Let’s talk: Taylor Swift and You Need To Calm Down

by smithstandard

Whether you like her or you don’t, there’s no denying that T-Swift is making a comeback.

I’ve also learnt in the past few days that whether you think it’s a successful comeback, or not, is clearly a matter of personal opinion.

I would not call myself a Taylor Swift fan (never have been), but I have still been well aware of her ups and downs in the public eye. I’ve been along for the ride (from a distance) and have seen Taylor go from the cute and innocent girl in the red dress with a guitar to suddenly shooting into super-stardom.

I knew every lyric to ‘Bad Blood’ and was mildly intrigued by the Girl Squad thing she had going on for awhile. I also appreciated the ‘Shake It Off’ and ’22’ anthems, and whilst I didn’t particularly warm to her as an artist, I liked that she was appealing to a younger audience in a positive way. I am well aware of the Katy Perry feud and the infamous Kanye West and Kim Kardashian saga, with Taylor being referenced as a ‘snake’ and then using that for her ‘Reputation’ album/tour. FYI: The songs I did hear from that album made me want to die as I thought she was trying too hard to be ‘bad’, but at least she gave it a go. ¯ _(ツ)_/¯

Now we’re in 2019 and Taylor Swift is back with new songs from a new album, Lover, which is due to be released in August.

Whilst she has clearly done a 180 on her ‘bad girl’ image and is all about colour and the sickly sweet theme, not everybody is so keen on the re-invented Taylor, mainly due to her most recent song and video clip ‘You Need To Calm Down‘.

I listened to the song and watched the accompanying video clip at the same time. My first impression? I liked it. The song is catchy, the video clip colourful and it appeared to emit a supportive and inclusive vibe of the LGBTIQAP+ community. The video clip is filled with appearances from those of said community, including Ru Paul, Ellen Degeneres, Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family and Todrick Hall (who I know because I LOVE his song Low – treat yoselves).

But after listening to my favourite podcast and reading an array of news articles?

I felt naive. Ignorant. Dumb.

The suggestion that Taylor Swift is using the gay and queer community for profit and personal gain completely flew over my head. That she is more focused on her personal brand and being seen as a good person, rather than the actual rights of the people in that community, completely passed me by. That she’s using the rainbow flag as a way to make her comeback. That she is queer-baiting, making herself the star of the fight of gay rights and that she is making Pride about herself and straight people.

To be clear: I didn’t suddenly just started believing all those things because that’s what other people said.

“But I couldn’t help but wonder,” (say in Carrie’s voice), “If I hadn’t done a heap of research, I wonder if any of those things would’ve crossed my mind?”

I’m not a journalist or an activist. I don’t think I am particularly well read on important topics in the public eye, hence why I rarely comment on them unless they burn a fire in my belly. I am a privileged white woman and that alone, makes me wonder even if I even have a place to have an opinion on any of this.

Whilst women are still fighting for equal rights on a daily basis and I get pissed off to the core of my being when I have to deal with sexist undercurrents in every day occurrences, I don’t feel like I am hard done-by. Living in Australia with freedom and rights, I do not feel like I am part of a community that is so obviously discriminated against. I don’t know what it’s like to be hated for my choice in sexuality or gender and I don’t know what it’s like to have Taylor Swift make a song that relates to something that the gay community have to deal with everyday.

So maybe my opinion doesn’t really stand for much, but I still looked into the research anyway.

Do I really believe that Taylor Swift is doing all of those things after reading about them?

I don’t know. One side of me thinks that so many people can’t be just making this stuff up and then the other part just wants to eyeroll and scream, “why do we have to analyse and ruin everything?”

At the very least, this situation has opened my mind to other possibilities. Lately I have been making a conscious effort to listen to opposing sides of different topics before speaking my (albeit sometimes uneducated) opinion. I have also been making an effort to do more research on certain issues so I can hopefully have my eyes opened to different ways of thinking. I have Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald from the Shameless podcast to thank for that.

After listening to them discuss Taylor Swift earlier this week, it made me start to question myself. About how so often I take things at face-value or am completely dismissive. Often I won’t delve deeper into things that appear “superficial” or I’ll refuse to believe that there is a bigger motive going on behind the scenes. It’s been an eye-opening experience about myself more so than anything, and I like that I am being open to new possibilities.

Maybe there is a bigger thing going on with Taylor’s new single.

Maybe she is exploiting a community for her own benefit and that I should be shaken by the shoulders for not seeing it straight away. Or maybe, she really was just being an ally, being a support and giving a community a platform knowing full-well, the whole world would listen.

Both sides are worth thinking about.

Han x

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