HomeLearning CenterHow Taylor Swift Became the Loudest Woman We’ve Ever Seen

How Taylor Swift Became the Loudest Woman We’ve Ever Seen

Originally published by Veronica Rueckert for Newsweek

When Time Magazine named Taylor Swift their Person of the Year, they weren’t just anointing a cultural hero who has the power to break and re-make the human heart with her art, move economies, and tell a fully-immersive, narcotically deep-veined story you wouldn’t leave even if you could. They were correctly identifying the woman whose life’s work embodies the famously difficult endeavor for a woman to own her own voice.

Almost in defiance of the cultural quicksand around her, Taylor Swift has become a juggernaut for women’s voices, first for her work articulating the inner lives of women, then for re-claiming the financial and cultural value of her own voice via “Taylor’s Version” remakes of her own songs, and finally, as a public figure who braved public censure to speak out on political and cultural issues. When tracking her deepening relationship with her own voice and the acknowledgement of her responsibility to speak, it’s important to remember that before orators like Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth swayed minds toward the vote for women and the abolitionist movement, they first had to fight for the fundamental right to speak in public as women. Words like “klaxon, shrill, yowling, shrieking” and “too much” used to describe women’s voices are the recent echoes of these first struggles for voice. That’s where we’re coming from. As a culture we still have mixed feelings about women who are too loud, too outspoken, who presume too much.

In the midst of all this, Swift’s evolution as an artist and a human includes a crucial and public exploration of what it means to speak and what it costs to stay silent. The documentary Miss Americana chronicles the debates she had with herself and among her inner circle about the choice to speak out. Increasingly, Swift has insisted on her voice instead of her lane.

There is the obvious fact of Swift’s career as a vocal performer. She cut her teeth on country ballads like “Tim McGraw” that marked her as a prodigy and a storyteller. It’s her voice that has become the soundtrack to countless lives, as we celebrate the ordinary and extraordinary and endure the soul-cracking hurts and fallow hours of any human life.

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