Earlier this month I wrote a critical piece on Taylor Swift and her decision to grace the cover of GQ. I wrote how the choice was a disappointing one. Not because of the way she was dressed on the cover or in the pages of the magazine (it’s really quite modest), but because of everything GQ represents, its history of objectifying women, and the sort of message that posing for this publication sends to Swift fans.
I wrote how I am a self-professed Swiftie, and how Swift is an incredibly talented and successful entertainer—but that this GQ decision saddened me.
And my readers were so not happy with me. Actually “not happy” would be putting it lightly. Many of them were downright pissed. But they also brought up some valid points. I was putting down Swift. I was being critical of her choices. I was stating an unpopular viewpoint. While I stand by what I wrote, I know I could have approached it differently.
Reading my article back again, I come across as attacking and defensive. That wasn’t my intention at all. I fully respect and acknowledge the readers who commented that I should rise above mere criticism, and that I should commit to writing more positive pieces. They're right! It's something I've been feeling convicted about. Here I am on my blog writing about light and grace, but in my freelance work, I'm ragging on another woman. That's not okay.
One hope to encourage women, to be a light to them and to help them feel good about themselves. And really, that’s a big reason why the Swift/GQ partnership upset me. I saw it as something that won’t bring other women up, but that will instead put extra pressure on women—particularly young girls—to make sure being sexy is just as important as being smart or successful. That being desirable and attractive to men further enhances their image. I want girls to know that they don’t need to look a certain way or behave a certain way. They don’t need to fit into a particular mold or into a vision that men have for them (or for that matter, that women have for them).
I want us women to feel empowered and emboldened. To me, that doesn’t happen by posing for GQ, a magazine with a reputation for photos of half-naked women and headlines like “Welcome to Mykonos: The Most Clothing-Optional Party on the Planet.” That happens by accepting one another, embracing our flaws, and knowing that we are made in His image and likeness.
I knew I would face some backlash to my article, but the response I actually received was beyond my expectations. So many of the comments sent my way were, well, mean, and it scared me.
Countless replies were less about my article and more about me as a person. That I’m anti-woman. I’m slut-shaming. I’m thin-shaming. That there’s no possible way I am a feminist. That I don’t deserve to have my work published. A sampling:
People like YOU are the reason girls have self-esteem issues.
I'm a naturally thin chick like miss Swift and it grates me so much any time I hear people claim that thin women aren't "real" women and shouldn't be a representation of women everywhere. That's downright mean, untrue and wrong.
Dear Maggie, it’s because of thoughts like these that women are afraid to be labeled as feminist.
This author is in need of surgery. "Is this where I can get my head removed from my derriere?" "Yes, ma'am but I'm afraid if you go through with this procedure, you'll lose your job." "I guess I'll go home then."
Then there’s the man who sent me 11 tweets. Yes, 11. I woke up one morning to his profanity-laced messages and promptly blocked him from tweeting at me anymore.
As I read through the comments, the Facebook mentions, and the tweets, my heart sank. It’s not easy to see a stranger call you the reason girls struggle with self-esteem. I’ve never faced backlash like this before, and it really got me thinking. It’s downright frightening the way people can become bold, hurtful, and unfiltered online—how firing off a hurtful comment is a no-brainer when you’re sitting behind a screen.
And, guys, I’m writing about Taylor Swift. I can’t imagine what would happen had I broached an issue like abortion, gun control, or same-sex marriage.
I think what I most desire from all this is that people would realize I am a real person, too. I'm a writer and I need to have a thick skin. But I’m still a real person. I write about my life and my experiences, and I try to always be authentic and honest. I want to spread joy and hope.
As a Believer, I ultimately want to point people back to Jesus. I want to live counter-culturally and help people think in a way that maybe they never have before. My goal is to do less standing against something, and more standing for Christ. That’s my responsibility as a writer, and it’s one I don’t take lightly. Let’s listen to one another. Let’s think critically and be open to others whose viewpoints differ from ours. Let’s challenge each other. Let's be open and empathetic, and let’s commit to showing a little bit more of Jesus in our thoughts, in our words, and in our actions every day.