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December 6, 2017updated 07 Dec 2017 9:09am

Why is Taylor Swift on TIME magazine? A study in controversy

By Jack Rear

Despite Donald Trump’s tweets claiming he was ‘probably’ going to be named TIME Magazine’s Person Of The Year, it turns out he was not. Instead, TIME has named ‘Silence Breakers’. In essence, the magazine has honoured the #MeToo campaign.

The campaign was set up in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein allegations. After Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment by a host of women, the scandal spread further. Empowered by the bravery shown by Weinstein’s accusers, women from all industries began to speak openly about the sexual harassment and abuse they’d suffered.

From women in the public eye to social media, the protest against sexual harassment resulted in the hashtag #MeToo trending worldwide. The sheer weight of women coming forward with their own stories of harassment appalled the world. As a result, it’s really no surprise TIME noted the movement as their Person Of The Year.

TIME’s cover of the issue naming the Silence Breakers as Person Of The Year featured a host of women who, each in their own way, stood up to toxic working cultures. The women on the cover are as follows:

  • Actress Ashley Judd – Spoke out about a sexual assault she suffered at the hands of Harvey Weinstein.
  • Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler – Published a blog post detailing the sexual harassment that went on at Uber, resulting in 20 people being fired and Uber’s CEO resigning.
  • Visa lobbyist Adama Iwu – A lobbyist from Sacramento who spoke out about a sexual assault she suffered in front of her colleagues at a work event.
  • Mexican agricultural worker Isabel Pascual – Stalked by a harasser at home and threatened to be silent, she protested for women in Hollywood in California.
  • One woman whose face cannot be seen – A young hospital worker who has faced sexual assault but features anonymously. She wanted to be part of the cover to represent those who couldn’t speak out.
  • Singer and songwriter Taylor Swift – see below.

Why is Taylor Swift on TIME magazine?

Taylor Swift is ostensibly on the cover of TIME magazine thanks to a success law suit against ex-radio DJ David Mueller. The jury found that Mueller assaulted Swift by grabbing her bottom beneath her skirt at a photo opportunity.

After the singer reported the incident, which took place in 2013, to Mueller’s bosses he was fired. Mueller sought a law suit against Swift for loss of earnings.

In turn, Swift sued Mueller for sexual assault. The singer sought symbolic damages of $1 in the name of women everywhere. After winning the trial, Swift paid tribute to other survivors of assault who haven’t been so lucky as her. She also pledged to donate to various women’s charities:

“I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this.

“My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”

While the case wasn’t precedent setting, it’s high profile nature was interesting and unusual. Usually celebrity law suits tend to be settled out of court or take place behind closed doors. For this reason, it’s no wonder Taylor Swift has been listed as a ‘silence breaker’.

The controversy around Taylor Swift being on the cover of TIME magazine:

However, while Taylor Swift’s case definitely drew attention towards the issue of sexual assault, there’s controversy too.

Swift was heavily criticized in January after not making a public appearance at one of the women’s marches. These marches took place around the world to protest Donald Trump’s presidency and other women’s rights issues. By refusing to make an appearance, Swift was seen as ignoring the issue.

At the time, many critics accused Swift of ‘white privilege’. For those unfamiliar with the term, this essentially implied Swift’s skin colour and status shielded her from many of the challenges that other women face.

In addition, Taylor Swift was not one of the female celebrity who openly condemned Weinstein or any other men accused of sexual assault.

Rachel Leah of Salon claimed Swift is “known to wave the feminist banner only when it directly benefits her.”

Swift’s silence on these issues was especially galling to some critics seeing as much of Taylor Swift’s personal brand is based on female friendships and empowerment. Taylor Swift, after all, basically invented the term ‘squad’. Her friends have become part of Swift’s brand. In fact, almost any time Swift is seen in public, a ‘squad member’ accompanies her.

Thus, despite the incredible legal victory in the name of women’s rights, Taylor Swift remains controversial. Judging by comments made on Twitter already, Swift’s inclusion on TIME’s cover seems likely to fan the flames even further:

https://twitter.com/amy_wood/status/938406401650475008

https://twitter.com/TheStagmania/status/938392264396730368

Still, as Swift would say herself, haters gonna hate.