Taylor Swift was named Billboard’s woman of the decade on Thursday night – but her speech contained none of the usual award show platitudes.
Instead, the star criticised “toxic male privilege” in the music industry, championed fellow female artists and escalated her feud with Scooter Braun.
“Women in music are not allowed to coast,” she observed. “We are held at a higher, sometimes impossible-feeling, standard.”
“I’ve seen a lot,” she added.
Swift, who turned 30 on Thursday, opened her 15-minute speech by reflecting on the last decade of her career, and the struggles she had faced.
She said that in her early days, critics had speculated that “a male producer or co-writer” was the real reason for her success; or that a “savvy record label” was responsible for making her a star.
“It wasn’t,” she said pointedly. “People want to explain away a woman’s success in this industry”.
“In the last 10 years, I have watched as women in this industry are criticised and measured up to each other and picked at for their bodies, their romantic lives, their fashion,” she continued.
“Have you ever heard someone say about a male artist, ‘I really like his songs, but I don’t know what it is – there’s just something about him I don’t like?’
“No – that criticism is reserved for us.”
But Swift noted that female artists were thriving anyway, listing contemporaries like Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish and Lizzo as examples of women who “have taken this challenge, and they have accepted it”.
“It seems like the pressure that could’ve crushed us made us into diamonds instead.”
Swift also continued her war of words with music mogul Scooter Braun, who snapped up the rights to her first six albums in June, through a private equity deal.
The star said Braun’s defenders, many of whom were in the room, were guilty of propping up “toxic male privilege” in the music industry as she vowed to fight for control of her music, saying: “I’m obviously not going willingly”.