We Heart: Taylor Swift’s Feminist Evolution

Taylor Swift’s feminist evolution continues.

Just last year, she had a “feminist awakening” and embraced the label after years of side-stepping the issue in interviews. She credited her friend, Girls creator Lena Dunham, with her change of heart, saying Dunham made her realize she had been a feminist all along.

Now she’s speaking out even more, this time to Maxim of all places, where she was named #1 on its annual Hot 100 list.

She said to the men’s magazine:

Honestly, I didn’t have an accurate definition of feminism when I was younger. I didn’t quite see all the ways that feminism is vital to growing up in the world we live in. I think that when I used to say, ‘Oh, feminism’s not really on my radar,’ it was because when I was just seen as a kid, I wasn’t as threatening. I didn’t see myself being held back until I was a woman.

Swift went on to decry the double standards in how emotional candidness is perceived. She noted how men are called “brave” when they make themselves emotionally vulnerable, while women are seen as “oversharing or whining” when they do the same. The singer has a ton of experience with this as she has often borne the brunt of merciless media scrutiny for songwriting that some see as boy-crazy angst.

What does it mean for feminism when someone in Swift’s position gives a vigorous endorsement of gender equality in a magazine like Maxim, a publication that profits from the objectification of women and has no qualms about running misogynist articles like “How to Cure a Feminist?” A lot.

The men who pick up Maxim and start perusing through the Hot 100 list probably aren’t expecting to read feminist declarations. Getting a small dose of feminism in between spreads of buxom models could go a long way to shifting cultural attitudes about the f-word.

Interestingly, Swift isn’t the only feminist in the pages of this month’s Maxim. Alongside its Hot 100 list, the magazine published an essay by feminist writer Roxane Gay on changing beauty standards. Gay writes:

As you enjoy the indisputably beautiful women of Maxim’s Hot 100, consider the people behind those beautiful faces. And when you close the pages of this magazine, allow yourself to appreciate a broader range of beautiful skin, fuller bodies, and complicated surfaces. There is a beauty standard, no doubt. But we can and should widen that standard.

Who would have imagined that the words of a gender-equality advocate like Gay would have a space in Maxim? Who would have thought that iconic artists like Swift would use Maxim to push against sexism in the music industry? All point to the pop culture moment feminism is having right now.

Swift finished the interview by saying:

Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born. So to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it’s just basically another word for equality.

We couldn’t agree more!







Associate editor of Ms. magazine