BY LILY REAVIS ’21
Taylor Swift should have used her newest album, “reputation,” as a platform to address her concerning political views, to prove her 2014 claim of feminist viewpoints and to dispute recent Nazi accusations. Instead, she used the album to continue petty, problematic arguments with celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Katy Perry.
Swift’s single “Look What You Made Me Do” released in August, is littered with references to Swift’s celebrity feuds, going back as far as five years.
In the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video, Swift sits on a throne surrounded by snakes, which she has trained well enough to pour tea for her. This alludes to social media fights she has had with Kim Kardashian, in which Swift earned the title “snake.”
In another scene, Swift stands in front of an army of tall, thin, traditionally-beautiful women. This is a recurring image in Swift’s music videos. “Bad Blood” also featured an army of women. She has monopolized the “girl group” aesthetic, and she constantly surrounds herself with rich, white women.
While other celebrities participate in protests, produce music that relates to the modern political climate and use their publicity to take a stand, Swift, one of the richest women in the music industry, remains without a political stance.
And while Swift said she was a feminist in a 2014 interview with The Guardian, she only participates in feminism when it directly benefits her. Following the Women’s Marches in Jan. 2017, Swift simply tweeted “So much love, pride and respect for those who marched. I’m proud to be a woman today, and every day.” During the 2016 political campaign, she never elaborated on her political viewpoints or took a stand against Donald Trump. Her only comment came on election day, when she asked her fans to vote. Swift’s tweet about the Women’s March spoke to her political bystander attitude, which she continues to uphold.
Another new song, “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” is full of jabs at Kanye West. Memorably, Swift was caught agreeing to West’s use of her name in his song “Famous” and later accusing him of doing so without asking; the phone call was recorded and eventually posted on Kim Kardashian’s Snapchat. Swift’s lyric says, “And therein lies the issues, friends don’t try to trick you, get you on the phone and mind twist you.” The song is a petty attack on other celebrities, which is no different from the rest of “reputation.” Swift could have used the much-anticipated album to address current issues, but instead decided to continue old feuds.
In September, a blog called PopFront published an article entitled, “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor Swift subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation with ‘Look What You Made Me Do.’” The article critiqued the single, claiming that the lyrics indicated “white anger and white supremacy,” and also mentioned that Swift has never distance herself from fans in the alt-right. Far-right blogs such as BreitBart have claimed Swift as “an alt-right icon.” The Daily Stormer, the alt-right’s ultra-radical contingent, has referred to her as the “Nazi Avatar Of The White European People.” The PopFront article claimed that “Many on the alt-right see the song as part of a ‘re-awakening,’ in line with Trump’s rise.”
Instead of addressing these accusations and condemning Nazi beliefs, Swift demanded that the article be taken down. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published the letter that Swift and her lawyers sent to PopFront on Oct. 25, 2017. “On behalf of Ms. Swift, we demand that PopFront immediately issue a retraction of a provably false and defamatory story about Ms. Swift, as well as remove the story from all sources and cease and desist from publishing or disseminating it.” The ACLU wrote back to Swift’s lawyers, explaining that the article was constitutionally-protected speech and would not be taken down.
PopFront only has 354 followers on Twitter. It was incredibly unlikely that many of Swift’s fans would read or respond to the article. Her actions ultimate;y created a bigger issue for her in the end. She should have denounced white supremacy and Nazi beliefs. And while Swift is not required to broadcast her political views, neo-Nazism is so radicalized that it is beyond politics.
Swift needed to use “reputation” as a platform to clear up years of problematic behavior instead of focusing on old disputes. She failed.
Now, Swift needs to publicly condemn white supremacy, and the fact that she refuses to points to a far greater issue.