It’s no surprise a Newsweek writer panned Taylor Swift for being single and childless | Arwa Mahdawi

The manosphere has Taylor Swift Derangement Syndrome

Poor Taylor Swift. The pop star is a billionaire and one of the most successful people on the planet. She has an army of devoted fans who happily bankrupt themselves to follow her on record-breaking tours around the world. A German city just temporarily renamed itself Swiftkirchen in her honour. The Federal Reserve has credited her for boosting the economy. And yet, when it comes to the most important metrics of success, Taylor is a tragic failure: she is an ageing, unmarried wench who hath not brought forth a child into this world.

Such is the opinion of John Mac Ghlionn: a man nobody has ever heard of. In a recent op-ed for Newsweek, Ghlionn argued that Swift is a terrible role model for women because “at 34, Swift remains unmarried and childless … While Swift’s musical talent and business acumen are certainly admirable, even laudable, we must ask if her personal life choices are ones we want our sisters and daughters to emulate.”

The opinion of one random man in an obviously rage-bait article published by a dying magazine would not normally be worth wasting oxygen on. However, this extraordinarily misogynistic piece is noteworthy because it reflects the manosphere’s toxic obsession with Swift. Ghlionn’s article came hot on the heels of a tweet by the notorious Andrew Tate blasting Swift for being 34 and unmarried. Tate called Swift “ancient” and asked: “If you’re a girl, why even live past 30 unless you have kids?” There’s nothing insecure men love more than trying to bring successful women down a peg or two.

Swift’s success isn’t the only reason she has rightwing men frothing at the mouth. Her politics also play a role. For a while, you see, the right loved Swift. She is, after all, the very embodiment of heteronormative ideals: a blond-haired, blue-eyed, ultra-feminine white woman who is dating an all-American football player. Andrew Anglin, the writer of the white supremacist blog the Daily Stormer, called Swift a “pure Aryan goddess” at one point, and claimed she was “secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world”.

In 2020, Swift broke a lot of neo-Nazi hearts when she called white supremacy repulsive and endorsed Biden/Harris. The right swiftly turned on their former goddess and she became the object of numerous conspiracy theories. Earlier this year, for example, a poll found that a massive 18% of Americans believe Swift is part of a “covert government effort” to re-elect Joe Biden. The right hate her because she’s successful but also because she has refused to be part of their political agenda.

Ghlionn’s Newsweek op-ed is also worth acknowledging, because it’s part of a phenomenon you could call brand-washing. Once upon a time, Newsweek, which was founded in 1933, was a highly respected magazine. Over the last 15 years, however, it has been devoured by the digital economy and become a shell of itself. Still, that shell – and the fact that many people still think of Newsweek as a vaguely reputable brand – has proved very useful to the far right. In 2022, for example, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a respected civil rights advocacy organization, published an extensive analysis that found that after Newsweek positioned the political activist Josh Hammer to run its opinion pages (he’s now moved on to be a senior editor-at-large), the magazine took a “radical right turn by buoying extremists and promoting authoritarian leaders”. In his personal podcast, the SPLC observe, Hammer has frequently spoken about “[shifting] the Overton window” and pushing far-right views into the mainstream; that, arguably, was also his goal at Newsweek. As the New Republic noted back in 2020, it certainly looks a lot like Newsweek’s “former legitimacy is [being] used to launder extreme and conspiratorial ideas”.

In short: if you’re wondering why a brand like Newsweek would, in the year 2024, publish an op-ed that essentially argues women have no worth without a husband and kids? Well, you need to look at the broader context of what Newsweek’s become.

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