I’m going to be honest, there is probably a part of me that will always be a Taylor Swift apologist. I am part of that subset of a generation that grew up listening to her Fearless and Speak Now albums. When “You Belong With Me” came out, the music video would play on repeat as I pretended I had a reason to really feel the song. But the extent of my support for her mostly relies on nostalgia.
When she began to subvert everything we knew about her, I was really turned off. And it wasn’t just that she was ‘maturing’ but that she was changing into something negative. She basked in the drama she created and used it to her advantage — it was fantastic marketing but from the perspective of a casual fan, it was off-putting. More than the Katy Perry and Kanye drama (because I think those are things most celebrities go through anyway), it was the way she built up such a problematic persona.
I think there were two things that made her particularly problematic: her white version of feminism, and her willingness to use people. The first is easy enough to prove, with her infamous appropriation of hip-hop in the “Shake It Off” music video and the blatant themes of colonization in her “Wildest Dreams” music video. It was an era where Swift would spout pseudo-feminist statements and the public would hail her as the ultimate symbol of girl power. The second is more circumstantial, so feel free to disagree. But it seemed like her career had peaked and made her willing to use people. There was that issue with Calvin Harris, then Tom Hiddleston, and just generally exploiting her fans.
Then it all came to a boil, and Swift took her cues to lay low. In the time since then, she’s made a lot of noticeable changes with how she manages her career and her public persona. The drama has been practically non-existent with her focus solely on her Reputation tour. Her white feminism has toned down drastically and she’s stopped spewing banner statements of social activism just because its trendy. In fact, the times she has spoken up about causes have all been well-informed, like encouraging people to register to vote.
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I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent. I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway. So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! ???
The Reputation tour itself is a huge redeeming factor. The scale and artistry of it is a strong reminder that Taylor Swift is a performer that at the very least deserves respect. You don’t have to like her music or how she acts to appreciate her ability to put on a great show. And the show itself plays on so much nostalgia, bringing back favorites like “Love Story” and “All Too Well” with a few more personal touches. Streaming that on Netflix was a smart move to bring that experience of sentimentality to anyone still on the fence.
But it’s exactly because Swift is able to play on emotions that it makes asking this question necessary. If we forgive her right off the bat, we run the risk of repeating the same mistakes. On the other hand, not forgiving her is just ignorant of all her efforts. So is it time to forgive Taylor Swift?
Personally, yes. She’s made a clean comeback, put in the work and the proper amount of time to be let off the hook. But there’s no hard evidence to say she’s actually changed, or that she’s not just biding her time.
Unlike last time, there should be no free passes or willful blindness in judging mistakes. We should forgive, but not forget. Our idols should never go unchecked.
What do you think? Is it time to let Taylor Swift back into the spotlight?