An immeasurable force. That’s how most people would view Taylor Swift regardless of whether they like her music or not.

Swift has used her music to captivate the love and admiration of fans around the world, and I am no exception – after all, I am just a teenage girl.

From having signed posters of her hanging in my room, to a stack of her CDs that are held in their very own special compartment, I’m in no way diminishing how significant she has been to pop culture. She was recently named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2023. 

From the outset, one might say, “Fair enough”.

I mean, what other title would you prescribe for someone who has broken 117 Guinness World Records, and who has no doubt unfathomably changed the music industry?

Swift’s decision to re-record her older albums to own them has been heralded as a win for art and artists as they reclaim ownership of their work.

The re-recordings have allowed Swift, and her team, to create the ‘Eras Tour’.

If you do not know what that is, I suggest you ask any teenage girl, and she will give you an answer even if she does not listen to Swift, herself.

The Wall Street Journal has described the Eras Tour as one of the most expensive and “technically ambitious” productions of the 21st Century, where Swift herself changes outfits 16 times during the three hour affair to highlight each different era of hers during her entire music career.

The tour is unlike any other tour, to date, as it is the highest-grossing tour of all time and is the first tour to surpass $1bn in revenue.

That is a remarkable accomplishment, and it is hard to imagine anyone other than Taylor Swift achieving that place in history.

However, before we blindly accept her as a cultural icon, it’s important to probe the platform Swift has marketed herself on, especially after the ‘Miss Americana’ documentary in 2018.

The documentary followed Swift’s life between her sixth and seventh albums, ‘Reputation’ and ‘Lover’ respectively.

Reputation is claimed as her comeback album after she had suffered mass amounts of misogyny directed towards her after a leaked phone call between her and the rapper Kanye West, where she was accused of being machiavellian.

The incident led to Taylor creating a platform based on reclaiming her ‘Reputation’, and forging a new path for herself amid a hostile culture directed against her. However, did this social activist image she wanted to curate fall short of actual activism?

One of the core moments of the documentary followed Swift’s tumultuous journey in deciding whether or not to tweet in support of the Democratic nominee for her state.

Her fans believed that Swift’s decision to support the Democratic nominee in the Senatorial race was the pinnacle of social activism, even when she had not strayed away from institutional politics and, at best, supported a Centrist.

Her decision to centre her music video of ‘You Need To Calm Down’ around LGBT+ people makes one question why is it that her show of solidarity towards members of a historically oppressed group only came after gay people had become socially normalised in Western society?

One might ask if she is the social activist she is often heralded as, or if she is just a capitalistic cog using activism when it is economically beneficial for her to do?

Taylor made special reference to The Dixie Chicks – an American Country band that was ‘cancelled’ after they criticised then US President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, and the widespread suffering the war had caused in the Middle East, killing a million Iraqis.

Swift mentioned looking up to The Dixie Chicks and their role in publicly holding Bush accountable.

I believe that comparing herself to them is disgraceful, as while they lost their careers by going against Bush, she has not uttered a single word against the current US support of Israel and the disastrous impact this is having on the people of Gaza, including women who lack basic access to hygiene products and who are using tent fabrics to substitute a sanitary napkin.

Does her Liberal Feminism only include a surface-level analysis of how the patriarchy affects women, and how her understanding of it seems to start and end with herself as a rich white woman?

I think her position in being named as Time’s Person of the Year seems to fall short of credibility as you dive into her genuine contributions to Pop Culture and her inability to use her almost 280 million followers for any sort of actual change that would not personally benefit her brand.

Swift’s decision to uphold herself as the speaker for how the patriarchy has negatively affected women in the music industry demonstrates that this is a position she willingly takes, and with that, her own behaviour as a Feminist must be also scrutinised.

Hostility towards any criticism against Swift creates a harmful precedent; the more you can influence others, the more criticised you should be for your actions, not vice-versa.

Her rudimentary analysis of Feminism lacks the intersectional complexity that most of her fans would be affected by.

Hailing a woman whose net worth is a billion dollars as ‘a Feminist icon’ diminishes the fact that actual effective progress which benefits everyday women was largely achieved by themselves.

For example, it was by resorting to maverick means that the Suffragettes got the right to vote, and similarly a second wave of Feminists in the 1960s helped bring about a culture of progressive social movements that would benefit women.

Young women, who comprise most of Swift’s fan base, should be wary of the importance they assign to her.

The parasocial relationships – the deep connection many of her fans make with Swift, despite having no actual connection to her – formed by her young base has led to an almost Jesus-like mythology based around her.

Rather than questioning her new wealth status as a billionaire, and how that was even possible when almost half of the Earth’s population lives below the US poverty line, in return, her base applauds her for reaching a level of an obscene level of wealth.

Swift’s team has pumped out multiple versions of the same CDs, vinyl records, and albums to increase sales as they all marginally differ from another just enough for her fans to warrant a purchase.

The unequivocal greed demonstrated by the music industry – shown by the lucrative opportunities the industry takes to make a quick buck at the expense of fans – demonstrates that the industry and artists no longer care for art, but rather, unfaltering economic gains.

Her unique popularity gives her access to industry tools that has led to a monopolisation of herself as an entity – and exempt from criticism.

In my view, Taylor Swift has ascended from being a singer-songwriter to potentially comprising an entire market in the music industry.

Her existence illustrates that consumer overconsumption, and an incessant drive to acquire ever more material wealth, has led to market failure.

Monesha Talreja (18) is studying history, politics and English literature, and lives in Fermanagh.