Midnights, Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album, released on October 21, 2022, broke the internet and is setting monumental records. The album currently holds all top 10 songs on the Billboard music charts, making her the first artist to do so. Taylor Swift’s expansive fame creates space for scrutiny and other personal opinions. Drama and controversy are not unique to other musicians, and it’s also seen throughout Swift’s career history. As a “swiftie” myself, it is still important to acknowledge her problematic tendencies.
Her first time discussing politics in 2018 has led to social media posts and speeches that vary between political matters, from encouraging her fans to vote to denouncing Donald Trump and speaking for LGBTQ+ rights. The question is now: how much of Taylor is White Feminism? White feminism is not a new issue; it has plagued America since women protested for the right to vote. The term refers to women who are typically white and who narrowly define feminism within the boundaries of white, cis, thin, middle-class, able-bodied women. It essentially excludes the majority of women who need feminism the most. White feminists don’t include all women, which poses obvious issues.
Feminism isn’t feminism if it doesn’t include all women, no matter what. So how does Swift fit into this narrative? There are a couple of examples. 1989 Taylor is one of her most iconic and revolutionary eras. “Shake It Off”, the lead single off the album, became the pop song of the century, but the music video is where we can start to see the white feminist in action. While this is a step forward from her previous era of “You Belong with Me” and the “I’m not like other girls’ phenomenon,” it’s still incredibly tone-deaf.
She references different forms of dance throughout the video including ballet, modern, and hip-hop. The joke throughout this music video is that she can’t dance and doesn’t fit into any of these professional dance categories. The issue with this is the appropriation in these hip-hop scenes.
There is a clear objectification of black women and inappropriate use of black culture. Journalist Melissa Fabello states, “Because there’s a huge difference between appreciating and exchanging culture and straight-up trying it on for size and then shedding it at the end of the day when that benefits you. The latter is appropriative, and it is always, always, always harmful.”
This was in 2014 and since then she has made strides in including plus-size, non-cis people in her music video, “You Need to Calm Down.” This music video created an influx of 13 US dollar donations to the GLAAD organization, which specializes in LGBTQ+ issues, as 13 is Taylor’s lucky number. She even wrote a statement to the governor in support of the Equality Act stating, “For American citizens to be denied jobs or housing based on who they love or how they identify, in my opinion, is un-American and cruel.”
But how much of an ally is she? Is she capitalizing on her activism or is she trying to be a part of a social justice trend? She has undoubtedly had a positive impact on important social issues. Her first political endorsement for a Democrat in Tennessee’s midterm elections created a surge of approximately 65,000 registered voters. In her Netflix documentary, she talks about her “brave” act of denouncing Republicans and inserting her personal political beliefs into the worldview. She highlights her version of an anti-feminist society working against her. While this rings true, one of the most searched questions about Taylor is how many men she has dated. She will never be able to understand the issues faced by women who aren’t white,straight, or financially secure, yet she acts as though she does.
The way women are treated in the entertainment industry needs evaluation and reform, but that doesn’t mean Taylor Swift knows what it’s like to be a person of color or a part of the LGBTQ+ community as a woman. Professor Joshua Badge at Deakin University explains, “If the criticism of her work previously is that she’s been too apolitical, releasing a gay pride song during Pride Month attached to a political petition to change laws — well, that’s just an excellent business move, isn’t it?” referring to her infamous single, “You Need to Calm Down.” It’s become an issue of performative activism within her white feminist agenda.
Well, how can she win? How can she withdraw herself from white feminism and immerse herself in intersectional feminism? There are multiple examples of incredible feminists in the entertainment industry who are white but stay away from white feminism such as Lady Gaga and Emma Watson. These women have addressed the white privilege they possess and spoken up for those who can’t.
Taylor Swift has yet to mention or speak about countless women’s issues that span across the nation and the world, including the aftermath of the overturning of Roe V. Wade, the women’s rights violations taking place in Iran, or any other relevant issue that could be too controversial for her brand. Swift strays away from anything that’s not trendy and isn’t widely accepted. I hope we will see Taylor Swift expand her activism to reach and support all women instead of just what’s convenient for her.