If you haven’t already heard of Taylor Swift, then I applaud your self-control and wonder how you were able to find this article in the first place! Swift seems to be living as a superhuman, simultaneously undertaking her biggest tour to date, rerecording her older music catalogue, and even attending Kansas City Chiefs’ football games to support Travis Kelce. Her presence can be tracked across the United States exclusively using state GDP spikes (and, in the case of her second Seattle show, the Richter scale). The Eras Tour generated more revenue in Glendale, Arizona than the 2023 Super Bowl. TIME has subsequently awarded her the honour of Person of the Year—her second time on the cover after being recognised in 2017 as one of the Silence Breakers for the #MeToo Movement.
Many scoff at this year’s choice, especially considering the influential screenwriters and actors who demanded better working conditions, or the politicians who often grace the covers of Person of the Year editions. Indeed, at first glance, this year’s choice may seem odd – a glitzy, sparkling pop star after Volodymyr Zelensky was chosen last year as the Spirit of Ukraine.
Curiously, much of this criticism (and indeed the criticism throughout her 15-year career) has come from men. I am by no means implying that all men hate Taylor Swift—I hear you shouting the lyrics to Love Story in Jimmy’s. I merely refer to the fact that, in my experience, most men will not openly voice their support for someone as “girly” as Taylor Swift.
Something Taylor Swift has done effortlessly throughout her discography is capturing the female experience—something that continues to be belittled and overlooked. From thinking a crush could be your Romeo, to the turmoil of an unclear relationship, or to simply wanting to party like you’re 22, Swift has masterfully taken her life experiences and turned them into an art that women and young girls easily relate to. While speculation about whom each song is about is a fun part of being in the fandom, you don’t need to know all the details to feel what Swift is trying to convey. She has allowed the emotions of young girls (which are often brushed aside) to be seen, to be understood, and to be accepted. A fan at one of the Eras shows explained “you could so easily be ashamed of singing Taylor Swift in your bedroom. You could leave it behind. But [Swift] doesn’t let you.”
Yes, the scale of The Eras Tour is unprecedented – a 44-song setlist over 3 hours long – but it is also a celebration of every single Swift era, and in turn, all of ours. It acknowledges that it is worth celebrating all our eras, that our feelings and desires are just as valid now as they were back then. This is inclusive of all people – not just women – who have been looked down upon, scoffed at, and made to believe they had to be small to be respected. Sam Lansky mentions this in the TIME profile, saying Swift is “modelling radical self-acceptance on the world’s largest stage, giving the audience a space to revisit their own joy or pain, once dismissed or forgotten.”
The Eras Tour was just one aspect of “a three-part summer of feminine extravaganza”, which included Beyonce’s Renaissance Tour and, of course, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. I believe we’re seeing a shift in the public sphere.
There is certainly a larger discussion here about toxic masculinity as well, and how everyone should be allowed to acknowledge every part of who they are. I hope that Swift’s influence can open the door for conversations of “radical self-acceptance” and give everyone “permission to believe that their interior lives matter.”
I will admit, I fell off the Taylor Swift train after the original release of her pop album 1989. However, my love for her music and her story has been reignited since the rerecording of her older songs that I know and love. While her influence solidifies itself into popular culture, Swift shows time and time again that women deserve a spot at the table, and that no one is crazy for wanting their story to be told.
Illustration: Tegan Frampton