Look, look, here’s the thing:
I have watched the footage of Taylor Swift running towards Travis Kelce and hugging him a bazillion times now, and if you are a person who is alive and has a internet connection, or even a person who doesn’t have an internet connection, even if you are just a dead racoon, you’ve also seen it, because this video transcends cyberspacetime and the mortal coil. This video is very important, and people (and dead raccoons) care about it a great deal. I, a person who knows exactly one and a half Taylor Swift songs (“Shake it Off” and another one about … I want to say revenge?) have watched it approximately 8,000 times. Among people I follow on various socially media sites, it has been analyzed more than the Zapruder footage.
“LET US JUST ENJOY THIS,” someone screamed at me, and I get it. I am not so old that I do not remember caring about the romances of people I will never meet. It feels lovely and wholesome, and a reprieve from a terrible world where polar bears are spontaneously catching on fire because the arctic is like 8000 degrees. At the same time, others have yelled at me (I get yelled at a lot), “LEAVE THEM ALONE,” and to just give them space which is hard to do when everyone is reposting the video from a thousands different angles so we can determine who hugged first. The Taylor/Travis romance is a pop culture eclipse, something we are unable to ignore but are not allowed to stare directly at.
And perhaps, maybe …
… maybe it’s all a bit much?
DON’T GET ME WRONG IT IS VERY NICE (IF CONVENIENT FROM A PR PERSPECTIVE), SHE SEEMS HAPPY, I AM GLAD THAT SHE IS HAPPY, PUT DOWN THAT FLAME-THROWER.
I am just saying that … maybe a beautiful celebrity finding love shouldn’t actually be that big of a deal? I feel like we should not be so over-the-top amazed that a guy isn’t afraid to be with a powerful woman who is very successful and has way more money and influence than him. It’s not an act of bravery for a man to date the most famous pop star in the world, who is also very pretty. I do not think it is a giant sacrifice on his behalf. Pete Davidson does it all the time. He seems very happy.
And my god, can you imagine the genders were reversed? If Travis Kelce were a woman, and not a dude who looks like he’s perpetually cosplaying as Paul Bunyan, the level of bullshit he would be getting right now? The intentions of any woman in his position would immediately be called into question. She would be called an opportunist and a gold digger, a social climber who was just doing it for the publicity. She certainly would not be hailed as a gift to feminism for daring to *checks notes* date someone successful.
Don’t get me wrong – he seems like a perfectly nice guy (I want her to be happy! The video is very cute! STOP YELLING!). But also, I just sort of think this is how people are supposed to act when they like one another? I literally run to my husband when I bump into him while walking in our neighborhood and we have been together since Taylor Swift was in elementary school. Everyone seems to be losing their minds because Kelce told people to get vaxed and he’s not ashamed of his partner, but isn’t that like, just two of a very long list of things you are supposed to do and be? Is this where the bar is for cishet men these days? Because if so, I think we all need to expect a little more. I am not a pop star, and I am at least 60% swamp creature, but my husband wakes up every single morning – literally every single one – and tells me how gorgeous I am. He makes me dinner almost every night. He gets overcome with pride at my career successes. And I realize that he’s like, in the 99% percentile of husbands and a total outlier in the world of how men are taught to behave but he fucking shouldn’t be.
I think maybe it’s okay if women ask for a little more from life and from love, and I realize that sounds absolutely bonkers that I’m sitting here saying that in regards to Taylor Swift, but here we are. It is not asking too much and it is not unusual to be loved and adored by not just your fans but also one person who knows you very, very well. It’s okay to want equal pay and clothing with functional pockets and to be loved back.
The response that my husband receives – for being doting, for being kind, for cooking for me – is to have his masculinity ridiculed, to be referred to by homophobic slurs by people who refuse to use real photos in their profile pics. These comments do not bother him, but they stress an important correlation in the minds of certain groups: that to appreciate one’s wife or girlfriend loudly and unabashedly, to do part (or many) of the household tasks that so often fall to women – is to be in direct conflict with heterosexual masculinity.
The argument, of course, is that Kelce has much more to lose, and the stakes are much higher. Dating Taylor Swift is not the same as dating a mere mortal. But the criticism Kelce has received is very much the same as any man would get for dating a woman who outearns him, is similar to the language any guy would get for being vocally supportive and loving towards his spouse. From the murkier waters of the internet, with one user X/Twitter called him “a beta male”, while others speculated about his absence of male genitalia. Let us briefly put aside that no one worth talking to has ever used used the phrase “alpha male” or “beta male” with a straight face, or the inherent transphobia in that latter statement. Let us evaluate this situation as follows: Travis Kelce is brave, we are saying, for dating Swift, because he will suffer criticism from idiots.
He is brave for going against existing antiquated patriarchal standards. He’s brave for enjoying the company of a successful superstar. But maybe that isn’t bravery. Perhaps it’s just normal. And we all need to start regarding it as such.