsion because her report of rape was creating an ‘intimidating environment’ for her rapist. Let's not forget about the lawsuit brought against Kleiner Perkins Caufeild and Beyers, in which a junior partner accused another junior partner of sexual advances, and faced heavy work place ostracism as a consequence of her actions.
It is this mentality of finding excuses, pardoning those who have committed a criminal act and blaming a victim that tells the victim she does not have a right in our society to speak out against the perpetrator. It is this rape culture that tells victims like Melissa Vistain to shut up even if the sky is falling.
When we live in a rape culture that punishes survivors who come forward with allegations of sexual assault by making an example of them through social, legal, and media driven platforms, we are creating an adversarial climate for future survivors to bring forth their claims and undergo a just and due process by law. We are perpetuating a social censorship that demoralizes women’s experiences as petty complaints, emotive behavior, and something that should just be "Swifted" away.
So the next time you complain about a Taylor Swift song, do it because you can’t stand her voice. Do it because you loathe country pop and if you have to put up with one more four-chord top 20 hit, you’ll seriously rip your roommate’s iPod out of the wall socket. Do it because you respectfully disagree with the way Taylor publicly talks about her breakups. But don’t do it because Taylor Swift hates men. She doesn’t.
And neither does any the other woman who speaks up against a criminal act she experienced, especially if a man commits that act.
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