Taylor Swift’s seventh album, Lover, showcases a much more upfront and unapologetic side of her. It’s the side we have seen emerging over the past few years and is now being vocalized in her music. Swift is making it clear what she thinks about politics, sexism around her career, and the fallout she has faced on the pedestal of superstardom she occupied for the better part of a decade.
Swift has always been a documentarian with her music, and Lover is no different. “When everyone believes ya, what’s that like?” she sings on “The Man,” which is one of the two clearly political songs on the album, along with “You Need to Calm Down.” Her lyrics call out the disparities between men and women, specifically in how the public perceives their success and power. Swift is expressing her feminism in progressively more public ways, with “The Man” as one of the most upfront ways she has done so. Swift is not afraid to hide it and she’s not afraid to put a beat behind it.
There’s one particular moment that comes to mind where Swift asked to be believed and wasn’t. Until then, she had kept her political thoughts out of the public eye. In 2013, Swift reported radio DJ David Mueller for sexually assaulting her during a meet-and-greet. According to Swift, Mueller put his hand up her dress and grabbed her butt. Mueller was fired as a result. In response, Mueller sued Swift for defamation. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Swift said she never intended for her report to be made public. She ended up countersuing for sexual assault, winning, and asking for a symbolic single dollar to be paid for damages. The teen who sang about love and heartbreak had turned into the woman who knew when something was worth not letting go.
“Having dealt with a few of them, narcissists basically subscribe to a belief system that they should be able to do and say whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want to,” Swift said to The Guardian. “And if we — as anyone else in the world, but specifically women — react to that, well, we’re not allowed to. We’re not allowed to have a reaction to their actions.” She now has security cameras installed and every meet-and-greet she does as protection and documentation. “If something happens again, we can prove it with video footage from every angle,” she added.
“The Man” touches on a lot more than the privilege of being believed. Swift alludes to the trial and the excuses women hear for not being believed about sexual misconduct, possibly, when she sings the lines: "What I was wearing / If I was rude." Swift writes about how she wonders how her career would go if she were a man. “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can / Wondering if I'd get there quicker if I was a man,” she sings in the chorus. And, she calls out the double standard of working harder and then getting questioned for if the subsequent success was deserved. This fed-up tone is the same approach she took to her testimony in court against Mueller. “You’re supposed to be really polite to everyone,” Swift told The Guardian. “Something snapped, I think.” She refused to back down or sugarcoat her statements.