Taylor Swift’s pop anthem, “The Man,” is a catchy, upbeat song aiming to address the inequality between how female artists and male artists are treated and talked about. With a driving bass line, fun and catchy melody, and easy to understand lyrics, this song is able to reach audiences young and old alike. In her song, Swift discusses how every aspect of her personality, looks, actions, and decisions would be seen in a different way if she were a man. In our society there is a double standard between what is acceptable for men to do and for women to do.
The line “They’d say I played the field before I found someone to commit to” addresses how when a woman cycles through multiple relationships before settling down with “the one,” she is judged differently than a man would be even though it is very common for both men and women to have many relationships. Swift changes this negative narrative by stating “And that would be okay for me to do” confirming to her audience that having multiple partners in life is normal and not something to be ashamed of.
Later in the song, Swift says “When everyone believes ya/ What’s that like?” This line is referring to the #MeToo movement and how women that come forward about sexual assualt, harrassment, and rape are most often doubted and questioned. Victim blaming is present in our society and is disproportionately against women more than men.
The final line that stood out to me when listening to this song was “What I was wearing, if I was rude/ Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves.” Women’s clothing is all too often equated with their success and the quality of their work. Instead of focusing on what women actually have to say or what their ideas are, the focus is on what she is wearing. Specifically, when female artists, actresses, or celebrities are interviewed the topic is almost always about what they are wearing, or how they look. In contrast, men are typically interviewed on what their acting experience was like, or what the song is about, for example.
I connected this song to the reading by Lorber called “The Social Construction of Gender.” In the reading she argues that “it does not matter what men or women actually do; it does not matter if they do the same exact thing, the social institution of gender insists only that what they do is perceived as different” (Lorber 58). In “The Man,” Taylor is arguing that if she did not change anything about her actions but existed as a man, she would be perceived differently by society and treated better. Simply because we as a society perceive some actions to be more acceptable when done by a certain gender, it has become unacceptable to cross those made-up gender barriers. The issue is that there is no rhyme or reason for why we have these expectations for what different genders can or cannot do. The idea that what a woman is wearing determines her worth or success or how many partners a woman has had determines her value is a baseless belief that society has created. Taylor Swift is one of, if not the, biggest artist currently. She has an enormous platform and the ability to create change with the message she shares through her artistry and voice. This song is an attempt to address the disparities between how female and male artists are treated and spark discussion on how we can create change. Her feminism is not perfect and she can do a lot more to include intersectionality in her feminism and to use her priviledge uplift marginalized voices.