June 1, 2016, media outlets received word that the 15 month relationship between Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris had ended. June 14, 2016, Taylor Swift was photographed with Tom Hiddleston, her new boyfriend, nestled on a beach. The photos featured the two kissing with their limbs intertwined. Since then Tom and Taylor— or HiddleSwift, if you please— have been spotted smitten throughout Europe and Australia in extravagant locations. Yachts, intimate restaurants, and hand-in hand sight-seeing. Taylor has even met Tom’s mother in England. A whirlwind romance, they’ve been calling it. Media outlets are in a frenzy covering the superstar’s three few weeks. But the anchors who read the teleprompter, who are supposed to relay their own happiness for Swift, have a dullness in their eye. Even though this sold as positive news, we are not fully able to welcome her new relationship. It seems displaced for a reason we can’t identify.
I think we all have that one friend. The one who always has a boyfriend. She will name drop her love interest at your sleepover, assuming you will accept the new information. She will post photo after photo on Instagram convincing her followers he’s the best boyfriend ever. She will most likely turn to you for support when they break up, then the cycle will continue. Her new man is still the best boyfriend, like, ever. Try as you might to support your friend, you see her behavior as problematic. Although she is living her life the way she wants to— and you would never judge her for that— she might be hurting people. Your friend is a serial dater… or so society says.
Taylor Swift has been very candid about the double standards she faces expressing her love life through music. She is well aware of being labeled a serial dater and is not entertaining that idea in the slightest. As proud, self-proclaimed feminist, Taylor has kept her confidence in ignoring sexist criticism. Since Swift has always reached a normal-girl audience, young women everywhere have spoken up and agreed with their idol. Why should women regret falling in love while men can do whatever they want? And while Swift’s efforts to defend herself are recognized as powerful and necessary (rightfully so), there is still a hint of sarcasm in the reports about her new beau. Headlines like Follow HiddleSwifts’ Crazy 2-Week Relationship Timeline! seem to continue to jab at Taylor for moving on so fast— too fast for our liking.
The phrase “serial dater” is one rooted in misogyny. It is not proper for a woman to have too many men in her life. Why? In a word: sex. This frustrating sexist mindset is age-old with ancestral origins. However, in the new millennium tables have begun to turn (sort of). In the generation of social movements, sex positivity has made appearances in the mainstream. Millennials have realized that sexuality is a basic human experience and ultimately coined the term “slut shaming”. The new generation recognizes sex as normal and sexuality as empowering for women. For example, the 2015 Amber Rose SlutWalk raised over $55,000 in donations. The well-attended and publicized event protested for, among other things, females’ right to sexual freedom. This sentiment has worked its way into popular culture in the 2010’s as well. Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”, her sassy homage to her varied sexcapades, quickly sparked a conversation about slut shaming in 2014 that is still not over. The music industry in particular has created an avenue for females to be sexually expressive. More recently, female artists have been able to bare their sexuality in an honest way and receive less criticism. And that’s incredible and progressive. So why on earth is Taylor Swift, an artist who is overtly not sexual in image, so widely disapproved for serial dating?
The answer again lies in misogyny. Not towards female sexuality directly, rather female control. Taylor Swift, through her years of several high-profile break-ups, has always been painted on the offense. Media portrays her casually running through the lives of men which comes across as irresponsible, inconsiderate, messy— in summary, bitchy. Think of your friend— the serial dater I mentioned; are you not slightly disappointed each time she doesn’t slow down? You think she should know better.
But perhaps she does. Your perception of both your friend and Taylor Swift involve your distaste for their control. Love and monogamy have become almost synonymous in the Western world. The idea of two people together forever is wrapped in a big bow for us every day. Taylor Swift is searching for that just like us. But her personal decisions to scrap a relationship and immediately start anew goes against our pre-packaged idea. As a woman, shouldn’t she hold on longer? Be more dedicated?
The hypocrisy in our judgment begins to come out. Simultaneously, we expect Taylor to be weak enough to constantly search for love but strong enough to maintain it. The traditional role of the female is submissive to the male and without a voice. Taylor’s rolodex of famous exes may be varied, untimely and imperfect— but above all else, it is her’s. Her romantic life as a twenty-something may falter, it may succeed. Our criticism of her serial dating is our reaction to her being human. In our progressive society, we are beginning to accept the primal parts of ourselves; after all, sex is pleasurable. Human nature is also fickle, even wrong often. While we expect females to be sexual beings, their control over their instincts is something we have trouble with. Taylor Swift loves and feels— we can accept that. We even buy her records because of it. But it is her deliberate decision to leave and begin relationships that is uncharacteristic of the perfect female. The classic whore vs. stud argument now extends beyond sex— we disapprove of Taylor because of the ownership she has over her love life, and, consequently, the ownership she has over her male partners. Taylor has grown from a teen to a woman in front of our eyes. It would only make sense that her sensibility about love and relationships should grow too.
Taylor’s fans have taken to her new relationship on social media, backing their favorite star and joking about her dating Loki from the Avengers. Relationship experts claim Hiddleston is a gentleman and a good move for the singer. Perhaps HiddleSwift is, by the laws of destiny that we so desperately buy into, meant to be. Perhaps Taylor chose Tom as a rebound, hurting from her experience with Calvin Harris. Perhaps she dates (and dates and dates) seeking validation. Perhaps not. That’s her choice. It was never our business anyway.