Taylor Swift Absolutely Plays the Victim...Someone Needs To

In theory, there was probably once a time where Taylor’s name wasn’t immediately followed by whispers of “all she does is write about her boyfriends” or “Kim’s snapchat video exposed her” or “snake.”

Taylor Swift hit the music scene in a big way when her single “Teardrops on My Guitar” became a mega-hit, but you know that. Surely, you also know she became a notorious figure, held in absolute contempt, following mass hate of her boyfriend-centered lyrics, her feud with the Kardashians+Kanye, and her overall state of victimhood. In the exegesis around Taylor, the word “victim” seems to be what lingers on every tongue.

It’s hard to deny that victimhood is a central part of Taylor’s image. Her songs focus on being wronged by the men she’s loved, and her albums are littered with accusations of wrongdoing by lovers. The first scandal to splash red on her image, making her name, was Kanye snatching her moment of pride at the VMAs. Taylor Swift’s very image is one of the white, blonde, blue-eyed damsel, torn apart by love. This woman has built her career on dancing like she doesn’t mind all the ways she’s been hurt, donning a ball gown or sequined acoustic guitar or high-waisted shorts, and strutting onward. Taylor’s shoulders are heavy, carrying her cross-to-bear of a tragic and romantic conception of girlhood.

Hating Taylor’s victimhood makes sense. We hate it the same way we hate our own weakness. We hate Taylor for writing break up song after break up song the same way we hate it when our best friend texts us that she still misses that ex who treated her horribly. Taylor embodies the exact part of our psyche that lets boys treat us like dirt and cries at three am over our junior high boyfriend (Jack wyd these days I hope you’ve found happiness sorry for all the poems about you anyway back to the article.) To critique Taylor’s role in the public eye as a victim is to deny the role of victimization in girls lives. It only seems natural, in a world that infantilizes and demeans the autonomy and ability of young women, that we would seek a role model, an icon of this role as the victim. Taylor is a continuation of the damsel in distress, the princess in the tower. When little girls grow up seeing themselves as Cinderella, Rapunzel, or Princess Peach, how can we be surprised that pop culture would create a space for that figure to repeat? The girl in need of a hero, the sorrowed face -- it’s a penchant of our understanding of identity.

Taylor’s victim-persona could be toxic, and certainly, the vast majority of folks believe it to be so. But I think the point of redemption lies in the track “Dear John”, off her Speak Now album. The song details an abusive relationship (PS - JOHN MAYER CAN TRULY EAT MY ASS TO THE WONDERLAND OF BODIES AND BACK FOR HURTING TAYLOR) in lyrics like:

“My mother accused me of losing my mind

but I swore I was fine

you paint me a blue sky

and go back and turn it to rain.”


“Well maybe it’s me

and my blind optimism to blame

or maybe it’s you and your sick need

to give love and take it away

and you’ll add my name to a long list of traitors

who don’t understand.”

All this being a frank expression of the victimization Taylor (or the narrator, W/E) experienced at the hands of her abuser (see above comment about J*hn M*y*r.) But the bridge of the song twists the narrative:

“You are an expert at “sorry”

and keeping lines blurry;

never impressed by me acing your tests.

All the girls that you’ve run dry have tired, lifeless eyes

‘cause you’ve burned them out.

But I took your matches

before fire could catch me-

so don’t look now.

I’m shining like fireworks

over your sad empty town.”

Taylor explains exactly how a certain douchebag of a singer-songwriter who was ten years her senior emotionally abused, manipulated, and exploited and innocent and loving teenage girl, then takes the bridge to let him know exactly how powerful she is. And that’s the strength of Taylor. She is the victim until the last verse, chorus, strum of guitar. She is weak until she isn’t. She is crying until she stops. And perhaps that’s the poignancy to her discography; that she’s crafted a space for a teenage girl to wallow in the ache of her heart until she turns it off, declares herself a survivor.

Every teardrop on her guitar, 2 am crying sesh (these are mentioned in lyrics at least once every album) or heartbreak is another key to exposing how she’s been wronged, how she's misled herself, and how she won’t learn from it. And ya’ll can claim that as victimhood, as frailty, as being some dumb girl who just writes about the long string of boys...but someone has to do it. There’s a unique power in giving meaning to a teenage girl’s feelings. There’s strength in being a teenage girl, standing at a microphone, and declaring that your hurt matters.


Taylor Swift’s newest album, in which it can be expected that she will address her status as America’s top victim, “Reputation” is scheduled for release on November 10th.


Image sources: [1] [2] [3]