Taylor Swift just released a new album and the songs, as anyone would expect from a Swift record, are incredibly well produced and accompanied by lyrics with so many hidden meanings only the most dedicated “Swifties” could decode them. Something unexpected, though, is her album’s political undertones. Her second single “You Need to Calm Down” parades itself as an LGTBQ anthem. This came as a shock to some and a sigh of relief from her LGBTQ fans who, up until last year, didn’t know where the pop star stood on political issues.
This silence on politics became so easy to manipulate that she turned into the alt-right’s dream girl. Self-proclaimed fascist and editor-in-chief for The Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin, wrote: “Taylor Swift, a representation of the purest form of divine Aryan beauty.” Full-blown conspiracies circulated not only in underground alt-right circles, but on mainstream social media platforms, which suggested that Swift was an undercover fascist.
This rumor has been floating around as early as 2014, which makes a lot of people question why it took the pop-star over 4 years to clarify where she stood politically.
Swift commented on her silence in an article published in Elle magazine: “I saw so many issues that put our most vulnerable citizens at risk, and felt like I had to speak up to try and help make a change. Only as someone approaching 30 did I feel informed enough to speak about it.”
In our current social climate, politics are very personal. When you identify as LGBTQ, someone not agreeing with your political views could mean them not agreeing with your existence. Many fans feel it necessary to know where their favorite artists stand on these issues before they spend hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars on concert tickets, album purchases, and merchandise. We often forget that celebrities are human beings, too, and feel an immense amount of pressure to be role models to the younger generation in a way that will please the older generation. They also have to construct themselves as something marketable.
Every public statement a superstar like Taylor Swift makes is very carefully thought out, rehearsed, and edited by her team. Her decision to go full-speed ahead with support for the LGBTQ community came on May 31, 2019, in an Instagram post urging Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander to support the Equality Act.
Swift posted this one day before pride month started. 2019 is the year where pride felt an overwhelmingly corporate presence, from companies like Listerine releasing a pride themed mouth-wash to President Trump producing his infamous MAGA hat in a rainbow option. More than 8 in 10 millennials expect companies to publicly declare commitments to good causes before they spend money on their products.
Visibility is an amazing thing for minorities to have, but to have an administration profit off selling a rainbow hat during pride month when they have banned transgendered people from serving in our military is a contradiction we shouldn’t ignore, or worse, praise.
Taylor Swift’s vocalization about her views come at a time that to some seems very convenient for her. When asked about why she choose to become so politically vocal in a recent interview with Vogue, Swift stated, “Rights are being stripped from basically everyone who isn’t a straight white cisgender male, I didn’t realize until recently that I could advocate for a community that I’m not a part of. It’s hard to know how to do that without being so fearful of making a mistake that you just freeze.”
When you identify yourself as an ally, the most important thing you can do is tread lightly in the communities you’re aligning with. Let them speak first, listen and understand their complaints, and don’t ever make yourself the center of the movement. Swift displays all of this with her response. Some people view her longtime silence as damaging but Swift is definitely trying to make up for it. Her single “You Need to Calm Down” won two awards at this years Video Music Awards, and Swift refused to perform the song at the ceremony unless the drag queens featured in the video received their own VMA Moon Man award with their own name engraved on it.
This is a huge recognition in an industry that can use queer people as props and click-bait, and then forget about them down the road. It’s important to be aware of celebrities and corporations stealing the rainbow symbol for pure profit when Pride month rolls around. We need to also be aware of true allies in the community. For instance allies that are donating profits from pride products to LGBTQ organizations and making sure the queer people they hire are being recognized for their work. As of now, it seems that Swift is doing the latter, and if she continues down this path, I’m excited to see her give more genuine, heartfelt visibility to the LGBTQ community.
Natalie Casey can be reached at [email protected]