Jennifer Stewart on why Taylor Swift is the feminist of our generation

Taylor Swift is Person of the Year

I woke up today to news that Taylor Swift is Time’s Person of the Year. I’m 39 years old, a CEO of a few companies, and a mother. By societal terms, this announcement shouldn’t have brought me so much happiness (or should it have?). But it did.

Taylor is the antithesis of the images I grew up with in the media. She is strong, independent, and seemingly shows her true self even when it isn’t always glamorous. She has risen from the ashes, so to speak, against toxic male culture (cue Kanye West), and continues to advocate that women should break down the binds that pit us against one another.

You see, I grew up in the Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera adolescent era. No disrespect for these women whatsoever. I listened to and loved their music, but see now that they were teenage girls that were overly sexualized by a male-dominated music industry looking for quick hits to sell records.

When I was 16, Britney was gyrating in a belly top and a suggestively draped snake. That was my cultural reference for beautiful. It was tight abs, and a sultry look on your face. Your value was your sexiness. (A famous Britney lyric sums up this era: Love me, hate me, say what you want about me / But all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy.) 

Fast forward to the role model that my daughter idolizes. She is fierce, silly, a genius in marketing herself, beautiful, embraces her femineity, and sings about her emotions, experiences, dreams, childhood, and loves.

While I could go on and on about Taylor, here’s why this news brought me so much joy, and why I stand behind my hypothesis that Taylor is the feminist of our generation.

Jennifer Stewart at a Taylor Swift concert in 2015

Taylor Swift has proven artists — and women — can be more than one thing

Taylor is not defined by a genre of music. She’s done country, folk, pop, and the list could go on. She is constantly reinventing herself, her style, and her music — I view this as a metaphor for us as women.

So often we’re pigeonholed by society for being one thing. You’re either a ruthless businesswoman or a good mom. You’re either beautiful or smart. You’re either woke or extremist. We leave very little open to interpretation or shades of grey, and frankly that hurts us and does nothing but divide.

Taylor has shattered that image. She’s proven what I think women have always known and desired to show: we’re like onions (as Shrek famously said) with an abundance of layers and complexities.

Taylor Swift speaks up for what’s right

Taylor transcended her power from the stage to the courtroom when she filed a $1 countersuit against a former DJ who inappropriately groped her.

The ordeal lasted four years, and she showed on the world stage the type of counterarguments and scrutiny women face when they go public with sexual assault. The lawyer for the DJ brought Taylor to tears when, in his closing arguments, asked her when referencing a photo from the incident: “Look at her face, is that the face of someone who just had her butt grabbed? Is that the face of someone who is upset?”

This was a global magnifying glass on the gross and appalling treatment of women in trials like this, and Taylor stood firm in the face of humiliation. She won her case, and publicly said she was standing up for all women who had been assaulted. Once again, she was breaking barriers.

Taylor Swift supports other women

If any narrative is getting old, it’s the one that pits women against one another. This summer, in the face of a ‘girl power’ moment amidst Taylor, Beyoncé, and Barbie, the media continued to create false narratives about women and fabricated animosity between them.

Taylor broke this down and called it out, telling Time Magazine, “There were so many stadium tours this summer, but the only ones that were compared were me and Beyoncé. Clearly, it’s very lucrative for the media and stan culture to pit two women against each other, even when those two artists in question refuse to participate in that discussion.

There you have it. I’m proud to live in an era that includes Taylor Swift as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, and I’m glad my daughter is, too.


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