Taylor Swift / ME! music video / YouTube
In 2016, Taylor Swift suffered from a particularly niggly run of bad press. She had a messy split from her long-term DJ boyfriend, jumped straight into a whirlwind relationship with an (apparently) beloved Avenger (is he an Avenger? I don’t know, I’ve seen all the movies but I still don’t know). The Kardashian-Wests put her on blast (after secretly recording her phone call), declaring that she was a lying snake who approved of a particular lyric - although the video proved that she genuinely was never told about the lyric “I made that bitch famous” - but I digress.
Most of the criticism at this time (and I use the word “criticism” very lightly, it was mostly just outright hatred) was baseless and harsh, rooted in a fun mixture of misogyny and tall poppy syndrome.
However, there was one common critique of Taylor at that time that was hard to rebuke: her silence regarding the ill-fated Trump vs. Clinton election. And you have to know, as a die-hard Taylor Swift fan, it hurts something deep within my soul to admit that any critique of her is valid. She fucked up by staying silent, but she knows that now.
After 2016, Taylor took quite a big break from public life. She took the time to educate herself on political issues and political representatives, and she’s made it clear that she wants to be more vocal. (See #28 in her Elle article “30 things I learned before turning 30”).
The way Taylor Swift has jumped head first into the political world is fascinating, and it’s different to what I’ve seen and come to expect from most celebrities.
Now that Taylor has decided to become more politically engaged, you can tell that she wants to approach it the way that will have the biggest impact possible. She doesn’t just engage in hashtag activism, sparing a tweet here and there badmouthing @realDonaldTrump (although, that would be fun and I would support it wholeheartedly). She doesn’t just drop huge donations to worthy causes that reflect her political ideals and leave it at that (although, that being said, she has made hefty donations to charities tackling gender inequality, sexual assault, LGBTQ rights, and so on).
It all kicked off with an Instagram post during the lead up to the American midterm elections, in which she finally declared what she stands for. She stated that she “always has and always will” cast her vote based on her belief in equal rights for everyone, regardless of sexuality, race, gender, and so on. She laid out very specifically who she was voting for in the Tennessee midterm elections, and she laid out the disgraceful voting history of the candidate she was vehemently opposed to.
Taylor did her research, she laid it out in front of her 118 million Instagram followers, she chose to work locally to make a change in her own Republican dominated state (despite the fact that she owns houses in other states and could, if she so wished, choose to vote in New York or California, she chose to vote in the state which she saw needed the most change). She begged her fans to get educated and vote, and then told them how to do it.
The most clever move Taylor Swift has made in her journey into politics is her engagement with her fans. Taylor and her fans are well-known for their unique relationship - she invites fans to her house for secret listening parties, sends them hand-picked Christmas gifts, regularly stalks fans on Tumblr, the list goes on. It’s a relationship that has sold millions of albums and concert tickets, and now it’s getting votes. After that Instagram post, Taylor began reposting photos of her fans with their “I voted” stickers, showering “swifties” in love heart emojis and doting adjectives.
Even though Phil Bredesen, Taylor’s chosen candidate, did not win in Tennessee, her engagement had a significant impact on voter registrations. That was just the start.
On the first of June 2019, in honour of pride month, Taylor posted another lengthy Instagram post detailing her support for the Equality Act, an act that would, in her words, “protect LGBTQ people from discrimation in their places of work, homes, schools, and other public accommodations.”
The pictures attached were of a letter, addressed to her Senator in Tennessee, Lamar Alexander. The letter was expertly crafted: first, she expressed gratitude to her Senator for elements of his work that she admired. Then, she outlined not only why discrimination against LGBTQ citizens is wrong on a moral level, but also the impact that discrimination has on jobs, the economy, and therefore society as a whole. Then, she referenced statistics which reflected the fact that most people in Tennessee support equal rights for the LGBTQ community, thereby urging her Senator to act on behalf of his population’s interests.
Again, Taylor Swift chose to utilise her uniquely close relationship with her fans in order to launch political change. She told her fans to write letters to their own Senators, using her own example as an inspiration/template, and post them on social media for her to see. Taylor knows how desperately her fans want to be validated by her, and if she can give them that validation while also making America a better place for the LGBTQ community, then maybe we should elect her as President? I’m just kidding, can we never ever ever elect an inexperienced celebrity as President ever again? I feel like that should be a pact we make with ourselves as a planet.
Alongside this Instagram post, Taylor Swift also launched a petition on change.org to be sent to the Senate, urging Congress to pass the Equality Act. If a petition gets more than 100,000 signatures in 30 days, the government is legally required to review it, put it in front of “the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.” As I write this, it has been 13 days since Taylor posted her petition, and it now has 170,000 signatures.
The evolution of Taylor Swift’s politics is unique and interesting in many ways. Because just a few years ago, she had a reputation for being politically silent. Because she is focused on making the most amount of change possible, on both a local and national level. Because she uses her remarkably strong bond with her huge fan base to leverage the change that she wants to see in the world, and that’s pretty damn impressive.
In 2016, when Taylor Swift donated $250,000 towards Kesha’s court case against Dr. Luke, Demi Lovato tweeted her outrage, arguing that money isn’t enough, and Taylor should “take something to Capitol Hill.” I think it’s fair to say she’s done that now.Support Villainesse