Taylor Swift’s dating life has been a topic of public discussion for more than a decade. Earlier in her career, the country-turned-pop star built an entire brand writing songs about her infamous ex-lovers – with albums that have gone down in music history.
Musicians writing songs detailing their past relationships is far from a rare phenomenon, but Swift has long been a target of critics for this very reason – arguably at no fault of hers, most of the time. Perhaps, this is because her tumultuous relationships have very often unfolded right in the public eye – giving the media a chance to scrutinize every single detail to make the most out of nothing. The songstress seemed to have learned a lesson after her popularity fairly faltered in 2016 – her next relationship, her longest one to date was also her most private. Joe Alwyn and Swift dated for more than 6 years, collaborating on many projects together – for the rest of the world, they were the epitome of true love.
So the world went into shock when the power couple broke off their relationship – something that absolutely no one saw coming. In only a day after the news broke, Swift’s fans – ‘swifties’, as they call themselves – who had worshipped Alwyn for the past six years suddenly turned on him. Assumptions about him flooded the internet, and Swift was of course the obvious victim in a situation that no one knew anything about.
Now, within months after her split from Alwyn, there are rumours that the songstress is dating another British singer – The 1975’s frontman Matty Healy. Swift has not confirmed whether they are in a serious relationship or simply casually seeing each other – we know that the pair have known each other since 2013 so it shouldn’t be a complete surprise to see them hanging out. Healy was at all her Philadelphia Eras tour shows over the weekend, hanging out with her friend Blake Lively on Friday night.
Some fans saw Swift and Healy holding hands and kissing in New York City on Thursday. On May 12, a source told Entertainment Tonight that Swift “has moved on from Joe and is feeling great and confident”. On the same day, People also confirmed via a source that she and Healy really are romantically involved.
Here lies the problem. Healy is a notoriously problematic figure. The singer-songwriter has a very long history of spewing hypocritical opinions, behaving erratically onstage and just being overall very weird. Not just that, he’s also done a nazi salute at one of his concerts, making racist, homophobic, misogynistic comments and going so far as to mock his fans’ ethnicities during meet-and-greets. Swift and Healy were also rumoured to be dating back in 2014, which he vigorously denied in a bizarre 2016 interview, insisting that he would ‘never date Swift’ and that doing so would be ‘emasculating’. He is famously a provocateur, backtracking his comments upon backlash.
Despite it all, fans have always defended him – insisting that he is simply a performance artist, putting on a show to get a reaction. It’s a character, apparently, but many believe it doesn’t disregard all the horrible things he has done.
The cherry on top – also the reason behind the current backlash is a resurfaced interview of the English singer on The Adam Friedland Show, which was disturbing, to say the least. During the interview – which happened three months ago – Healy, and hosts Friedland and Nick Mullen seemed to make a number of derogatory remarks about women, as well as mock the indigenous Scots language, and Chinese and Hawaiian accents. Both Spotify and Apple Music pulled the episode because of its highly offensive content.
In one particularly disturbing segment, Adam recalled Matty being caught masturbating to Ghetto Gaggers pornography just moments after friends had left a party at his house. For context, Ghetto Gaggers is an extreme porn website that focuses on the humiliation and degradation of women of colour. The site’s own description reads, “Extreme hardcore face fucking, ebony hoodrats, ghetto double penetration, yellow discipline and interracial throat banging of the Ghetto Gaggers.”
It was how Healy so casually explained that he was masturbating to a woman being ‘brutalised’, in his own words, that caught people’s attention. There’s simply no excuse for the terrible things he has said and done. Whether or not we should separate the art from the artist, is an entirely separate debate. But the news has caused unrest in Taylor’s fandom, and fans expressed disappointment in her decision to date Matty despite his long history of problematic behaviour.
Many are questioning her morals, labelling her as “another complicit white woman” – and even her most devoted fans are running out of excuses to overlook her behaviour. Swift has been openly feminist and has been a vocal supporter of various social causes over the years. The persona of hers that we have come to know and love is in complete contrast with Healy’s – and fans find it unbelievable that she would ever associate with him. Both singers have also known each other for a decade, so there is no way Swift would simply be unaware of Healy’s very publicly problematic behaviour. Perhaps she knows a side of him that we don’t see. But he really doesn’t leave much room for interpretation.
After this revelation, fans have started digging into her long dating history, unearthing problematic relationships of her past. She dated Conor Kennedy, of the famous Kennedy family, while he was 18 and still in high school. Taylor was 22 at the time, and the two met when Conor was still 17 and his mother had just died. Over the course of her song Getaway Car, she sings about cheating on Calvin Harris with Tom Hiddleston and then cheating on him with Joe Alwyn. She has written an entire song about how she’s an anti-hero in her relationships.
“The worst part of it all is that she knows that 98% of her fans will always kiss her ass and excuse her behaviour and help her break records so she doesn’t care at this point, she went through 2016 and saw that it didn’t impact her career negatively and now she’s bigger than ever so she doesn’t care,” a Reddit user theorized.
After her controversies with Scooter Braun and Kanye, Swift’s fanbase has especially widened – and people seem to be putting her on a pedestal. Her career is at its absolute peak, so it’s easier to forget that she’s also just human – and the pop star persona we see is likely just a perfectly curated strategy. It’s undeniable that Swift had a constant target on her back throughout her career and deserves sympathy for all the times that the industry cast her aside. She is truly an impeccable performer and one of the greatest lyricists of our generation and we need to acknowledge her as such.
Taylor has proven that she’s more than just another singer, she is a true performer who will go down in history. Her very public life has influenced fans across generations. Having said this, her dating problematic men like Healy or John Mayer absolutely doesn’t make her worse than them. But how long will we pretend like she isn’t part of the problem?