Gender and the Media Colloquium (Taylor’s Version)

On April 18, the Dr. Michelle Loris Forum hosted a colloquium focusing on the impact of Taylor Swift on the music industry and popular culture, with a particular emphasis on the role of gender in the media. Dr. Lori Bindig-Yousman, a professor in the School of Communications, Media and the Arts, led the discussion.

“As someone who’s followed Taylor’s career from the start, it was eye-opening to see how gender stereotypes play into the media’s portrayal of her. The discussion shed light on aspects I hadn’t considered before,” said senior Jordan Wentworth.

Swift is known for making her mark on the music industry and a symbol of popular culture. However, alongside her success, questions have arisen regarding the media’s portrayal of Swift and the influence of gender dynamics on her public image.

For the colloquium, Bindig-Yousman aimed to dissect these complexities, examining how Swift’s reputation and public persona have been shaped by societal expectations, especially those concerning young women. She invited the audience to think critically about media constructions and reflect on how the media is presenting it to viewers, using Taylor Swift as a case study.

“I wanted them to think about the ways in which the media messages they are getting might impact their own beliefs about the world and to think about if they are limiting themselves or others because of these messages,” said Bindig-Yousman.

The presentation analyzed articles and media coverage about Swift, as well as Swift’s career throughout the years with references to her different eras. The audience’s reactions were positive and supportive, as there were definitely some “Swifties” in the house.

“Dr. Bindig-Yousman’s approach to analyzing Taylor Swift was refreshing and I liked how she was able to get her message across while also being entertaining with her funny references,” said senior Sarah Beam.

The goal was not to offer opinions but to encourage critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the broader implications of media representation on gender dynamics.

“I appreciated the emphasis on media literacy. It’s so important; especially in today’s age of social media,” said Beam.

Swift, as a prominent figure in the public eye from a young age, has faced intense scrutiny and speculation regarding her personal and professional life. The colloquium sought to unpack how gender stereotypes and expectations influence her portrayal in the media, from her lyrics and music videos to her public relationships and overall career trajectory.

Ultimately, the colloquium discussed the importance of media literacy and critical engagement with celebrity culture. Swift’s journey serves as a lens through which to examine larger societal issues surrounding gender, power and representation in the media.

“Having more diverse writers or media creators play a huge role because they are bringing in their experiences which contradicts those stereotypical representations,” said Bindig-Yousman.

The audience consisted primarily of students, accompanied by some faculty members and friends of Bindig-Yousman. Throughout the presentation, the attendees remained deeply engaged and despite the seriousness of the topic, Bindig managed to elicit laughter from the audience.

“I wanted to encourage them that every time they engage with popular culture to maybe not just wash over it but to start to think critically about what is being said,” said Bindig-Yousman.

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