2019 Billboard Women in Music Event: Taylor Swift Speaks Out About Industry’s Inequality
On Thursday night (Dec. 12), Taylor Swift was named Billboard's Woman of the Decade at the 2019 Women in Music event. The country-turned-pop superstar's acceptance speech focused on the unequal criticism women in the music industry face, and how they have responded, especially throughout the 2010s, fiercely and ready to prove their detractors wrong.
Ten years ago, Swift explained, she was just at the start of her career: She'd released two albums, including her breakout record, Fearless, but it was in the 2010s that her career would truly begin to skyrocket, and expand out of country music.
"I saw that there was a world of music and experience beyond country music that I was really curious about ... and I saw that, as a female in this industry, some people will always have slight reservations about you: whether you deserve to be there, whether your male producer or co-writer is the reason for your success, or whether it was a savvy record label," Swift shared, adding a sly "It wasn't" as an aside.
"I saw that people love to explain away a woman's success in the music industry, and I saw something in me change due to this realization," she continued. "This was the decade when I became a mirror for my detractors. Whatever they said I couldn't do is exactly what I did ... Basically, if people had something to say about me, I usually said something back in my own way."
As she fought her own critics, however, Swift also learned that her truths were universal ones for women in the music industry. "Now I realize, this is just what happens to a woman in music if she achieves success or power beyond people's comfort level. I now have come to expect that, with good news comes some sort of pushback," she said.
See Taylor Swift at the 2019 Billboard Women in Music Event
"In the last 10 years, I have watched as women in this industry are criticized, measured up to each other and picked at," Swift added. But, she said, "I've learned that the difference between those who can continue to create in that climate usually comes down to this: who lets that scrutiny break them and who just keeps making art."
Swift and her fellow female artists, she noted, need to keep forging ahead, despite those who stand ready to tear them down. "We shouldn't let obstacles like criticism slow down the creative forces that drive us," she said.
"We have to grow fast. We have to work this hard. We have to prove that we deserve this. And we have to top our last achievements," Swift pointed out. "Women in music ... are not allowed to coast."
Swift also asked those in the musical spotlight -- the artists and the prominent figureheads -- to keep fighting for equality for women in the industry across the board, and focused on the importance of artists owning their work. Naturally, she brought up her own fight with Scooter Braun, the new owner of her former record label, Big Machine Label Group, and focused on the private investors who made the sale of the label and, therefore, all of her work possible.
Swift's speech ended on a bright note, though: She praised the women in the music industry for "show[ing] me the most vocal support in one of the most difficult times," and noted that, within the past decade, great strides have been made to call out inequalities and injustices and correct them, even if there is still work to be done.
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