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FEATURE: How Taylor Swift is harnessing feminism for her 2017 comeback.

This time last year, Taylor Swift was falling from a pinnacle of fame and adoration. Fast. Hard.

The former teen sweetheart had broken up with her boyfriend of a year – DJ Calvin Harris – in a rather unceremonious fashion, one month after being filmed dancing with actor Tom Hiddleston at the Met Gala.

There were nasty tweets. Deleted Instagram posts. Beach-side kissing paparazzi shots. ‘I heart Taylor’ T-shirts. Italian holidays. A trip to Australia. Break up songs. F-you songs.

Then, of course, Kim and Kanye Kardashian West stepped onto the set of Swift’s downfall armed with fuel and matches. The world’s brightest star was a liar, they said, sharing a video of Swift on the phone with rapper West, approving the lyrics to Famous – the very lyrics she not only publicly claimed she had no idea about but were offensive and anti-feminist.

The 27-year-old’s US$280 million (AU$354 million) empire, a skyscraper of catchy pop tunes, cats and perfectly winged eyeliner didn’t stand so tall anymore.

Her strongest fans, an army of passionate and die-hard teenage girls, were clutching on. With a backdrop of Trump v Clinton, of ‘Grab her by the pussy’ v ‘Girl power’, Swift was still their hero. She spoke for them. She was them.

But the situation grew dire. Trump had won. The future was murky. The President was, well, a misogynist. And young girls wanted – no, needed – her more than ever.

While Swift’s “enemy” Katy Perry marched and campaigned and stood tall for the women and girls, while her chief competition in Rihanna defended abortion rights and defiantly identified as pro-choice, while Miley Cyrus wore head-to-toe pink on national television, Swift did not. Why was she not at the rallies? Why was she not publicly supporting women? Why was she so… quiet?

It became clear that staying politely quiet in a post-Trump world was no longer an option.

Headlines of ‘Taylor Swift’s Spineless Feminism’, ‘How Taylor Swift Played The Victim For A Decade And Made Her Entire Career’, and ‘It’s Time To Stop Pretending Taylor Swift Is A Feminist‘, soon populated the most popular websites.

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Lyrics Swift had written seven years prior for the song Better Than Revenge about actress Camilla Belle were dredged back up to demonstrate she was more than anti-feminist… she was a slut-shamer.

She’s an actress, whoa
She’s better known
For the things that she does
On the mattress, whoa

And so the new roadmap was set: to be a successful pop star in 2017, you had to be a feminist. And that’s something Swift, chief of glitzy girl squads, didn’t appear to be. Not authentically, anyway.

The over-saturation of her relationships, politics, and values had tarnished her once indestructible brand. Innocence and cute Instagram pictures were not sufficient anymore, if she wanted women’s support, dollars, likes and views, she would have to say something. Loudly.

In January, Swift went underground.

We stopped seeing her on the streets or at awards shows. She swiped her social media accounts clean. There was no mention of her supermodel-clad ‘squad’. She stopped speaking about her love life or feud with Katy Perry altogether.

The only news we’ve heard about Taylor Swift since January has been regarding her sexual assault trial against DJ David Mueller, the man who groped her bum at a pre-concert event in December 2013. The trial she won. The trial that saw sexual assault, the kind one in five women experience, flood every crevice of the internet. The trial she spent countless months on, and asked for just $1 in return.

“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,” Swift said in a statement after Mueller’s guilty verdict was handed down.

“My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organisations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”

Listen: Mamamia Out Loud talk about what Taylor Swift’s win means. (Post continues…)

The world – the very same one that labelled Swift an “anti-feminist” – clapped and cheered. For what feels like the millionth time Taylor Swift headlines were everywhere, but this time they were different – they were positive. Overwhelmingly so.

Then, within 10 days of Swift’s glowing victory – a feminist win for women everywhere – there was an announcement. We woke to news the singer’s first single for the year will be blasted on the radio as soon as tomorrow morning. Her new album, Reputation, will be available on November 10.

Whether that’s coincidental timing or masterful PR is unclear, but of one thing we can be certain: Swift is back in the public eye, and in 2017, that means saying something about women.

Which leaves the world with one question: What exactly is Taylor Swift going to say?

You can follow Michelle Andrews on Facebook here.

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