The jury did not take long to find in favour of Taylor Swift yesterday. Former DJ David Mueller claimed that she cost him his job and reputation. She countersued him for groping her ass. The court believed her and has ordered him to pay her $1, which is all she was asking for financially. For her, it was about the message.
Taylor is the leadoff story on this week’s episode of our Show Your Work podcast. Duana and I talked about how Taylor prepared for the trial, from the specific language that she and her mother used to talk about the incident (“he grabbed my ASS” – not butt, not rear end, not bum, but ASS) to how she retreated from the public eye for months ahead of time, all of by design to create the best possible conditions for her to win this trial. And of course, yes, with her wealth and her whiteness, she was in the best position any woman could be in to win the trial. But you’ll note, even during closing statements, David Mueller’s attorney still tried to question why Taylor was smiling in the photograph where his hand was very clearly by her ass area, still tried to tell the jury that a woman who was sexually assaulted wouldn’t be smiling because, again, there’s only one way for a woman’s face to look when she’s been sexually assaulted – and a man would know it, right?
In Taylor’s case, that line of questioning didn’t work. Because the jury obviously didn’t find David Mueller credible. The jury believed Taylor. This kind of strategy, however, has worked against many other women. And that, as I wrote last week, is most certainly Taylor’s privilege. It’s a privilege she herself acknowledged in the statement she released following the judgment:
"I want to thank Judge William J. Martinez and the jury for their careful consideration, my attorneys Doug Baldridge, Danielle Foley, Jay Schaudies and Katie Wright for fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault, and especially anyone who offered their support throughout this four-year ordeal and two-year long trial process.
I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves."
In life, in society, and in my ability to shoulder the cost…
That’s a lot of privilege. Has Taylor Swift ever identified her own privilege? What’s next, now that she has? Over and above the donation, I mean. Taylor Swift, in comparison to other stars at her level, has been largely apolitical. She’s now just fought back in court against a man who grabbed her by the ass. You think she might have something to say about a man who grabs women by the pussy?
Taylor was not seen after the trial. She managed to make it through the trial without being photographed. Before the verdict was announced, if the jury found in her favour, I was kind of expecting her to show up outside the courthouse, to speak righteously about why she decided to fight and what she was fighting for. That didn’t happen. It would have been a spectacle and Taylor Swift avoided the spectacle – another good decision even though, come on, you know, you know she would have enjoyed that moment, those are the moments celebrities live for. But Taylor continues to work that muscle, a new muscle she’s been developing over the past year. It’s the restraint muscle. It’s the quiet muscle. It’s the mystery muscle. It’s a muscle that many people in her position are incapable of building. But it’s a muscle you need to really set the stage for a new era. Who is Taylor Swift in the new era?