Taylor Swift Comes for Toxic Masculinity in Her New “The Man” Music Video


Screenshotted from Spotify by Abigail Sawyer

Abigail Sawyer

   Taylor Swift’s song “The Man,” part of her 2019 album Lover, clearly calls out society’s double standard for the expectations put on men and women. For example, in the song she states, “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man.” She questions the rate of her success compared to that of  her male counterparts. In another line of the song she expresses her frustration towards the connection between her gender and her accomplishments stating, “They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve.” There are a ton of underlying and obvious messages in the song itself, but since the music video was just released this past Thursday, February 27th, I will focus on the video rather than the lyrics.

     The first scene opens on a man or, “The Man,” standing in an office before walking out into the workspace and treating his workers like crap. “The Man” then gets praised for it as if the workers needed to be treated badly in order to function. As a “bossy” woman myself, I can say from experience that treating others in this manner to get them to do work as a woman, only gets you eye-rolls and uncreative, curse-laced insults about how you “should be nicer” or “should smile more.” Someone has told me to my face that, “men don’t like bossy women,” which, to be completely honest, is not my problem. 

     The next significant scene portrays an inconsiderate man taking up way too much space and smoking in a closed subway car. The woman next to him coughs, obviously bothered by the smoke, and no one says anything. He gets off with a glare from the woman on the right. Women are constantly told to “sit like a lady”  and are trained to be hyper aware of the needs of everyone around them. In an unfamiliar situation, I find myself being extra courteous to the point where its a detriment to me. Always willing to “be flexible” or giving up my space, my time, and my energy, to be seen as considerate to those around me. Most men aren’t taught to do this. They occupy the space they take up normally instead of worrying about how others experience them. And that’s not a bad thing. Everyone has a right to the space they take up, men and women alike, however, when you take up too much space and think you’re entitled to everyone else’s, that’s a problem. The next scene also relates to this idea of entitlement. “The Man” refuses to wait to find a restroom and instead,  makes a mess on the station wall. Most people would never dream of doing this, but Swift’s point is to accentuate the normalization of toxic entitlement in relation to the male experience.

     “The Man” is then on a yacht surrounded by modelesque women. These women are then surrounding him at what looks like a party and he’s being applauded and cheered. This is a pretty good example of the normalization of the objectification of women in our culture. Before you disagree with me, and call me a crazy feminist, think about if it had been a mildly attractive woman surrounded by modelesque men. That situation seems a lot weirder, doesn’t it? An entire group of men vying for the attention of one woman, and not as seen on The Bachelorette. There’s a cultural tension of “oh that doesn’t seem right” when we think about the role reversal because we as a society are so used to seeing women in those subservient, visually attractive roles. 

     Then, “The Man” is in a random park surrounded by kids and their parents. “The Man” weirdly taps this little girl, who may or may not even be his daughter, on the head before picking her up and spinning her around. Everyone crowds around him and cheers for him in front of a sign that reads, “world’s greatest dad.” Men in our society are often rewarded for doing the bare minimum when it comes to caring for their kids. Because of the traditional gender roles that have been enforced since the literal beginning of civilization, it is often expected that women do all the work in caring for the kids. So, when men step up in the modern age and take care of their kids, they get copious amounts of attention and recognition when women get next to no recognition for doing the same thing or even more. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s amazing that men take care of their children. Men are absolutely capable of parenting as well as a woman can, and there are tons of single dads and households where there are two dads. Parental praise is only a problem because it encourages the idea that when women care for children they are doing what’s expected of them in society as opposed to when a man does the exact same thing and gets praised for it because they’re not women and they’re not doing what society expects of them. 

     The next scene shows “The Man” playing tennis for a women’s charity event and then throwing a child-like tantrum when he loses. Men in our society often get away with similar behavior. They’re allowed to get mad and demand “better treatment.” I work at Dunkin’, and sometimes employees mess up coffee orders by accident. No big deal we can just remake it, right? I’ve had a grown man, probably mid to late 40s, throw a full on tantrum about how he didn’t get the drink he wanted and demanded a full refund and a remake of the drink. I’m talking, screamed at my face, asked to speak to the manager, and then screamed at the manager to scream at me. If  women acted the way some men do, no one would ever respect us. Men get away with this kind of behavior because their actions aren’t directly connected to their value as a person. It’s not the same for women. My appearance, my actions, my behavior, every choice I make is observed and affects how people view and value me. I, as a woman, can’t get away with screaming at people without having to deal with the consequences. If a woman threw a tantrum like that at a charity tennis match, she would get laughed at, called crazy. People would cease to respect her completely.

     As a fun little extra, the last few seconds of the music video reveals that “The Man” is named Tyler Swift, is Taylor in a ton of makeup, and is voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It closes out with a quippy little disclaimer that, “No men were harmed during the making of this video.”