My Preoccupation with Taylor Swift’s Underwear & How Her Assault Trial Challenges the Victim-Blaming Mindset

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

By Kaitlin Bartlett

In the past 24 hours, I have given a disturbing amount of thought to Taylor Swift’s underwear. Or rather, her lack of underwear. The logistics of the entire situation surrounding her alleged assault at a 2013 meet-and-greet sent me combing through Twitter for articles and live tweets and photos.

“He grabbed my bare ass,” Swift told jurors Thursday, explaining that DJ David Mueller groped her “underneath [her] skirt” while posing for a photo op backstage. Even as a self-proclaimed feminist and Taylor Swift fan, my first instinct was to wonder why she wasn’t wearing underwear. I wondered about the fabric of her dress and its potential to show panty lines, and I scrolled through Twitter until I discovered the picture in question.

And then I froze.

The bold red circle signifying where Mueller’s hand met Swift’s body was unnecessary; my eyes found it immediately. It’s difficult to mistake the angle of his arm as brushing her rib or back. It clearly hovers behind her rear end. Paired with Swift’s body language, how she’s angled toward Mueller’s then-girlfriend and away from him, the photo told me enough.

I was horrified by my initial reaction of wondering if she could have prevented the incident. I trusted Swift’s testimony, but for a split second her word hadn’t been enough for me. I’d needed evidence. Wondering about a woman’s clothing or demeanor is the same as the “But was she drunk?” question often posed in assault cases, where the victim is required to prove she could not have prevented the assault. We ask victims to provide evidence about the ruffling of their skirt before we’re willing to believe their story. Swift has a literal photograph of her assault, yet we still question her.

Even so, Swift’s stance in the courtroom was unflinching. “I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is anyway my fault, because it isn’t,” she said to Mueller’s attorney during the cross-examination. She is countersuing Mueller for $1—in contrast to his $3 million—to show women they can “always say no,” even if they don’t react the way society wants them to.

Swift is receiving pushback on social media by people who believe she’s dramatizing the incident. Jokes about her “not having enough ass to grab” or writing a song about the incident for her next album fill up the comment sections of news articles. I’ve even read debates about the severity of the assault with the sentiment of “Well, it was inappropriate, but it wasn’t rape, so why is she going through all this legal trouble?”

Any non-consensual touch is assault. We need to retrain our brains as a society to filter out the background chatter about clothing worn and whether the woman screamed “No!” By bringing her voice—and national attention—to this issue, Swift is furthering the discussion of victim-blaming and consent.

I’m curling my hands into a heart for Taylor Swift today, thankful for her decision to fight for herself and on behalf of other women afraid to speak up. 

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