Can Taylor Swift make football feminist?!

Lina AbiRafeh
6 min readFeb 10, 2024
Photo taken by the reluctant author at her first — and only — football game.

The world seems bizarrely divided — with one group focusing on the Grammys, the Super Bowl, and all that is joyful while the rest of us are zoomed in on a genocide in Palestine. I’m not able to hold all this in the same head right now. And it’s taking every ounce of energy I’ve got to try to write about something else. So here we go…

The 2024 Super Bowl is taking place on February 11th between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. I know nothing about any of this. In fact, I went to my first — and only — American football game back in 2022 and didn’t particularly enjoy it. There I was, in a sea of people (mostly men), screaming at a team (of men). Beer, sweat, and ketchup — that’s what I recall. And an angry dude behind me screaming at his team: “Stop being pussies… I’ve got a box of tampons for you!”

There’s a stereotypical fan base for American football. A cliché — built on truth. Unsurprisingly, on most days (read: every day), I do not care about this. This year even less so. Genocide or not, this isn’t my game and my interest level is nil. However, this year brings the added curiosity of Taylor Swift. I’m not up to date on pop culture, but I’m vaguely aware that Taylor Swift is in a relationship with one of the Chiefs’ star players, Travis Kelce (who, let’s be absolutely clear, did NOT invent the fade — but that’s a story for another day). I’m just not that interested.

However, a few things ignited my curiosity. Firstly, I recently learned that Taylor — like so many women and girls these days — was a victim of AI-generated porn. For obvious reasons, this makes me sick. But I wish I could say I was surprised. The minute new technology is created, people find a way to weaponize it against women and girls. And we can only expect this to get worse as AI increases. These images are a new form of violence, designed to objectify and dehumanize. And they have dangerous and violent implications — often moving “offline” and into the real world.

I’ve written a lot about violence against women over the decades, and this serves as yet another reminder that women are not safe anywhere. From young girls to Taylor Swift and everyone in between. I shouldn’t even have to say this, but no one — and I mean no one — deserves to have their private photos leaked to the public. Or fake photos created to victimize them. Just… NO.

When it comes to celebrities, they are practically viewed as public property. Even when these photos of “revenge porn” are quickly deleted, they’ve already gotten millions of views. And by now we know that nothing deleted is gone forever.

That horrible crap aside, a friend recently asked me if I thought Taylor Swift is a feminist. I’ve done a couple other pieces on this question for the former Queen Elizabeth and Madeleine Albright so I’ll admit, I’m kinda curious. Let’s start there….

Taylor Swift has been called many things throughout her career — everything from “Feminist Icon” to “Bane to Feminism.” Some people view her as a positive role model for young women, while others argue that she’s out for herself — and for money.

Now, you’re probably thinking, who is Lina to decide whether or not another woman is a feminist? And that’s exactly the point — there are many ways to be feminist. Or not. To each their own. And, our feminism is our own — exactly what we want it to be. Anyway, women are hardly static. We change and grow and evolve — and our views and politics and passions change too. The Taylor of today is not the same Taylor we first heard in 2004.

Still, playing with this idea, I wonder if she needs to be a feminist? Would we like her better if we felt certain that she is a “feminist” — by whatever standards we’re using to measure her? Personally — and I can only answer for me — I’d like all women to be feminists. But, not all women are.

Sticking with Taylor for a sec, her views on gender equality have evolved over time. She actually did not identify as a feminist when she started. But in the years since, she has taken a stronger stance. In 2014, she stated that she definitely sees herself as a feminist because “women deserve to have the same rights as men.” She has also spoken out widely against sexism in the music industry. So that might satisfy the masses — at least some of them.

Others point to the serious allegations about her abnormally large carbon footprint. We know that the climate crisis disproportionately affects women and girls around the world. Meanwhile Taylor has been consistently ranked as the worst celebrity C02 polluter with an emission rate almost 2,000 times the global average. In response, she might be selling one of her private jets — just one, tho! Intersectional feminism should probably take climate implications into account, we’d imagine.

So, positives and negatives. You decide. Whether or not Taylor Swift is a feminist, she’s certainly a powerful woman. She’s in the public eye, and she has a huge influence on girls and young women worldwide. That stuff counts.

The good news is that we’ve heard many stories of her being kind to her team, paying everyone fairly, providing insurance and generous bonuses — that stuff is everywhere. And whether we like her music or not, her talent is beyond dispute. In fact she just won Album of the Year at the Grammys on February 4. That’s the fourth time she’s won in this category, beating legends like Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder for the most Grammy awards in history.

So now back to football. There’s a lot of conversation about how Taylor Swift is “ruining” football. Probably stated by the guy offering his team a box of tampons. She was even loudly booed at a game (again — the tampon guy). Is this because she has invaded a last bastion of the patriarchy?! To me, she’s a fan, there to cheer for her boyfriend. As he probably (hopefully) cheers for her successes as well. But the mud-sling continues. Maybe we should name this for what it is: misogyny.

It also seems she’s increased viewership — and therefore revenue. She has generated around $331million for the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL overall. Like it or not, tampon-guy, Taylor Swift is good for football business.

At the same time, there are other “concerns” that her presence risks opening the floodgates to young women in football. Which would be a wonderful thing, actually! Anyway, we know that there are young women who like football already — Taylor or not. So let’s get that fact out of the way. This whole thing makes me wonder about football culture yet again…

As I wrote in my other football-feminism article, during football season there’s a 10% increase in domestic violence when there’s an upset loss. (I had to google this. It means a defeat when the home team was predicted to win by 4 or more points.) Yes, men take out their frustrations with sports losses on women.

And there’s an image of masculinity attached to watching or playing football — or even understanding it. Boys who don’t show an interest in football (or sports in general) are often made fun of. And there’s “locker room talk.” And cheerleaders. And the LFL — Lingerie Football League — later rebranded as the Legends Football League, but the concept remains.

Perhaps more than most sports, this one comes with deep-rooted sexism. Girls aren’t usually encouraged to play. If they play, they often end up having to pay to do so. And the wage gap for professional women versus men is massive. There are a lot of gender issues to unpack.

A female athlete told me that we have to challenge the underlying misogyny as well as the racist and homophobic cultures that exist within sports. Whether or not Taylor Swift is a feminist, her presence has power. And personally, I’d love for her to positively influence football culture, bringing more girls into the game, and making the game more friendly for women and girls. Making football… feminist.



Lina AbiRafeh

Global women's rights expert, author, speaker, aid worker, feminist activist with 25 years of experience in 20 countries worldwide - and lots of stories!