Taylor Swift has a bit of a reputation as a tough nut. She doesn’t take flak lying down, and her feud with Kanye West – which has seen her go from wide-eyed country music ingenue to (apparently) a scheming snake queen straight out of Game of Thrones – is probably the most fascinating celebrity feud there is.
When West leapt on the stage at the VMAs in 2009, little did he know that the petite blonde girl whose spotlight he was stealing was not a flash in the pan. The feud has continued, with varying degrees of ridiculousness, but seem to have reached an apex when Kanye wrote in a song that [he] ‘made that bitch famous’.
Hardly. Taylor is now one of the most powerful women in pop, surrounding herself with other high profile women she calls her #squad, and that moment of stunned silence has never been repeated. She’s learned to speak up for herself, and for other women, including in response to digs like this from West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, who seems to have used the feud as a way of building her Snapchat audience.
Just like Kanye West, David Mueller underestimated Taylor Swift.
A radio DJ on a six figure salary, Mueller was attending a fan meet-and-greet with his girlfriend and posing for a photo when he grabbed the singer’s buttock under her skirt. The photo of the three of them shows Taylor, ever the pro, with a frozen smile, the girlfriend blissfully unaware, and Mueller grinning like a loon.
About 15 minutes later, she told her photographer what had happened, and news spread around her team. She complained to his employers, and he lost his job.
So vast, however, was this man’s sense of entitlement, that he sued her. David Mueller sexually assaulted Taylor Swift, lost his job for it… and then sued his victim for his loss of earnings.
Imagine robbing someone’s house, then blaming them when you lose your job because your employer doesn’t like dishonesty. It’s ludicrous. Because this is how America works, not only did Swift defend herself vigorously, but she countersued.
Unlike him, she didn’t want money. She doesn’t need money. What she needed was to be vindicated. For a court to rule it unacceptable that a man can sexually assault somebody, and then blame her for the consequences.
And, thanks to a testimony in which Swift repeatedly, coolly, reinforced the point that she was not in the wrong, it did.
In a statement afterwards, she acknowledged the privilege her wealth and position brings her, pointing out that she is lucky to be able to fight such a case, and said she wanted it to bring hope to anyone feeling silenced by a sexual assault. Although she only sought symbolic damages of $1, she has pledged to make substantial donations to organisations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.
As she said herself, Swift is incredibly lucky to have the resources to fight the case. Most of us have had an experience like this – in a nightclub, at an event, even at work. Most of us have gritted our teeth, and kept going. We didn’t want to cause tension at work – more often than not, women are junior to their aggressors, and in a more precarious employment situation – or to ‘cause a fuss’. We didn’t want to be ‘the bitch’. He was only being friendly, we’re told, he was messing, can’t you take a joke?
Taylor Swift isn’t afraid to cause a fuss. She has enough friends. And she can take a joke, but that’s not a joke.
And while most of us will never have the power she has, she’s the kind of girl I’d want in my #squad anytime.
Published in The Herald, 18.08.17.