We Know It All Too Well

For Teenage Girls, Misogyny is Nothing New


If you see me in the hallways on a Friday randomly dancing, it’s probably because “Picture to Burn” is playing on the speakers, and I’m also wearing a Taylor Swift t-shirt. If you knew me in sixth grade, you would have heard me singing to “Blank Space” or seen me watching late night interviews with Taylor Swift. Though it seems like I’ve been a diehard Swiftie since middle school, that’s far from correct. At the end of sixth grade, I swore off her music.  

On November 12, Taylor Swift rereleased “Red” as “Red (Taylor’s Version)” with 20 original deluxe-version songs, a charity single, and nine “From The Vault” songs. She decided to re-record her first six studio albums after her former record label sold her masters. In the re-recordings, Taylor has not only reclaimed ownership of her work but also been able to release songs that were kept off the original album. 

I have a lot to say about “Red (Taylor’s Version),” from the change in the guitar instrumental in “Holy Ground” to the complete revamp of “Girl at Home,” but I want to focus on something bigger than tweaks to old songs and ten-minute “All Too Well”: misogyny. 

After spending most of fifth and sixth grade watching Taylor Swift’s music videos, I didn’t listen to another Taylor Swift song again except to snub my nose at “Look What You Made Me Do.” The drastic shift came after one of my peers made a few comments about Taylor and about my consumption of her music. I can’t remember the exact words said to me, but it was enough for me to not enjoy a Taylor Swift song until four years later. 

I don’t blame the student who said these things — any comments making fun of a 12-year-old girl for listening to Taylor Swift’s pop songs about love stem from learned behavior. The comments that Taylor Swift is “too emotional” or “writes about breakups too much” are not new ideas. 

Such comments have affected Taylor Swift — in her 2019 Billboard Woman Of The Decade Award acceptance speech she said, “Now they’re saying my album Red is filled with too many breakup songs? Okay, okay, I’ll make one about moving to New York and deciding that really my life is more fun with just my friends,” — but they also affect the people who listen to her. 

My 12-year-old self internalized the misogynistic comments about Taylor’s music so deeply that I had to stop listening. I let other people take away one of my favorite things. The problem is more pervasive than people who dislike Taylor’s music. There’s a culture of hating what teenage girls love. 

I see this culture in the hate for YA romance novels, mass-roasting of VSCO girls in summer 2019, and the double standard between disliking girls who wear makeup in middle school as well as those who don’t. In “I Bet You Think About Me,” a “From The Vault” track on “Red (Taylor’s Version),” she sings that to her former lover “You laughed at my dreams, rolled your eyes at my jokes.” She also sings “He didn’t like it when I wore high heels, but I do,” in “Begin Again,” showing how she herself experienced ridicule for the things she liked. 

Taylor herself internalized this misogyny just like I did — from lyrics like “she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress,” and “But no amount of vintage dresses gives you dignity” in “Better Than Revenge,” and “But she wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts,” in “You Belong With Me.”

In a later interview Taylor blamed the lyrics on being young when she wrote the songs. As a 17 year old — the same age she was when she wrote “Better Than Revenge” — I believe that the issue is not age but rather maturity and perception. The world I live in is one where I constantly see women pitted against each other — like the debate over whether Taylor Swift or Adele is better. Taylor has grown since then in her music, with lyrics like “No one likes a mad woman/You made her like that,” in “Mad Woman.” 

As I listen to “Red (Taylor’s Version)” over and over again, I see a broken Taylor piecing herself together again after a relationship that shamed her for who she was. In “All Too Well,”  she sings “I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still tryin’ to find it.” With the re-release of “Red,” I’m trying to find my old self again too — the one that found so much joy in whatever she wanted without a care. I’m finding the version of myself that can confidently wear skirts or t-shirts and sing to Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs. 

If you see me singing dramatically to “All Too Well” during passing periods or dancing by myself in the pub office to “Stay Stay Stay,” know that I’m making sure to enjoy every second of “Red (Taylor’s Version).”