EDIT: Since writing this, Taylor Swift has won the case against ex-radio DJ David Muller. She was awarded a symbolic $1 and in a statement following the verdict the singer said: "I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organisations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves."
Taylor Swift has been sexually harassed. ‘Or so she says’, scream the anti-feminists who claim she is shining a light on this because she hates men. And the world is being weirdly quiet about the trial.
Normally when a celebrity is wrapped up in a legal dispute of any kind, you can’t get away from the headlines, the Tweets and the divided opinions. So when TayTay went into court last week to defend herself against Radio DJ David Muller, who has sued the star for ‘trying to destroy his career’ after she accused him of groping her at a photo op event in 2013, I expected Twitter to fly into the place of passionate feminist splendour that it did after the case that Kesha made against her manager last year, alas, it has been alarmingly quiet.
U.S District Judge William Martinez threw out the case against Taylor Swift on Friday in which Muller was seeking up to $3 million, saying the allegation of sexual harassment cost him his reputation and his job. The judge, upon hearing the case, said that Taylor Swift could not be held liable for the loss of Muller’s job since he could not prove that she purposefully set out to get him fired. Swift’s ordeal is not over yet though, as identical accusations have been made against her mother and her radio liaison, which will go to jurors on Monday. Taylor Swift meanwhile, in a countersuit, is demanding a symbolic $1 from Muller and the chance to stand up for other women. The jury is also considering her claim.
Taylor Swift spent an hour on the witness stand on Thursday describing the ‘despicable and horrifying and shocking’ encounter in which Muller. Whilst posing for a photo with Swift and his girlfriend, Muller put his hand underneath her skirt and onto her bare bottom. She says her security guard saw Muller lift her skirt but points out that he couldn’t have seen the grab itself, because that would have required him to be lying on the ground underneath her, and even got some laughs from the jury as she pointed out ‘we didn’t have anyone positioned there.’ She says she didn’t say anything to Muller after it happened as she didn’t want to let down the other people waiting in the queue to meet her.
The case is interesting, most notably because of course it was brought forwards by the perpetrator of sexual harassment against the victim in a quite audacious move, if you ask me, to demand money. In other ways it’s totally predictable, in that Taylor, after she took the stand, was subject to the victim blaming that is all too common in cases like this, the reason that so many women decide not to come forward.
To a lot of people, what happened to Taylor is ‘nothing.’ She wasn’t raped, or violently assaulted and I think, because of that, and because to many Taylor is famed as a ‘girl power activist’, known for her 'girl squad' and dating history with various men which she has sung about extensively, she is assumed to be making a ‘mountain out of a mole hill’. Feminism gone mad. A sense of humour failure perhaps. “It was nothing”, they cry, “just a bit of banter!”
A bit of banter that saw a man put his hand onto a woman’s body without her permission.
In other words: assault.
What is wrong with the world that when a woman stands up to take possession of her body, to own it and defend it, she is SO quick to be attacked? And why is it that, in a case involving one of the most famous women of her generation, is the world being so quiet about it?
There have been numerous articles written about it, I grant you, and I’m sure that people the world over know that this is going on. But the lack of open conversation surrounding this is something that I have noticed. Normally, when something like this happens in the news, my Twitter feed is rife with hashtags and comments from strong, passionate women and fans who are ready to stand with a victim and say: THIS IS NOT OKAY.
But this time, I have hardly seen any of that. In fact, the only tweets I see about it at all, not from the news outlets, are ones that I have had to actively search for using Taylor’s name.
And I don’t understand that. Because this is a woman, who is all too aware of the judgement and criticism that comes when you take a stand for yourself in a sexual harassment case, being brave enough to stand up and lead by example: to show women and girls everywhere that it is OK to speak out, that you will be supported and that sexual assault and harassment is never okay. Why are we not behind her, loudly, every damn step of the way?
There are men, and tragically some women, out there who believe that what happened to Taylor in 2013 at the hands of David Muller is totally okay. There are people who believe that she is being 'ridiculous' to pursue this and that she needs to 'get over it'. There are even some people suggesting that if it did happen, that she was in someway asking for it or deserving of it. And that’s crazy. It should also be the reason why the rest of us, those of us who know full well how terrifying and common sexual harassment is, and how a woman is never, ever asking for it, must stand up and talk about this case.
A symbolic $1. That's all Taylor wants. How fucking bad-ass is that? How cool do you have to be? How brave and how passionate?
This is not ‘feminism gone mad’ and this is not Taylor doing anything for ‘attention’ (as if the poor girl needs anymore of that). This is one woman standing up women everywhere.
And I am annoyed and I am disappointed that the people in my life who I talk to and follow and engage with both on and offline, are being so quiet about this. Not least of all because I know how much a case like this should mean to women everywhere. Women who are sexually harassed and assaulted. Women who know people who are. Women who are still judged for wearing what they want or scared to walk home alone at night. Women who just want to be safe in their bodies, but can’t be. Women who are scared to speak out for fear that they will be judged and blamed. Women who are voiceless.
In whatever capacity, sexual harassment is wrong and here is a woman, an icon and a role model to young girls everywhere, who is standing up against it.
Let’s show our support for her, now and always.