Taylor Swift’s new single from her first album in three years (“Look What You Made Me Do“) is getting mixed reactions, to put it mildly. Taylor stans like myself (not sorry) are excited, if slightly let down by the repetitive lyrics, and Taylor haters have come outta the woodwork with everything from lulz-worthy memes (below) to downright vitriol.
I get it:
- Taylor Swift is not Beyonce and reputation will be no Lemonade. Do we really need to pit two female pop stars against each other, though? Isn’t there room for both? Beyonce is god and Taylor is…the unholy spirit, or something? OBVIOUSLY Tay’s new album is not going to be groundbreakingly insightful into the black American female experience.
- Taylor Swift is a privileged white cis thin able-bodied woman from a wealthy family. No denying that. You know who else is white, cis, able-bodied, privileged, and actually evil/taking people’s rights away? Trump. When’s the last time Taylor tried to limit abortion access?
- When the 2016 election prompted lots of pop stars to speak out in favor of Hillary (or just against Trump), Taylor didn’t. But who says she has to use her platform and influence to send messages outside of music? OH WAIT, by donating a quarter of a million dollars to Kesha and winning a sexual assault case for which she only wanted $1, Taylor isn’t doing enough. I see now. You have to admit this is pretty cool (and definite progress for her):
“I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”
- Taytay appropriates other cultures. Yes, no one has forgotten the cringe-worthy video for “Shake It Off.” But why are people so much quicker to forgive Miley, Gwen Stefani, and Katy Perry for the same thing?
- Taylor–wait for it–wants to make money. She has corporate partnerships with brands like UPS. How dare she! She should be Joni Mitchell and only make music for shits ‘n’ giggles ‘n’ the odd feather that floats down from the tree under which she strums her guitar. Snort. I don’t have to love capitalism to get that some people DO.
- Taylor plays the victim. Yep! But can you really say “How dare she go after a black man” (Kanye) when HE’S the one who (inaccurately) rapped “I made that bitch famous,” featured a naked likeness of her in a video, and leaked a phone call of her taped and released without her consent?
So much of the Taylor hate seems to damn her simply for playing the game like everyone else. Celebrities HAVE to control and manage their image and choose their own narrative–otherwise the media will, with only an eye for whatever trash gets the most clicks. Taylor is smart, type A, and wants to make money–are those really reasons enough to call her the devil?
Yes, of COURSE I’d love it if she actually became an outspoken intersectional feminist icon and vocally supported, say, Black Lives Matter, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ rights. But no one asks that of Adele or Fergie or the gazillions of other pop stars out there. Taylor’s held to a higher, unattainable standard simply because of her success. She’s not “woke”–so what? Crucify someone else who actually deserves it, like the Republican party.
I do agree with this:
People aren’t perfect and we as society shouldn’t expect people to be so. But that doesn’t mean that Swift or anyone else is free from critique. Nor does it mean that we should just ignore problematic behavior because of a few good actions.
Yes, Taylor Swift is one of my “problematic faves.” I’d rather enjoy TSwift fandom with caveats and my eyes wide open than write her off altogether. (There are plenty of other famous white feminists I side-eye, like Lena Dunham and Sofia Coppola.)