We were originally tempted to ignore this vile Taylor Swift tweet. However, as it has been shared over 2,000 times (and counting), it seems we must respond.
Taylor Swift is absolutely killing it at the moment. Just a few weeks ago, she picked up six accolades at the 2019 American Music Awards – including Artist of the Year – and made history as the performer with the most AMA career wins of all time with 26.
Meanwhile, Swift’s net worth is well over $360 million, making her one of the world’s highest-paid celebrities. She’s also been named Woman of the Decade by Billboard. And, to add to her record-breaking year, it’s just been announced that Swift will headline at Glastonbury in 2020, making her the first female performer to headline since Adele in 2016 and the sixth solo female headliner in the festival’s 50-year history
“I’m ecstatic to tell you that I’ll be headlining Glastonbury on its 50th anniversary,” she revealed via Instagram. “See you there!”
Essentially, it’s been a bloody brilliant year for Swift. However, as ever, there are some narrow-minded people in the world who prefer to judge a woman’s achievements by the activities of her womb alone. Because, naturally, the only viable contribution a woman can ever hope to make to our society is to bring forth a child.
Shortly after photos of Swift’s star-studded 30th birthday party began to appear online (to quote Little Women’s Marmee: “Nothing provokes speculation more than the sight of a woman enjoying herself”), one of those aforementioned idiots decided to take to Twitter to have their say. Despite the fact that, y’know, nobody asked them their opinion whatsoever.
“I can’t believe Taylor Swift is about to turn 30, she still looks so young!” he tweeted. “It’s strange to think that 90% of her eggs are already gone – 97% by the time she turns 40 – so I hope she thinks about having kids before it’s too late!”
The spiteful little message has, at the time of this article’s publication, been retweeted over 2,000 times… and counting.
Thankfully, there were those who flew to Swift’s defence.
“This deserves a restraining order,” tweeted one.
Another noted: “This makes my skin crawl right off my skeleton.”
Perhaps the best response, however, was this one from disability activist Melissa Blake.
“Women don’t exist solely to be mothers,” she wrote, repeating the sentiment five times.
“This is toxic and sexist AF,” she added. “Not to mention…really, really, really gross.”
She’s 100% right, of course: a woman’s sole purpose in life is not to breed. And you’d be forgiven for assuming that, in 2019, everyone would know this already.
As this appears not to be the case, though… well, it’s a drum we here at Stylist have banged relentlessly over the years, but let’s take up our instruments one more time, shall we?
First things first, a caveat: motherhood is great, and we’re in full support of those women who choose to start families of their own. This article is not aimed at those who have done so, nor is it intended to undermine their life choices in any way shape or form (unless they’ve been giving shit to child-free women, that is).
There are so many reasons why a woman may not have children. Let’s say it once more, for those in the back: there are SO MANY REASONS why a woman may not have children. Maybe she doesn’t want them, or can’t have them, or hasn’t found the right person to have them with. Or maybe she’s decided to put her career first. She might be grieving a miscarriage, or having relationship problems, or unable to finance an extra mouth. She could be under a lot of stress. The timing might not be right. She may have read that the best way to help the environment is not to have children. She may love their lifestyle too much to share it with someone else. She may suffer actual panic attacks at the very thought of having children.
The list goes on and on, forever and ever. And each reason is as valid as the last, because a woman’s reproductive choices are absolutely her own.
Of course, this wasn’t always the case. Back in the bad old days, women’s choices were extremely limited. They were expected to marry, and to marry well – by which we mean they were expected to secure a proposal strictly for financial and social reasons.
The unspoken agreement that came with such an arrangement, of course, was that the bride would knuckle down and start a family with her new husband. Those who did so were forced to face all the terrors of childbirth: due to a lack of knowledge around sterilisation, adequate nutrition, basic medicines and vaccines, maternal mortality rates were high.
And what of those who didn’t subscribe to society’s belief that all women should bring forth children? Well, one only has to look to Henry VIII’s unfortunate string of wives to see how child-free women were treated by society.
Nowadays, things are very different. New research by WISE – the campaign for gender balance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – has revealed that the UK is on track to have 1 million women working in core STEM1 roles by 2020. Female entrepreneurs alone were responsible for a massive £3.5billion contribution to the UK economy in 2015, with the proportion of women starting a business nearly doubling from 3.7% in 2009 to 7.1% in 2012. Experts have repeatedly proven that women are helping businesses to thrive in unprecedented ways (prompting many, Barack Obama included, to state that women make better leaders than men). And, as of this year’s general election, there are now more women MPs than ever before.
It’s not just our careers that are booming: single women are buying homes at twice the rate of single men (and they have been for at least a few years now). We’re scientifically better at reacting to disasters. We’re penning award-winning books that shake the world (hey there, Bernardine Evaristo). We – alongside the likes of Greta Thunberg and Margaret Atwood – are working hard to save the planet in the wake of the climate crisis. We are campaigning against the government’s unlawful actions (in Gina Miller’s case, we’ve done so and defeated them… twice). Simone Biles and countless other young women are breaking records in the world of sports.
We’re speaking up, speaking out, making our own rules, and rallying against injustice. And we’re very, very busy being remarkable. So it should come as little surprise, then, to learn that more of us are choosing not to have children than ever before.
It’s a decision which men are able to make without scrutiny. For child-free women, though, it’s an absolute minefield, and they often find themselves thrust under a harsh spotlight. Friends and family, citing ‘concern’ as their primary reason for doing so, begin to ask deeply personal questions about their reproductive choices. They tut, they sigh, they make loaded comments about ticking biological clocks. And it’s not just Great Aunt Muriel giving us shit about our life choices over the dinner table: as the tweets sent Swift’s way have well and truly proven, even total strangers feel the need to speculate on a woman’s fertility.
Why, though? Why, with everything else going on in the world, are people still so obsessed with making women feel bad about themselves?
Well, it’s hard to know for sure. However, it’s worth remembering that, on a daily basis, women are absolutely bombarded with news stories about how we can maintain our ability to reproduce – via IVF or egg freezing, for example. And all of these stories come couched in language which suggests that motherhood is the main value of a woman’s existence.
Jennifer Aniston – who, much like Swift, is a successful and empowered woman in the public eye – knows all too well how frustrating it can be to see oneself subjected to speculative reports about one’s reproductive status.
“[These reports give us a] dehumanising view of females, focused solely on one’s physical appearance… Is she pregnant? Is she eating too much? Has she let herself go?” she stated previously.
“I resent being made to feel ‘less than’ because my body is changing and/or I had a burger for lunch and was photographed from a weird angle and therefore deemed one of two things: ‘pregnant’ or ‘fat.’
“We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies.”
With this in mind, Aniston has since called upon women everywhere to stop buying tabloid magazines.
“All of us, need to take responsibility on what we ingest into our brains,” she said, during a televised interview with Ellen DeGeneres.
“We as women do a lot of incredible things in this world other than just procreate. We have to stop listening to them, we have to stop buying them because we have to support each other, especially at this time. We need to love each other, to support, and to be proud of women whatever your choice is in life. It’s up to us what makes us happy and fulfilled.”
Amen to that. In fact, amen to that a thousand times over. And so, as we enter a new year and decade, we here urge you to stop judging and criticising those individuals whose life choices are different to your own. Instead, you need to calm down and channel that negative energy into championing them, lifting them up, and supporting them. Send love their way, not hate.
If you really can’t manage this, then at least do the bare minimum and follow that manta we all learned as children: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Because, quite frankly, the world could do without your narrow-minded bleating.