Carly Reilly | Millennial Musings: Look what you made #metoo

This past Sunday, I gave a short presentation to a group of women at a barn in Manchester. The meeting was about the #metoo movement and I was there to present a video I created called Look What You Made #MeToo, in which I reimagined the lyrics to the Taylor Swift single, "Look What You Made Me Do," to be about sexual harassment. It has particular relevance because earlier this year, Taylor Swift won a lawsuit against a DJ who groped her during a 2013 meet-and-greet event.

Now, I don't know how much the average Manchester Journal reader knows about the internal politics of millennial Taylor Swift fandom, but assuming the answer to that is "none," let me say: it can be rough out here for us Swift fans. Somewhere along the emotional roller coaster of a post-Trump world, admitting to being a Taylor Swift fan became an act of ideological rebellion against the left (my college roommate was back at our alma mater last weekend and overheard a student say "every time a Taylor Swift song is played, another nickel goes into the pocket of white supremacy." Good lord. This is, of course, absurd.)

Then there is the other end of the Swift spectrum: "Swifties," the diehard fans who scrawl 13 on their bodies in permanent markers (13 is famously Swift's favorite number) and wait in line for 11 hours to give her a hug. For these folks, Swift can do no wrong.

Now to be clear, I'm like one bad Chipotle burrito bowl away from being a Swiftie. But for now, I fall somewhere in between, and I thought "Look What You Made Me Do" was totally wrong.

The song is a diss track against Kanye West and Kim Kardashian and, given everything that is going on in the world, it felt petty and out-of-touch. Worse, the song felt like evidence that Swift had finally succumbed to the cynicism of the many "haters" she had so playfully denounced in previous albums ("and the haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate, baby I'm just gonna shake shake shake shake shake, shake it off, shake it off").

This time, the message was different. "The old Taylor is dead," Swift sings in "Look What You Made Me Do."

I reacted accordingly.

Which is to say, I cried. I cried a lot and, if I'm being totally honest, for days. I mourned the release of a Taylor Swift single like Taylor Swift had actually died. (By the way, the album in it's entirety turned out to be fantastic, so what a waste of emotional outpouring.)

Really, though, LWYMMD was just the flame that lit the powder keg of pain I felt about the bullies of the world seeming to come out on top.

Which brings me back to this meeting last Sunday. I sat in a room with women of all ages, each sharing their own experiences with the bullies of the world. Women shared incidences from, in some cases, 50 years ago, that continue to haunt them. And I sat there as the other women in the room nodded without judgment - validating these women and their experiences.

And it is this that, for me, and for millions of others, has been the power of Taylor Swift music. What others criticize as Taylor "playing the victim," has felt to us simply like a validation of female experiences. Women are far too often the ones who make concessions in relationships, who second-guess their own perceptions of reality and their emotional responses to it. In song after song, Taylor seems to say "this is how I feel and I'm not wrong for it nor ashamed of it." It's empowering, just as it was to be in a room full of women all saying "we're here for each other and we're speaking up."

It makes a person believe that while the bullies of the world are winning, it's only for now. Look what you made #metoo.


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