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When rapper Eminem went viral for flipping off the San Francisco 49ers fans during the NFC championship playoff game against his beloved Detroit Lions, the moment was largely viewed as relatable.
When Taylor Swift was caught on camera enjoying a drink and cheering on the Kansas City Chiefs while donning boyfriend Travis Kelce’s number on her jacket, she was accused of creating a publicity stunt, causing the Chiefs to lose a game and taking up too much airtime.
A male musical artist is relatable as a disgruntled fan — but a female musical artist enjoying a game is problematic? As we head into Super Bowl Sunday, some fans are furious at all that excessive attention paid to her relationship with Kelce, the record-breaking Chiefs tight end.
While all the chatter might seem like no big deal, I’d like you to consider the impact on your children. I’ve worked with tween and teen girls for more than 25 years, and I know that children are always listening and picking up on clues about how you feel about everything.
If you have an incessant need to analyze and criticize Swift’s every move, you’re telling your children that girls and women shouldn’t take up too much space, that girls and women shouldn’t celebrate their strengths, that it’s OK to engage in rumors and gossip about powerful girls and women, and that cyberbullying is fine as long as the victim is famous.
Swift points out the double standard in her song “The Man” if she were a man in her industry: “They’d say I hustled, put in the work/ They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve.”
The flip side is that talking about Swift and defending her right to live her life without hiding can open up some important conversations about female empowerment. Instead of cracking unkind jokes or griping about camera views, try engaging in some of these healthy talking points:
Empowered women empower other women
Whether she’s folding new friends from the Chiefs family into her “girl gang” or dancing to the music and cheering for every other female performer, Swift continues to show herself as a woman who supports other women. It’s a crucial message for younger generations. There is always room at the table, and there’s even more supplies to build a bigger table.
Support is important in romantic relationships
If there’s one thing the Swift/Kelce publicity tidal wave shows, it’s that these two people are supportive of one another and cheering each other on in their respective careers. Mutual support is a key indicator of a healthy relationship between two people.
Emotionally healthy men love and celebrate strong women
Teen girls tell me that navigating romantic relationships can be difficult. There’s no playbook for finding the best match, and though adults sometimes warn about red flags in relationships, they don’t often talk about what to look for, or green flags, in a partner.
Whether Kelce is seen smiling side stage during a show or postgame whispering to Swift while wrapped up in a hug, he consistently shows that he loves and cares about her. He celebrates her for who she is, and that’s a sign of an emotionally healthy man.
Own your narrative
Despite near-constant media scrutiny and rumors, Swift continues to own her narrative. She doesn’t let others define her. This is a great lesson for young girls and women of all ages who can feel judged and criticized by others. It’s natural to feel upset when you feel hurt by someone else, but you never have to let someone else define who you are.
In a time when young people are experiencing a mental health crisis, Swift’s music is a beacon of hope to her fans, and her happiness is infectious. There’s not a single reason to take that away from the many young fans who look up to her.
Instead of criticisms, consider encouragement. Swift should be commended for inspiring young people, using her platform to help others and always turning around to extend a hand to the women coming up behind her. Those are life lessons worth noting.
Dr. Katie Hurley is the senior clinical advisor for The Jed Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to teen and young adult mental health and suicide prevention, and an adolescent therapist. She is the author of five books, including “No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls.”
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