By Jenny Bridle

Smelly Cat

Take even a brief look at music icon Taylor Swift’s Twitter feed these days and you’ll see something quite amazing: a virtual who’s who of different musicians, singers, artists and others appearing with her on stage on every night of her enormously successful 1989 World Tour. What is it about Taylor Swift that’s engaging everyone from Joan Baez to Julia Roberts to Selena Gomez, and most recently, Lisa Kudrow? Is Swift the most powerful person in the music industry today?


As a parent, a mother, you hope that that you do a good enough job, set a good enough example so that your children grow up intelligent with a decent sense of self-worth complemented by modesty and humility. Hopefully, there are no mothers who genuinely wish their daughters to be doormats or porn stars and street walkers. And you hope that your kids grow up caring about others, with a sense of responsibility for themselves and, most importantly, with a high EQ infused with empathy and compassion.

There are times as a parent – the terrible twos and then during the teenage years – where you should expect some level of selfishness and self-absorption and imperiousness. When this happens your children can seem a little like monsters: narcissitic, entitled, seemingly uncaring about others including those they call close friends and even you. Sometimes, they can come across as cold and downright cruel. What’s a mother to do during this apparent teenage wasteland?

Duck and Cover

Luckily for most, and especially for those parents who don’t absolutely freak out about this behaviour, these are just phases; our kids, those lovely, empathic, caring people we brought so lovingly into the world, come back to us as we would wish them to be (and hopefully, without any drastic, non-reversible body modifications!)

Taxi man

Coming upon Taylor Swift in the current celebrity landscape of plastic, naked (if not pornographic) and sometimes “rapey” shock and awe we find a positive and wholesome role model who actually sees herself as precisely that, a role model, a celebrity who has a responsibility to behave with some amount of class, decorum, and intelligence while in public. Not for Taylor Swift are the teenage sex tapes sold for undisclosed sums now used to fund a celebrity life, full frontal nudity in print and online for multi-millions. Just this week, Swift reportedly turned down millions of dollars to pose for the Armani underwear brand with her beau, Calvin Harris because she “would be showing too much skin and damage her image…If she was married to Calvin then things may be different.”

Taylor and Calvin

Although it may not seem like it, none of this is to stand in judgement and condemn. Truly. To each their own. But it is to say that as a parent, if my children grew up wanting to be this – to do, be, say anything without any kind of filter as a way to become rich and famous – I would feel like a failure as a parent and a mother. No doubt others will disagree. And that’s ok. None of this is to say that the women who are doing this, behaving in this way, are bad or horrible people or that what they are doing is immoral. None of that matters. Really. What does matter is that they all seem so confused about where they fit in or they have never given where they could fit in much thought either because they lack the will or the ability to have meaningful personal insight. To me, none of these women have a deep understanding of what power means.

RIot Girl

A few of them have claimed that they are feminists; that, as a woman, taking your clothes off for money is a feminist act. If male celebrities can do this without much comment, only hypocritical double standards shame women and keep them from doing the same thing. This is just one mother’s opinion but this seems a little confused. Feminists of the twentieth century worked hard to get women out of the role of male property and sex object and now, here we are not much more than a decade into the 21st century and we seem to be back to square one except the people in the square think that what they are doing means they have power.

We Shall Overcome

Of course, this is nothing new (despite claims to the contrary): becoming a sexual object to sell records, cars, sports, whatever is exactly that and nothing more: you’re selling sex. That’s all. Nothing wrong with that but that’s all it is. And we all know that sex does sell so, from a business point of view, being “sexy” — whatever that may mean — can do wonders for retailing. However, anyone who believes you are doing more than selling sex or objectifying women to sell whatever is misguided at best and asleep at the wheel at worst.

Asleep at the wheel

Doing this does nothing to help women be viewed and accepted on their intelligence, talents and creative merits, or to give women what they need, and many say they want, more than power and that is authority. Power is just power. Power, combined with authority, on the other hand, is so much more. And Taylor Swift, with her relatively modest appearance, her constant stream of new work (even if you think she can’t sing, her songs are horrible, she is not attractive enough, whatever), her excellent and smart interviews has just been working away — maybe not in a conscious way but in just being herself — on creating and solidifying her authority in the music business.

Having authority is the pinnacle. With it, you can tell people what to do and they will listen respectfully, respond, and comply: at 14 years old, Swift showed what kind of an artist – what kind of a person – she was when she declined a recording contract with a global brand who wanted to lock her in but not release any of her music until she was older. Boldly, Swift told the label that she didn’t think she needed more years of development and walked. And, this year summer, at 25, Swift proved just how powerful and authoritative she continues to be when she took on Apple Music and won.

We don't ask

Swift also has the respect of fans from all ages and genders. This is because in her songs she often talks about situations and feelings to which many can relate. Her live shows are fun for all ages; she even manages to make her awkward dance moves endearing. More, even when others try to steal her thunder – as Kanye West tried to do at the 2009 VMA’s – Swift maintains her composure and carries on.

To borrow an analogy from show jumping, Swift is clearly in sync with the first rule of riding and especially of riding a horse over an obstacle: look where you want to go. The rider who does this, gives their horse clear direction and the security of knowing who’s in charge and what’s happening next. Swift has achieved this because she integrated, connected, and not caught up in and reacting to the celebrity gossip life, she’s just doing her thing.

Eric Lamaze Hickstead

In keeping on keeping on as an artist signed to a smaller label, writing her own songs, singing her way, without nudity, overtly sexualized behaviour, and the like, Swift has achieved an authority without equal.

Taylor Time

Whatever my children end up doing with their lives and careers, one can only hope that they achieve the same.