If you're a woman, you're going to have to wade through some sexist bull, no matter where you are in your career. Even if you're at the top of your game, like Taylor Swift. Swift received Billboard's Woman of the Decade award on her 30th birthday, and did not hold back in her 15-minute acceptance speech. She used the opportunity to signal boost other female artists, call out institutionalized sexism in the music industry, and describe what toxic male privilege looks like.
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Women might face more obstacles and double standards. But ultimately challenges are what we make of them, and more obstacles mean more opportunity for growth. It's that old case of "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger," or in Swift's case, makes you the woman of the decade. "Female artists in music have dominated this decade in growth, streaming, record and ticket sales, and critical acclaim. So why are we doing so well? Because we have to grow fast, we have to work this hard, we have to prove that we deserve this, and we have to top our last achievements," she said in her speech.
"Women in music, onstage, or behind the scenes, are not allowed to coast. We are held at a higher, sometimes impossible-feeling standard. And it seems that my fellow female artists have taken this challenge, and they have accepted it," she continued. "It seems like the pressure that could've crushed us made us into diamonds instead."
Taylor Swift's 2019 Billboard Speech youtu.be
Swift also described what toxic male privilege looks like while bringing up her recent battles with Scooter Braun. Some of Braun's celebrity clients, like Justin Bieber, have come to Swift's ex-manager's defense. Swift had some thoughts on that. "The definition of the toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying 'but he's always been nice to me' when I'm raising valid concerns about artists and their rights to own their music. And of course he's nice to you. If you're in this room, you have something he needs," Swift said in her speech.
Swift also discussed the "new shift" of private equity buying up artists' music, saying it's what enabled Braun. "The fact is that private equity is what enabled this man to think ... that he could buy me. But I'm obviously not going willingly."
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It's important for women to support women, as it can make all the difference when you're going through something. Turning around and seeing a group of women behind you lets you know you're going in the right direction. Celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Selena Gomez, and Iggy Azalea took Swift's side. "[T]he most amazing thing was to discover that it would be the women in our industry who would have my back and show me the most vocal support at one of the most difficult times, and I will never, ever forget it. Like, ever," she continued.
Ultimately, Swift is going to continue speaking out. "As for me, lately I've been focusing less on doing what they say I can't do and more on doing whatever the hell I want," she said.
It's inspiring to see Swift give zero f's and speaking her mind. It's that kind of energy that we want to harness going into the new year.
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