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WOMEN+POWER 2023: Taylor Swift

My first stirrings of discomfort at Taylor Swift’s show in Las Vegas hit after the infectious beat faded from fan-favorite “Cruel Summer,” the second song in her supersized set. Swift strutted across the stage in a sequin bodysuit and matching boots. Her cat eye was drawn sharp enough to kill a man, as she says.

She thanked the crowd of thousands of cheering fans for their deafening support and as the roars died down, she paused, and then bellowed out the line that undid me — and sent a powerful message about embracing success to the tens of thousands of women in attendance.

“You’re making me feel like I’m the first woman to ever headline Allegiant Stadium,” she said. She flicked her gaze down to her biceps and pumped her arms in victory. The crowd lost it. My jaw dropped. My gut clenched and braced itself for a blow.

I’d just heard Swift, a woman, bellow out her accomplishment, with no qualifiers, no, “I did a thing” and not a single ounce of humility to soften the punch. It was just an unapologetic and audacious declaration of her success.

When I walked into Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, I expected to be blown away by Swift and the 44 songs she performs live for the “Eras Tour.” But I didn’t expect to feel uncomfortable at her declaration of her unbridled ambition.

The timing of her declaration was a little cheeky; it was part of her introduction to the song, “The Man,” which calls attention to the sexist double standards that women face, including ones Swift has battled in the music industry.

“What’s it like to brag about raking in dollars and getting bitches and models,” she sang. “If I was out flashing my dollars, I’d be a bitch, not a baller.” When she shouted out her accomplishment in Las Vegas, alongside a matching victory dance, I’m sure it was meant to conjure masculinity and highlight the double standard surrounding success, since nothing Taylor Alison Swift does is unintentional. She’s known for leaving an unending trail of Easter eggs for her fans to find and decipher, which reveal clues about things like album drops and the true meaning of a lyric.

She’s a mastermind in everything she does, sings and shouts to a football stadium full of fans. That’s why, even if the timing was part of her performance around “The Man,” it was also no accident that Swift decided to belt out her success that night. And whether we were cringing in our seats, like me, or cheering her on, also like me, her words delivered a powerful message.

My discomfort in Las Vegas transitioned to awe, followed Swiftly by a “Hell yeah, Taylor.”

By the time I was back home in Oregon, I couldn’t stop thinking about how powerful it was that Swift was so bold. It didn’t stop at that one statement — she delivered a three-hour masterclass in confidence and pride in what she’s accomplished. And I liked it. I think most of us at Allegiant Stadium did. Over the course of this tour, millions of women will watch her share her success.

At least one of those women in the audience needed to hear her to celebrate her own success (and probably more than I would’ve guessed based on my initial reaction). I watched clips of her performance at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, the next weekend. When the beat from “Cruel Summer” faded, she did it again.

“I’m the first artist to play three nights in this stadium,” she shouted. I watched her shimmy, her face full of unapologetic joy as she shook her hips in front of tens of thousands of people, and this time, I didn’t cringe. I thought about how I can be a little more like Swift the next time I succeed.

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