11/22/2012 12:33 EST | Updated 01/22/2013 05:12 EST

Stop Hating on My Girl Taylor Swift

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LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Muscian Taylor Swift attends the 40th American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

With recent assumptions that Jake Gyllenhaal gave T-Swift a complex, we can expect more Taylor Swift gossip. Or more specifically, we can expect more Taylor Swift jokes.

Which is fine. We all love a good "what Taylor Swift's songs are about" tweet, but let's not assume she's not in on them. Swift knows her shtick -- she sings about boys, and about relationships with boys, so let's take a break from our cynicism and acknowledge her volumes of self-awareness.

It takes courage to own up to your act. No, we may not agree with everything she does (case in point: the Madonna/whore juxtaposition of the "You Belong With Me" video, or "Speak Now"'s girl versus girl mentality), but for a 22-year-old to live life in the very public eye and stand up for herself while she figures things out? That's just straight-up brave.

Few of us have our shit together now, let alone in our early 20s. And few of us would have the guts to confront our exes, let alone our famous ones, in songs performed in front of full stadiums. No, it might not be how you or I would handle things, but it's the way Taylor Swift does. And at no point has she ever tried to pretend to be someone she's not.

She's also inclusive. True, her target audience is the teen girl demographic, but at no point does she alienate anyone, or make them feel like her music's not for them. In fact, on the song "22," the only people she lashes out at are hipsters -- and more specifically, the "hip" people who dismiss her music because they're pompous and arrogant. Even 2011's "Mean," isn't about putting anybody down, it's about Taylor rising up and prevailing over bullying. (An awesome message to send to anyone who's ever been bullied, regardless of age, I don't care who you are.)

Ultimately, there's a reason Taylor Swift is popular. Her songs are catchy, they're earnest, and they also articulate feelings most teenage girls can relate to. If you can't relate to her as an adult, that's fine -- you're not part of her target audience. And if you think that Taylor's songs will make girls believe that boys are the only relevant subject matter, then you're not giving enough credit to those girls' parents, or to the girls themselves.

Let's stop underestimating Taylor Swift and her fan base. In terms of her subject matter, most artists sing about love -- even ones who've dated famous people. In time, who knows where her career trajectory will take her? She's 22, and has already mastered her brand to the point of hawking perfume, accessories, and other miscellaneous merchandise that could take up 500 words in themselves. When the Olsen Twins did the same, they were hailed as tycoons; when Taylor Swift does it, we roll our eyes. Why? Because she dated celebrities?

You don't have to like her music. You don't have to stop analyzing. But what I think we can all stop doing is passing judgment on a woman who works very hard, and succeeds accordingly. Or at the very least, respect that at 22 years old, Taylor is a record-breaking artist who has the confidence to be herself.

Taylor Swift