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(CNN) The first feelings of upset hit at Taylor Swift’s Las Vegas show after the infectious riff from fan-favorite “Cruel Summer,” the second song in her mega-hit repertoire, hit.
Swift strutted across the stage in a sequin bodysuit and matching shoes. The cat’s eye was sharp enough to kill a man, she says.
I thanked the crowd of thousands of cheering fans for their deafening support, and as the roar died down, I paused, then muttered the line that screwed me up—and sent a powerful message about embracing success to the tens of thousands of women in attendance.
“You make me feel like the first woman to headline Allegiant Stadium.”
She moved her gaze to her biceps and pumped her arms in victory.
The crowd lost it. My jaw dropped. My guts clenched and prepared to strike.
I just heard, woman, Swift, call out her accomplishment, no strings attached, no, “I did my thing” and not one iota of humility to lighten the punch.
It was just a bold, bold declaration of her success.
Challenge double standards
When I walked into Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, I expected to be blown away by Swift and the 44 songs she performs live for her “Eras Tour.” But I didn’t expect to feel uncomfortable with her declaration of her unbridled ambition.
The timing of her announcement was a little rude. It was part of her introduction to the song “The Man,” which calls attention to the sexual double standards women face, including those Swift faced in the music industry.
She sang “What’s It Feeling to Show Off About Making Dollars and Getting Models and Models”. “If I were out of my money, I’d be a bitch, not Blair.”
When she shouts her achievement in Las Vegas, along with a matching victory dance, I’m sure she’s meant to evoke masculinity and highlight the double standards surrounding success, where nothing Taylor Alison Swift does is unintentional. She’s best known for leaving a never-ending trail of Easter eggs for her fans to find and decipher, which reveal clues about things like album drops and the true meaning of the lyric.
She masterminds everything she does, singing and screaming at a soccer field full of fans.
That’s why, even if the timing was a part of her performance about “The Man,” it was also no coincidence that Swift decided to take her hit that night.
Whether we were rocking in our seats, like me, or cheering on her, like me too, her words delivered a powerful message.
I am not sure of my own ambition
The discomfort I felt had nothing to do with Swift or her benchmark performance. My inner fueling was fueled by my insecurities with female ambition and social conditioning that taught me to shy away from owning my successes. I expected my uneasiness on Swift.
Intellectually, I find women ambitious to take up space in the world, but emotionally, I have some deep resistance to the idea, as evidenced by my gut reaction.
Like Swift, who will perform for more than three hours straight on each night of this 52-stop tour, I’m also an endurance athlete. I’m a long-distance runner, and while I’m nowhere near as good a Taylor Swift in ultrarunning, I’ve had some successes in my athletic endeavors — but I can barely talk about them in front of one person, let alone 70,000 of them.
Like, when I raced a 50-mile race two years ago, my friends asked me how I did.
I’d say “I had so much fun.” “I felt strong all day.”
I usually wait for my partner or someone else to fill the void I won the race. Or I will leave these details. I do it a lot, whether it’s my finishing place, speed or distance.
I don’t want to be “that” woman
I don’t want to show off, sound conceited, competitive, or, God forbid, self-promoting. That phrase alone looks dirtier than the pitch of a football field after a three-hour show.
I’ve watched women get vilified for ambition and success ever since I could say the phrase “Hillary Clinton.” I know the safest path for a woman is to be modest and humble.
When I decided to attempt a speed record on the 460-mile stretch of the Oregon Pacific Crest Trail, one of the hardest parts of racing was telling people my goal, which is a requirement for that record.
I didn’t want to be a strong, competitive woman who thought I was capable of something big. I definitely didn’t want to sound like I was a success-seeking, ambitious woman who had the audacity to be a self-confident person. The best story is to stumble upon an achievement, not to chase it myself.
In my first draft of this article, which I did not initially share with my editor, I omitted it I went to set this record – And hit men’s times as well. (Editor’s note: One of her most notable runs was totaling Fastest known time on the 460-mile PCT system in 7 days, 19 hours, and 23 minutes.)
She had a strong influence on me
My uneasiness in Las Vegas turned to awe, quickly followed by “Yeah, Taylor.”
By the time I got home to Oregon, I couldn’t stop thinking about how strong Swift was so daring. It didn’t stop at that one statement – she delivered a masterful three hour lesson with confidence and pride in what she’d accomplished. I love that either. I think most of us at Allegiant Stadium have. During this tour, millions of women will watch her share her success.
At least one of these women in the audience needed to hear her celebrate her success (probably more than I could have expected based on my initial reaction).
I watched clips of her performing at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, the following weekend. When the beat of “Cruel Summer” faded away, I did it again.
“I am the first artist to play three nights in this stadium,” she exclaimed.
I watched her cringe, her face full of unapologetic delight as she shook her hips in front of tens of thousands of people, and this time, I didn’t hold back. I thought about how I can be more like Swift the next time I succeed.
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