GOP dudes are big mad at Taylor Swift for reminding them that the ladies don't like them

The pop star's relationship with NFL player Travis Kelce draws out the incel-adjacent impulses of MAGA men

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published October 2, 2023 6:00AM (EDT)

Taylor Swift performs onstage during the "Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour" at Foro Sol on August 24, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Hector Vivas/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)
Taylor Swift performs onstage during the "Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour" at Foro Sol on August 24, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Hector Vivas/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Taylor Swift has a new boyfriend, and boy do people have opinions about it. In truth, most people who care are pleased with the pop star's latest choice of a boy toy, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. He seems like a nice guy, and it's charming that he's a risk-taker in the fashion department. Also, he has a Super Bowl ring, which puts him closer to multiple Grammy-winning Swift in the awards-collecting category. Most normal human beings wished the cute couple well for the short time they last, before Swift moves on to her next male muse. 

There was one group of people, however, that displayed alarmingly over-the-top anger at this low-stakes celebrity hookup: Right wing dudes on the internet. They're so mad you'd think their own wives left them for Kelce, and not some singer-songwriter they've never met. 

Things only grew worse for them Sunday night, when Swift went to the Chiefs vs. New York Jets game with her Hollywood friends, drawing even more camera attention. There were even ads for the documentary of her "Eras" tour this summer, rubbing girl cooties all over the NFL, at least in right wing eyes. 

"Taylor Swift's Popularity Is A Sign Of Societal Decline," reads an overheated headline at the Federalist. In the article, Mark Hemingway complains Swift is training young women to expect too much from men they date, and that unmarried 29-year-olds are fooling themselves about when they say they're happy.

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Media Matters documented dozens of examples of right wing pundits attacking the couple, often under the pretext that Kelce is allegedly evil for promoting the COVID-19 vaccine, since even good health is now demonized on the right. In the process, there was a lot of insulting of Kelce's manhood, as the soft-tummied commentators called Kelce names like "beta" or mocked how Swift would "break his heart." One Fox commentator demanded the couple break up. Stew Peters, a host on the popular Rumble network, took it a step further and called for both Kelce and Swift to be executed

What was most hilariously telling, however, were the conservative men trying to front like they think Swift isn't that hot. Jamie Frevele at Mediaite collected some examples, including these: 

As Shakespeare — or was it Aaron Sorkin? — once wisely said, "He whosoeth labels himself 'alpha' most certainly is not." This protest-too-much reaction on the right is about a lot of things. As my colleague Olivia Luppino points out, "The NFL is historically a conservative organization with an even more conservative fan base," making it politically profitable for Republicans to pose like they're protecting it from Swift's feminist cooties. It's also generally strategic for conservative talking heads to cling like barnacles to whatever topic is getting a lot of pop culture chatter, hoping to leech some attention off for themselves. 

But it also, crucially, is about the growing tendency on the right to stoke resentments in the MAGA audiences, regardingly their increasingly barren dating opportunities. GOP propagandists have learned that a great way to get their mostly male audiences fired up is to indulge their grievances about women these days. Modern chicks, the gripe goes, have been spoiled by feminism, and that's why it's so damn hard for a Trump voter to get a date. 

If you're having trouble with the ladies, going MAGA only makes it worse.

The right has long had a youth-recruitment problem, and this is the solution they've landed on: Appealing to incels and incel-adjacent young men, by blaming their romantic woes on liberalism, instead their own flaws and/or bad luck. There's a highbrow version of this argument that's been playing out in the recent, tedious spate of articles scolding women for not being eager enough for marriage, all of which ignore the substantive reasons people of all genders have for waiting for the right person/time to get hitched. But unloading on Swift and Kelce is a lower-brow version of the same impulse on the right, to lash out at women — especially cute young women — who won't give MAGA dudes the time of day. 

(This is also why someone like Sean Hannity, whose audience is more "aging Boomers who just want grandkids already" and not the Proud Boys crowd, seems baffled by all the Taylor hate. His viewers relate more to Kelce's mom, who just seems happy her boy has met such a nice and pretty girl.) 

I certainly got a taste of how pissed-off some people are over the "undateable MAGA" problem, when I wrote about a 2021 survey showing young Democrats do not want to date Republicans. My social media feeds were awash with outraged conservatives, insisting that women had a duty to give Trump voters a chance. Never mind that this isn't some petty disagreement, not when Trump ended abortion rights and bragged about sexually assaulting women. Never mind that no one owes anyone romantic interest, or an explanation for why they're not interested. Never mind that the attitude of entitlement is part of what turns women off. 

And never mind that being MAGA is entirely voluntary. No one is forcing young men to don the red hat that notoriously shrinks the available dating pool. 

Indeed, the irony of all this is that, in appealing to young men through grievance, the right is only making men's problems worse. If you're having trouble with the ladies, going MAGA intensifies your unlikeability. But isn't that what cults always do? Sell their members "solutions" that actually compound their existing problems. 

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Most of the hand-wringing articles about the decline of marriage put the blame on nameless, faceless antagonists: The masses of single women who are allegedly "too picky." Swift, however, provides a famous face for conservatives to project their rage at. Not just because she's a successful businesswoman who seems perfectly happy stacking up more bodies in the ex-boyfriend vault. It's because the kind of women being called out for being "too picky" — middle class, self-sufficient, young, educated — are the same women lining up to buy her records or selling out her concerts. When conservatives imagine the woman who is somehow failing them by not marrying the first guy who will have her, they are imagining someone who likely has already preordered "1989 (Taylor's Version)" on vinyl. 

The "undateable MAGA" is no myth. In the 2022 midterms, the gender gap in voting was bigger than it's every been, as Jill Filipovic wrote in her newsletter: "In the midterms, an astounding 72% of women under 30 voted for Democrats. Among men the same age, it was 54%. These gaps persist with age: Among women 30-44, 57% voted for Dems, while just 43% of men did." The result, as Andi Zeisler at NBC News documented, an increasingly shrill right wing media accusing liberal women of "progressive authoritarianism" because they swipe left on Trump voters. 

Swift scares conservatives because she lives her life on her own terms, including her dating life.

No wonder so many right wing dudes are triggered — or are hoping to trigger their audiences — into fury at seeing Swift date Kelce. Even though Kelce hasn't made his political views known, Republicans think they have him pegged as progressive, because he promoted the vaccine. Swift herself has been more politically outspoken in recent years, though in ways so pedestrian that only out-of-touch right wingers can imagine she's being provocative. She supports LGBTQ people. She occasionally endorses mainstream Democrats. She's pro-choice and anti-racism. She wants her fans to vote, which really sent Republicans around bend. 

For decades, conservatives have tried to bully women out of both their ambitions and progressive opinions, by warning both are a surefire way to end up sad and lonely. But, as the increasingly shrill discourse about "male loneliness" suggests, the right has long quietly feared the opposite is true: That it's men who are in real danger of being adrift without women as their anchors. Swift scares conservatives because she lives her life on her own terms, including her dating life. But their real fear is those legions of fans who feel the same way, a generation of young women who believe, correctly, it's better to be at home with friends and cats than married to someone who doesn't respect you. And who knows, maybe you'll get to bang a hot football player or two in the process. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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