I Don’t Like Her, But I Will Go Hard for Her as a Survivor: My Response to Taylor Swift’s (Almost Sorta) Centering on the TIME Person of the Year Cover
I had a first reaction similar to many on the TIME person of the year piece….I was like, “Taylor? Why she front and center?” Okay, literally she was off center but figuratively she stay centered. Like whiteness. And as always, my mind went to those who are most vulnerable. I can’t stand much about Taylor Swift (probably all that she stands for and symbolizes) but I think it’s important that we not minimize the experience of any person who has been subjected to sexual assault/abuse/harassment. And that’s what my first reaction felt like (to me). It felt like *I* was minimizing her experience for a few reasons. That’s a slippery slope I don’t want to go down. I ain’t got to like her and I certainly don’t want WOC in the margins of this topic, but that’s not a thing Taylor is responsible for even if she benefits from the perpetuation of it. That is to say that if Taylor disappears tomorrow, maybe a whole lot of white supremacists who like pop culture will be disappointed, but her absence won’t change the work that needs to be done. Her absence doesn’t even change the impact on what has been done. Taylor been centered. Some of that had nothing to do with her and everything to do with the world around her. She also centers herself often. But that doesn’t immunize her from the impact of sexual harassment/assault/abuse. Folks have said that Taylor didn’t lose anything by coming forward. I would argue that she lost privacy. That she lost the ability to heal without the gaze of millions. That any person who experiences sexual harassment/abuse/assault loses something. Her family was harassed by the opposition’s legal team. And while Taylor has money for therapy that a lot of survivors don’t have, money has never been the magic cure to heal from being violated that way. The minute we discount Taylor’s experience as a survivor based on her very unlikable personality, we’re in trouble. A lot of what I’m hearing sounds like, “but she *only* got touched.” And too many survivors are told just that. I don’t know why Tarana Burke wasn’t on the cover. I don’t even know if she wanted to be on the cover so I won’t weigh in on that. We should also consider whether we center Taylor when she ain’t even centered because she ain’t literally centered on the cover, the cover also includes women of color with a Black woman directly in front (Adama Iwu) but here we are talking about Taylor and not them. So there’s that. TIME got a lot right with the piece. First, in talking about Tarana Burke who started the #MeToo movement and is rarely mentioned in all the other pieces about #MeToo. The inclusion of WOC, hospitality workers, anonymous folks who wanted to speak and not be visible, men (including a brother- Terry Crews). They got some things wrong including what appears to be the exclusion of trans women. And the piece also includes folks who do suspect stuff in their daily lives (like Taylor and Rose). For *me*, that doesn’t discount or even mitigate the empathy that I have for them as survivors. We saw this when Kim Kardashian was attacked. Where people felt that because of things we didn’t like about her, it was okay to lack empathy when she was a victim of violence. That is a dangerous road. And I hope to stop myself from walking it.