Before she wasn’t political enough. Now she’s political in all the wrong ways. Or maybe she’s just political for all the wrong reasons? A girl can’t win.
Taylor Swift released her new single “You Need to Calm Down” and delivered an LGBTQ-positive music video to match.
But Taylor being Taylor, she can’t do anything without garnering some criticism. [Read: Taylor Swift Can’t Stop Getting Bad Press]
Journalists at Insider, Slate, Vox, The Atlantic, and Out are all complaining about the song and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Critics seem to have *a lot* of complaints but it pretty much all boils down to this: they think Taylor’s a bad ally to the LGBTQ community.
Most of their concerns are valid. But the ultimate decision to write her off, not so much.
Just the fact that Taylor’s started this conversation (inadvertently or not) about what it means to be a good ally already gives her brownie points.
So why exactly are they so mad at Taylor? Let’s break it down.
‘She’s Culturally Appropriating the Rainbow’
Ok, anyone making this argument clearly doesn’t understand what this term means.
Cultural appropriation is “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.”
In other words, it’s when white people steal something that the minority group has been historically chastised for and suddenly decide it’s cool. It’s Kim Kardashian donning cornrows, it’s Madonna voguing. It’s *not* sporting rainbows.
‘She’s Commercializing Queer Pride’
Yes, she definitely is.
And monetizing things like feminism and pride is something that truly gets under my skin — especially when a person or company doesn’t even bother to donate the bare minimum of 20% of proceeds to charity (ahem, Dior).
But if you’re going to come down on Taylor, you’re also going to need to come down on Fila, Converse, Lyft, Tinder, Adidas, and literally every other brand making money off of pride month.
Taylor didn’t invent the commercialization of pride. Jumping on the bandwagon isn’t cool, but it also isn’t enough to write her off.
‘The Lyrics Are Lame’
Another common complaint is the nonsensical nature of the lyrics to “You Need to Calm Down.”
Folks don’t like that she’s changed “glad” to “GLAAD” because the reference to the LGBTQ rights organization doesn’t make sense in context.
Is this song on the same level as the writings of Audre Lorde or bell hooks? Obviously not.
But she’s trying to get a message across and she’s not in the mood to be subtle. Whether or not you think the lyrics are that of a genius doesn’t matter. Taylor makes her point: she’s pro-LGBTQ and anti-homophobia. Enough said.
‘She Compares Her Own Experiences to Those of LGBTQ Youth’
Critics are angry that the first verse is all about Taylor dealing with haters and critics because it implies some sort of parallel to the second verse in which she takes up the plight of her queer friends.
Ok, you’ve got me on this one. (Sorry, Taylor).
‘She’s Oversimplified Homophobia’
A few critics have pointed to Taylor’s depiction of homophobes in the music video, in which all of the anti-LGBTQ protestors look like backwater hicks.
This is certainly an accurate criticism. Homophobia is an extremely complicated issue, especially when you factor in all the cultural stigmas that exist within various communities. The homophobia within Black culture has different roots than that of white communities or Hispanic communities, for example.
Would it have been better to exclude the homophobic protestors all together? Maybe. Or perhaps just diversify the crowd? Definitely.
Unfortunately, Taylor did not consult me on this matter.
‘She Doesn’t Know How to Be An Ally’
All of the above has served as “evidence” that Taylor can’t handle being a public LGBTQ ally.
Critics find Taylor to be uninformed and self-centered and are overall disappointed in her messaging and execution.
So is she the picture-perfect ally? Absolutely not. “You Need to Calm Down” is far from perfect and her support for the queer community can certainly come across as one-dimensional. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think the music video was made for white consumption. And nobody can pretend that the song doesn’t benefit her from a business standpoint.
But guess what? It doesn’t matter. At least not as much as you think.
Taylor has reach that other artists will *never* have. It’s well documented that her fans include avid Trump supporters (a reason she waited so long to get political) and someone who’s explicitly queer like Halsey or Hayley Kiyoko will never be able to access those individuals.
For many liberal writers in the media (myself included), Taylor’s ally-ship can seem basic and uninspired. But for those who aren’t living in an LGBTQ-loving city or aren’t surrounded by support, Taylor’s messaging can be a big deal.
Not to mention that Taylor has serious pull. After referencing GLAAD in her song, donations immediately poured into the organization (they haven’t released an exact number yet). She’s also garnered over 361k signatures for her Change.org petition to support the Equality Act. Can you name another pop star that can make that kind of movement happen literally overnight?
You might not like her execution, but Taylor makes shit happen. And it’s better to have her on our side than to have her continue to be Switzerland.
READ THIS NEXT
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.