After Taylor Swift’s relationship with Harry Styles ended in 2013, she received so much daily abuse she came offline for a year. In the press, she was labelled a serial dater, a “maneater” who was crazy and desperate for a boyfriend. By the end of the year she was ranked 18th in Star’s “Most Hated Celebrities of the Year” list.
Blog posts with headlines such as “Why we love to hate Taylor Swift” and “Taylor Swift is a feminist’s nightmare” swarmed the internet. Ironically, though, no one wanted to read about her. People didn’t click on online articles about her, and on newsstands she was consistently one of the worst-performing magazine cover stars – her appearance on Cosmopolitan’s Christmas cover was the worst-selling issue that year.
She was mercilessly mocked when she cut loose and danced at awards shows, her songwriting was criticised as spurious and clichéd, and her personality was called disingenuous.
Much of this criticism came from other women. It’s something Swift addressed after Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joked about her love life at the 2013 Golden Globes, warning her to “stay away” from single guys and spend some time alone. But as the floundering magazine sales proved, even those women who weren’t being vocal about their dislike were effectively boycotting her.
Then Swift disappeared from the public eye for six months. It was clear that when she returned in 2014, things would have to be different. If she was going to achieve success on a mass scale, her public image needed transforming.
And the most important part of all was reversing female opinion.