Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Maybe the Swifties take charge

| December 17, 2023 12:00 AM

I met him on an airplane. I was working my first job at a Midwestern magazine; he wrote for a newspaper in Washington. 

After talking about journalism and sharing stories, we said bye at Sea-Tac with the idea we might meet up again as I often visited Seattle.

Fast-forward about a year, and I did fly back for a return visit and we had dinner out, again talking shop. He dropped me off afterward at my friend’s place on Capitol Hill and I wound down the night chatting with her.

My flight left early in the morning so I made up the couch and got cozy.

My friend’s (pre-cellphone) landline started ringing. It got weird right away. He said he’d been drinking. At first I closed the conversations politely, then — after hearing choice words he had for me — I asked him not to call again, ever. He kept calling. I hung up immediately. Ring, ring.

My friend and I tensed at every car door slam outside. Neither of us slept. I’m sure she was happy to see me off and the psychopath I brought to her world.

On the plane back I had time to wonder. There had been no flirty communications. We were vastly different in age, and in our career trajectories. My only happiness was knowing I was getting thousands of miles away from him.

Chances are nearly every woman has a story like this and — also like me — it is not the worst of them. 

A November issue of this paper had at least one incidence of violence on every page but one. Most of these news stories included women being harassed, threatened, stalked, punched or choked, usually by an ex or someone they knew. Add to that recent cases where a man allegedly ran over his ex with a truck and other members of the community have attempted electrically shocking a partner, or hunted down an ex to shoot her. 

That victim had asked for the protection of a restraining order: Denied.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 37.2 percent of Montana women experience physical or sexual violence or stalking by a current or former partner. 

Depressed, I escaped to the movies, to see “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.” I knew just one of her songs, and mainly liked her because she successfully fought back in court against a DJ who’d sexually assaulted her.

You could write off Swift as a pop Barbie. Her makeup glosses flawless features. She skips around in blingy outfits and Christian Louboutin boots. Coming in to the theater, I had promised myself I could leave early. So began some of the most inspiring three hours of recent weeks as I watched Swift connect with some 70,000 fans (many male) and reel out hits showing the honesty, insight and perseverance of a very sharp artist.

On her way to becoming the first billionaire with music as the primary source of income, she’s stared down Spotify and Apple, categorization, misogyny and other societal ills.

How do you stem the violence against women — and men? Maybe we emphasize social and relationship skills in public and home school curricula. Or maybe the Swifties eventually take charge.

We all want to pursue our potential, free from threat, harm and double standards.

Ready for it? 

Margaret E. Davis, executive director of the Northwest Montana History Museum, can be reached at