If you’ve been on the internet today you’ll know that another chapter is unfolding in the Taylor Swift vs Scott Borchetta / Scooter Braun saga. Namely, that Taylor exhausted all avenues of negotiation with them privately, told the world that they were trying to block her from performing a medley of songs THAT SHE WROTE during the American Music Awards next week.
In case you don’t know the whole story, Taylor signed a contract with Big Machine Records when she was 14. The contract meant that the masters of everything she wrote from then on belonged to her record label. No matter that she wrote these songs, that they were words about her break-ups and friendships and best/worst life moments throughout the most significant decade of her life. They belonged to a group of men in a big glass office.
We’re not all like Taylor. In fact basically none of us are. We don’t have millions of fans, sold out stadium tours and multiple houses. But women all over the world know what it feels like to watch someone else - usually a man - take credit for our work. How often, when that happens, do you speak up, rather than simply allowing it to happen?
Taylor had me covered when I was crying over boys who didn’t notice me, ranting about men who had broken my heart and mourning friendships that ended in flames. Like so many musicians, if you want to cry about boys or break-ups, she’s got you covered. But she’s also the only one I turn to in moments of confusion about my career.
Studies show that having men take credit and make bank on the back of the achievements of women is common. And while of course the record label which signed Taylor before she was famous has a right to make money from her work, do they really have any right to prevent her from singing words that she wrote? From performing songs that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for her?
There was always something a little queasy-making about these older men sitting in a boardroom watching the dollars roll in from the heartbreaks, first loves, trials and tribulations of a teenage girl. But for them to continue to make money from her life experiences while slapping a gagging order on her? It’s beyond grim.
While the presentation of her feelings might be more polished in 2019 than it was in 2009, she’s still doing the same thing: telling the truth about how she feels.
Women all over the world are encouraged to play nicely, keep quiet and be sweet. Sugar and spice and all things nice. Taylor Swift refuses to play that game. Despite the fact that caring about money and defending your copyright aren’t the hallmarks of a sexy pop starlet, Taylor has done so throughout her career.
When Taylor took legal action over her work being used without her permission, she was called a brat. When she refused to let Apple Music use her work without paying market value, she was shouted down for being demanding. Every single time she publicly states that she wants to be treated with respect, she is told to shut her mouth. And she never does. Which is why she is important.
Of course women who transgress don’t often get away with it. Swift has been smacked down time and time again, by the press, on social media, by other celebrities, for her refusal to remain silent. There are, predictably, people all over the internet commenting that it was her own fault for signing the contract (aged 14), that she should shut up and get over it, that she’s making a fuss over nothing. But that’s the thing. Whether it is singing about boys who cheated on her, writing lyrics about friends who screwed her over, or taking on multinational corporations who don’t want to pay her, Taylor has never been willing to keep her mouth shut - something that we could all stand to emulate in our own lives. That’s why her unflinching refusal to cave to Borchetta and Braun is so important.