Taylor Swift Turns Into Tyler Swift to Tackle Sexist Double Standards in New Music Video
Swift wrote, directed, and most importantly, owns the video.
Taylor Swift just dropped the music video for her latest single “The Man,” which explores the double standards of sexism and misogyny that women face on a daily basis. The video stars Swift, transformed via make-up into her male alter ego Tyler Swift. We watch as Tyler moves through the world with the confidence and privilege of a rich white man.
Tyler parties on yachts, owns the boardroom, and beds beautiful women, behavior which is valorized and celebrated, as Swift sings the refrain, “If I were a man, then I’d be The Man.” Swift is hardly the first female artist to explore this topic. “The Man” is part of a legacy of female empowerment pop songs that includes Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy,” Madonna’s “What It Feels Like For a Girl,” and Dolly Parton’s “Just Because I’m a Woman,” to name a few.
But Taylor’s own anthem takes a personal turn, when we see Tyler stopping to pee on the wall of a subway platform. The wall is covered with graffiti of her previous albums, and a sign that reads “If found, return to Taylor Swift.” There is also a “no scooters” sign, a direct reference to Scooter Braun’s ownership of Swift’s back catalog.
Fans rallied around the singer as she tried to buy back her own music and with it, the rights to perform the songs she wrote. Swift has since said that she plans to rerecord her masters.
Swift, who wrote, directed, stars in, and (most importantly) owns the video, also delves into other arenas of sexism in the layered video. We see Tyler throw a mantrum and scream at the ref during a tennis match (for a women’s charity), a direct reference to Serena Williams’ treatment after her outburst at the U.S. Open.
Swift also explores the inherent imbalance in parenting, as her portrayal of a barely-there father earns accolades from admirers for simply showing up. While expectations for mothers are extremely high, fathers are celebrated for doing the absolute bare minimum. The video ends with director Taylor Swift telling Tyler to be “sexier and more likable” in the next take, while praising his female co-star for doing next to nothing (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson lends his voice to Tyler).
If you’re a woman, you have undoubtedly thought about how much easier life would be if you were a man. Whether you’re working three jobs to stay afloat or you’re running for president, the double standards of sexism and the entrenched patriarchy put us at a near-constant disadvantage that we have to struggle against just to get a taste of the freedom that men enjoy. If you’re a woman of color or disabled or queer, it’s exponentially more difficult.
And while Swift undoubtedly benefits from privilege, she herself is hardly immune to the harsh spotlight and criticism that women everywhere face. As a celebrity, her every action is scrutinized under a microscope, and her public image is carefully calibrated. But as we saw in her documentary Miss Americana, Swift is developing her own voice and coming into her own. It seems like the singer is finally taking control of her agency and influence, and I’m excited to see what she does with it.
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