Taylor Swift is average.
Not in a bad way, necessarily. Swift has always succeeded in being neutral; in fact, it’s how she’s gained huge amounts of popularity. She had sustained a public personality so devoid of actual personality that everyone can feel connected to her.
She is bland, inoffensive; her most offensive stance is her lack of one. Swift’s diminutive take on female empowerment skirts around anything resembling controversial, staying safely smothered under trite incantations of “girl power!” and “women can do anything!” This allows her to cruise right through the middle lane: she avoids the scrutiny of not being a feminist in the 21st century, yet also sidesteps the intense backlash she might receive if she put out real, divisive opinions.
Everyone can like her, because they can project their own opinions on her. Is Swift pro-life or pro-choice? Did she vote Republican or Democratic in the 2016 election? Does she support stronger immigration policies or does she want to abolish ICE? Fans who pretend to know her can presume whatever they’d like. It’s not like she’s going to speak up about it.
On an Instagram post published on October 7, Swift got political. She denounced Marsha Blackburn, a Republican candidate running for Senate in her home state of Tennessee. Additionally, she accompanied the picture with a moving caption about her values.
“I believe that the systematic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent,” she wrote in the post. “I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for the dignity of ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love.”
Swift also encouraged her followers to go to vote.org to register to vote. According to Kamari Guthrie, director of communications for vote.org, there have been 5,183 new registrations in Tennessee in October as of October 8.
2,144 of those registrations happened in the 36 hours after Swift published her post.
Celebrities wield respect; their fans will listen to their idols, hanging on to their every word. It’s no use to argue that celebrities shouldn’t hold sway over politics. They do, and as long as we treat them as our role models, they can use that power, for better or for worse.
Swift’s decision is billed like a moment of weakness, as if a rapid river of emotion swept her off her feet, so strong and overwhelming that she just had to say something. After staying silent for so long, her big introduction into politics has arrived, and with it, numerous articles commending her for being so great and passionate and doing the right thing.
But why do we idolize Swift for something that we expect from all other celebrities? In 2016, Swift was scorned for being a “white feminist,” a feminist that focuses on the struggles of white women and ignores the oppression minorities face. Now, here she is, talking about systematic racism, LGBT rights and American values. She’s late to the party, and we praise her despite it.
I’m not saying Swift doesn’t deserve some credit. She holds significant influence over young women, both those over and under 18, and using that power means something. But putting her on a pedestal for announcing her belief in human rights for all seems inane.
Maybe Swift’s tired of being that perfect girl, the average, utterly opinionless person she portrays herself to be. Maybe she’s tired of being beloved by white supremacists such as blogger Andrew Anglin, who called her an “Aryan goddess” in an interview with Vice Media. Maybe she genuinely does want to speak up for what she believes in. Swift’s reasons are her own, and I won’t waste time speculating on them.
But whatever her motivation, Swift has a long road ahead. Before, she was defined by her lack of political involvement. Now, everyone will be waiting for her next move, eager to hear what she has to say. Her “white feminism” and aversion to politics will no longer be excusable to liberals, and she can’t fall back on her more conservative fanbase, not when she’s just angered them. In other words, she can’t afford to mess this up.
There’s change coming. I hope Swift is ready for it.