The Music of Misogyny

The camera lens sits differently on female actresses than their male counterparts.

I was eight years old when I fell in love with Taylor Swift. My family was taking a road trip across the country. All I had for entertainment was a book, a pair of headphones, and my iPad. The book was out, since I got carsick, same with most of the games on my iPad. So that left using the headphones and listening to some of the music my dad had downloaded onto our account. The albums were all musicals, for his work, none of which I was interested in. Except for one-1989 by Taylor Swift. Given that it was my only option, I decided to play it. And…wow.
The songs were mesmerizing and addictive. Swift’s voice and lyrics, as they do with many people, captivated me. By the end of that summer, I had the whole album memorized. When I went back to school, I discovered that 1989 was not Swift’s only album, and I got so excited. I begged my dad to download the other albums, and he agreed.
With each album, with each song, my obsession grew. And it’s only grown since then. I own so much Swift merch, and my walls are plastered with her face. My Instagram stories consist mostly of news about her. My friends all text me whenever they hear her songs in public because she makes them think of me.
However, in this time I’ve learned something — a lot of people don’t like Taylor Swift. When I tell people about her I’m often met with responses such as “ugh, she’s annoying” or “doesn’t she just complain about her exes?” While I completely understand that not everyone likes the same music, I find that many critiques of Swift are not reflective of her songs or lyrics, but rather her aesthetic and personal life.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that in the entertainment Industry as a whole, this isn’t something specific to Swift. Countless women have been doubted and discredited as an entertainer. Britney Spears, a grown adult, essentially lost all her rights to her father, and people dismissed it because she was “crazy.” Lindsay Lohan was asked about her personal life in an interview that was supposed to be about a movie she was in. Marilyn Monroe was so sexualized, that even in death, many men see her as an object of desire rather than a real person. In so many movies, the camera lens sits differently on the female actresses than their male counterparts.
The sad truth is that these cases are nothing new. The entertainment industry itself is built upon sexism. In Shakespearian times, women were not even permitted to be on stage, leaving men to portray and create women.
When women were first presented to the screen, they were often seen as sexual objects, or background characters, swooning for the brave, heroic men who were the stars. Off the screen, actresses were constantly harassed and belittled by male directors and cinematographers, treated only as pretty little emotionless and thoughtless flowers.
This toxic environment led to many women’s demise. Two of the most famous cases are Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe. At just fourteen years old, Garland starred as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. The directors decided that to provide energy to her performance, and to avoid the possibility of weight gain, they would give her a drug that they called “pep pills .” These “pep pills” were a trick to get her to take cocaine. After the filming of Wizard of Oz, Garland didn’t stop taking these pills, and had them with her whole life and career. In 1969, Garland died of an overdose.
Norma Jeane Mortenson never meant to become Marilyn Monroe. But she did, and she made the best of it. She was not only insanely gorgeous, but insanely smart and calculated. Yet, only one of those three traits was publicly recognized. She spent her life being sexualized and objectified. Like Garland, Monroe died of an overdose. Even in death, Monroe is disrespected. She is buried directly under Richard Poncher-a man who paid her ex-husband a ridiculous amount of money for the spot, so he can eternally be above Monroe. There are countless films and books made by men that completely ignore her brilliance and focus only on her appeal to them.
Although, luckily, cases such as Monroe and Garland are more uncommon now, the sentiment has not gone away. So many film and music stars are seen as objects not people. They are criticized an obscene amount in comparison to their male co-stars, and a ridiculous amount of them struggle with addiction.
So, maybe you don’t like Taylor Swift. But, please, for everyone’s sanity—have a valid reason.