Reality Check: Taylor Swift fills “Blank Space” with domestic violence


Earlier this fall when released footage from inside Ray Rice’s infamous elevator ride with his then-fiancé, now-wife,  it appeared that as a nation, we had reached a turning point in the discussion regarding domestic violence.

Domestic violence, we decided, would no longer be tolerated.  Watching Janay Palmer fall to the ground in single punch was too brutal to ignore. The video footage was too loud to tune out.  Everyone had an opinion on the matter. The story was covered by every media outlet and talked about on every talk show and daytime show.

Rice was suspended indefinitely and cut from the Ravens. People called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign for not handling the matter seriously enough, originally suspending Rice for a pair of games. The NFL lost sponsors (Maybe?). The NFL made commercials speaking against domestic violence.

It appeared that finally, we had reached common ground when discussing domestic violence, that with a single punch, viewed millions of times, Rice had moved the dialog from the privacy of our homes to the forefront of our national consciousness.

It appears that Taylor Swift didn’t get that message with the release of her new video, “Blank Space,” Monday and it will be interesting to see if she gets a free pass for the media for the video’s blatant portrayal of domestic violence, stalking and destroying her ex’s property.

In this video, much like “Shake it Off,” she takes aim at the image the media and mainstream have of her and plays with it and twists it in a way to suggest she knows what others think of her and she’s going to have the last word.  It’s ironic. She’s aware enough of her image to poke fun at it, but not aware enough to think, “Hey, maybe domestic violence shouldn’t be the star of my new video.”

Idaho Statute  39-6303 defines “Domestic violence” as the physical injury, sexual abuse or forced imprisonment or threat thereof of a family or household member, or of a minor child by a person with whom the minor child has had or is having a dating relationship, or of an adult by a person with whom the adult has had or is having a dating relationship.

The Department of Justice expands that definition as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, etc are types of physical abuse. This type of abuse also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use upon him or her.

Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. Sexual abuse includes, but is certainly not limited to, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.

Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one’s abilities, name-calling, or damaging one’s relationship with his or her children.

Economic Abuse: Is defined as making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one’s access to money, or forbidding one’s attendance at school or employment.

Psychological Abuse: Elements of psychological abuse include  – but are not limited to – causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner’s family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.

Physical abuse runs rampant in the video. Taylor shoves the man in it then throws flowers at him. She grabs his face and sings, “I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”  That sounds a lot like a threat of more violence, which she warns him of with lines such as, “I get drunk on jealousy,” and “We’ll take this way too far/It’ll leave you breathless or with a nasty scar.” She also serves him a poisoned apple and is seen sitting on top of his unconscious body, and then biting his lip as he lays there motionless.

Throughout the video, she destroys his clothes, phone and car, elements of psychological abuse in the form of destruction of property, which she also warns him of: “I can make all the tables turn.”

Somewhere between 15 to 40 percent of domestic violence victims are male and on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year. That’s a lot of people in the time it took you to get this far into this blog.

In 71 percent of nonreciprocal partner violence instances, the instigator was the woman. There probably aren’t statics on how many of them were pretty blondes.

Taylor isn’t the first artist to portray domestic violence in a video, far from it. But she is the first country star-turned-pop-star, 24-year-old female singer dominating in album sales to do so since Ray Rice’s infamous elevator ride.

In her position as a generational icon, she gets a large say in what’s front and center of many of her fans’ minds. She’s always appeared to be aware of this and has made it a point to be a positive role model to those fans. It will be interesting to see if  portraying violence against a boyfriend you’re really upset at gets a free pass or not.