As she was honoured with the first-ever Billboard Woman of the Decade award on Thursday night in Los Angeles, Taylor Swift delivered a riveting 15-minute speech criticising toxic male privilege and opening up about what it means to be a successful woman in the music industry.
The singer, who was speaking on the eve of her 30th birthday, said her twenties were defined by trying to accommodate to her haters’ criticism, saying that soon after releasing her first album Fearless in 2008, she soon learnt that ‘as a female in this industry some people will always have slight reservations about you’.
‘I saw that people loved to explain away a woman’s success in the music industry and I saw something in me change due to this realisation,’ she told the room.
‘This was the decade when I became a mirror for my detractors. Whatever they decided I couldn’t do is exactly what I did’, Swift explained. ‘Whatever they criticised about me became material for musical satire or inspirational anthems. The best lyrical examples I can think of are songs like “Mean”, “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space”. Basically, if people had something to say about me I said something back in my own way. This reflux dictated more than just my lyrics.’
Swift went on to point out the success of some of her favourite musicians including Lizzo, Halsey and Camila Cabello, questioning why they are all topping the music industry right now. ‘Because we have to grow fast,’ she explained. ‘We have to work this hard. We have to prove that we deserve this. We have to top our last achievements.’
She continued, ‘Women in music, on stage or behind the scenes, are not allowed to coast. We are held at a higher, sometimes impossible feeling standard. It seems that my fellow female artists have taken this challenge and they have accepted it. It seems like the pressure that could have crushed us made us into diamonds instead. And what didn’t kill us actually did make us stronger.’
Going on to explain her ongoing feud with manager Scooter Braun over the rights to her music, Swift called out other musicians who’ve stuck by him – Braun manages the likes of Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande. ‘Let me just say that the definition of the toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying, “Well, he’s always been nice to me” when I’m raising valid concerns about artists and their rights to own their music. Of course he’s nice to you. If you’re in this room you have something he needs.’
‘Yet the 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.’
To conclude her speech, Swift said, ‘As for me, lately I’ve been focusing less on what they say I can’t do and more on doing whatever the hell I want.’