She’s an icon. She’s a legend. She’s the man

As we’re officially feeling 23 this year, I thought it would be a good time to revisit my narrative analysis of Taylor Swift’s song ‘The Man’. It was the fourth single to be released from her seventh studio album Lover. Lover is also the first album for which she owns the masters and rights too, marking a happy upbeat and content feeling compared to the dark pop-rock tone of her last album, Reputation.

On the Spotify insights for this song, she comments that this was a song she wanted to write but didn’t know how to. It seems she has figured out the solution, as ‘The Man’ is an upbeat yet strong comment on how sick she is of men getting away with certain things such as showing off their wealth or not being judged for how many people they have dated. Taylor begins the song by listing all the things she could or would be if she were a male artist.

I would be complex, I would be cool

They’d say I played the field before I found someone to commit to

And that would be okay for me to do

Every conquest I had made would make me more of a boss to you

Playing the field is something she has been accused of many times because of how many relationships she has been in. In these lines, she reflects on how, if she were a man, it would be okay for her to date as many people as she wanted to without experiencing judgement or ridicule. She would be seen as simply playing the field if she was a man but, because she is a woman, she is criticised as going out on too many dates. If we go back to the opening line, it seems she wishes or thinks she would be seen as complex and cool.

“I’d be a fearless leader

I’d be an alpha type

When everyone believes ya

What’s that like?

Those lines ‘I’d be a fearless leader’ and ‘an alpha type’ represent the increased freedoms women would have if they could freely be the bold, decisive, strategic, and determined women they are without the patriarchy and males weighing them down. This represents how women have to work twice as hard to be respected and listened to as leaders and decision-makers. The song has an upbeat confident tone but this verse comments on the stark reality, when she asks presumably a man, ‘when everyone believes ya, what’s that like?’. It brings to light how often the man is believed over the woman, whether that’s in a case of sexual assault or simply any situation where someone’s words are held in higher regard simply because of gender.

I’m so sick of running as fast as I can

Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man

And I’m so sick of them coming at me again

‘Cause if I was a man, then I’d be the man

I’d be the man

I’d be the man

In the chorus, Taylor says that if she were a man, she’d be the man, meaning she would be the best kind of guy. Perhaps this is because as a woman, she knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of men’s sexist or cruel behaviour, so she would act how a man should act – with respect for women. She complains she is ‘so sick of them coming at [her] again’, because sometimes men don’t stop their behaviour, and sometimes they still get ahead. This leads Taylor to think that if she was a man, she would be the man, and has got to achieve certain goals quicker. For example, women like her are called out for writing a lot of break-up songs about their ex-partners, whereas men are not.

They’d say I hustled, put in the work

They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve

What I was wearing, if I was rude

Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves

If she were a man, Taylor believes she and other women would be congratulated for putting in the work, rather than questioned on how she achieved her successes. They wouldn’t question what she wore or make her out to be rude (for voicing her opinions or standing up for herself and others). They would focus on her ‘good ideas and power moves’ rather than make prejudices against women and focus on the outside. Taylor comments that her ‘good ideas and power moves’ are more important than whatever she chooses to wear or how she responds to a man’s cruel and misogynistic behaviour.

And they would toast to me, oh, let the players play

I’d be just like Leo in Saint-Tropez

Taylor is referring to Leonardo DiCaprio’s annual foundation gala, which was held in Saint Tropez. She also refers to his habit of going on holiday there with his girlfriends, who have often been significantly younger than him, whilst still being respected as an Hollywood A-List actor. In this line, Taylor points out how those actions were accepted because he is a man, but it wouldn’t be accepted for her by society if she did the same thing as a woman. ‘They would toast’ to her for it, rather than condemn or shame her. The world and her industry favour men, and how she may have it easier, if she was a man.

What’s it like to brag about raking in dollars

And getting bitches and models?

And it’s all good if you’re bad

And it’s okay if you’re mad

If I was out flashing my dollars

I’d be a bitch, not a baller

They’d paint me out to be bad

So, it’s okay that I’m mad

Here, Taylor asks ‘the man’ what it is like to do all things she would be judged for doing in society. She feels like she may not be able to use or talk about her fortunes, partners or success. This is because the ‘man’ would get mad and paint her out to be bad as a result. It highlights the gendered hypocrisy in some men judging women for doing exactly what they do. In addition, Taylor and other women are ‘sick’ of being treated as second best.

In the final chorus, the power in the strength and emotion she puts into the song has continued to build and is all let loose, as she wonders if she would have got to this point in her professional and personal life if she was a man, she’s sick of doing twice the work and putting in twice the effort, only to be put down because she is a woman.

Taylor Swift has always been an outspoken feminist, this song simply put into words all the feelings she’s had for a long time, and makes them known to the world, regardless of what some men may say about the song or her.

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