Hey, 2011 is calling and it wants to know why everyone has an opinion on Taylor Swift’s love life
Yesterday evening, a newspaper published an article claiming that pop queen Taylor Swift was dating The 1975 frontman Matty Healy. Chaos ensued, as we should have known it would. The story has dominated feeds and homepages ever since.
The madness was to be expected, not only because the two musicians have some of the most unhinged fan bases known to man, rivalled only by the stans of One Direction, K pop group BTS or perhaps The Beatles, but because society at large has an unhealthy obsession with Swift’s love life.
The basis for the article was “a source close to Swift,” who claims the pair are “madly in love” and ready to debut their relationship during the Nashville leg of Swift’s current Eras tour. The rumour has extra weight behind it because of her recent breakup with actor Joe Alwyn after six years together and the fact that Swift made a surprise appearance at The 1975’s O2 gig in January (when she and Alwyn were still together).
The frenzy around the ‘news’ is familiar. In case we’ve all forgotten, around 2011, Swift and her personal/romantic exploits became the world’s punching bag for a good few years, with the media documenting every rumoured relationship, situationship and fling like she was some maniac dating machine set to overdrive.
Swift dumps John Mayer for Jake Gyllenhaal! Gyllenhaal ditches Swift because she’s “too young”! Could Harry Styles and Taylor be dating? Is Tom Hiddleston Swift’s latest beau? It was relentless. When, in reality, this is hardly breaking news for anyone in their early 20s. How many people did you kiss, date and hold hands with in public when you were 21? Probably around the same amount, the difference is your romantic life wasn’t held under a microscope for millions to dissect and pick holes at.
The problem wasn’t so much that they covered her dating life, or even that the public payed attention to it, it’s that it was all they covered. All people cared about. Suddenly her entire personality was reduced to her relationships. Constantly, belittled and mocked for writing songs about heartbreak when men who write similar songs were congratulated for being so vulnerable. Not to mention that the whole thing reeked of slut shaming — just compare it to the Pete Davidson treatment, where the little known SNL comedian became universally beloved thanks to his regular relationships with string of Hollywood’s most beautiful women.
Swift herself has called it out multiple times. “There was a bit of a reputation for having a lot of boy-bashing songs,” she said in 2015. “Which is a sexist way of saying heartbreak songs. To trivialise someone who’s heartbroken is really cruel.”
She often responds to the low blow jokes about her dating history featured in popular culture, too. In one episode of Ginny & Georgia that aired back in 2021, Ginny says to her mother “What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.” Swift responded on Twitter: “Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back. How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse shit as FuNnY.”
The justification for incessant, obsessive coverage at the time: Taylor writes about her relationships, therefore it’s within the public interest.
Swift herself mocked this argument in her song Blank Space, where she plays a parody of herself as she’s seen through the media’s lens: hysterical, mascara-streaked and boy-mad, while she sings lines like “Got a long list of ex-lovers, They’ll tell you I’m insane,” and “I’ve got a blank space, baby. And I’ll write your name.”
Doubtlessly, she’s tried hard to reclaim the narrative over the years — most notably during her Reputation era, when she fought back against the Kanye West beef that had been ongoing since his ‘Im’a Let You Finish, But’ speech interruption at the 2009 VMAs — but people continually fight to define Swift by the men she interacts with. Just last month, Starbucks had to apologise for a promotion where they linked Swift’s exes to Starbucks drinks orders, proving that the sexist narrative around Swift is still going strong over a decade after it first started.
It’s a shame that Swift has to keep her relationships shrouded in an MI5 level of secrecy in order to just enjoy them like any other couple, and while it may all seem like harmless chatter it clearly affects her. Is it a coincidence that her longest relationship is the one where they were barely ever pictured together or written about? Probably not.
So to the haters and the stans alike, whether she announces her so-called relationship with Matty Healy this Friday in Nashville or not: you need to calm down and remember she’s one of the most successful stars of her generation and so much more than the men she dates.