Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Taylor Swift is not an activist

Hopefully we see the end of the singer’s empty “activism” era[s] soon
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After Taylor Swift and Emily Dickinson were found to be sixth cousins—three times removed—the world became enamored with talk of Swift and the more it circulates the more annoyed I become. I am no stranger to Swift, as I was a staunch Reputation fan as a teenager. As I have grown as a person and an activist however, I can clearly see that Swift is another shallow celebrity looking to make money and keep fans satisfied. But what angers me the most is not Swift’s empty artistry, but her performative activism and her fans blind support of it.

Just last year alone, Swift has demonstrated that she is not only okay with increasing her carbon footprint to a dizzying amount (138 tons of CO2 in three months), but also condoning the bigoted actions of other artists.

Early in 2023, Swift started dating singer Matt Healy from the band The 1975, a singer who already had a past that included kissing underaged fans. He also used the death of George Floyd to promote his music. Then, he blatantly said Islamophobic comments and gave the Nazi salute onstage. As if this wasn’t bad enough, just a few months before dating Swift, Healy went on The Adam Friedland Show, where he made racist and misogynistic comments directed at Ice Spice. However, this didn’t stop Swift from dating Healy last May and releasing a remix of “Karma” with Ice Spice three weeks after their public appearances. Even if this song was planned in advance, it’s hard not to see the release as a sloppy PR attempt to cover up Healy’s past comments and offer a insincere apology.

Swift is the same person that ironically stated in her documentary Miss Americana, “I wanna love glitter and also stand up for the double standards that exist in our society.” What’s worse is at the time of this relationship, there were Swifties still attempting to defend this behavior, even as other fans were calling out her actions. It’s baffling to see Swift put on a pedestal by her fans as if she is ignorant to the nature of her relationships and has done enough activism in the past to somehow “make up” for it—not in the least because even her past activism was shaky to begin with.

To this day, Swift only seems to use feminism when there are jokes made about her number of relationships. Swift has a right to defend herself against the shallow, unwarranted jokes she often receives about her dating life but it seems to be the only time she discusses feminism.

When a character on the show Ginny and Georgia joked, “you go through men faster than Taylor Swift,” Swift tweeted Netflix to hold them responsible for their sexist joke. Instead, actress Antonia Gentry received an onslaught of racist attacks from her Swifties. Swift did nothing to call off her fans or denounce their actions. If anything, Swift seems fine only using feminism when it comes to herself, often hurting or using black women, like Gentry or Ice Spice in the process.

Swift has done some good with her activism.

I feel her previous involvement with passing the Equality Act in 2019 was admirable, along with her donations to charities like GLAAD. She also used her platform in 2020 to advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement by educating her followers and urging them to vote—though I find her initial, prolonged silence on the matter a bit strange. Regardless of her past activism, it is her current activism that bothers me the most.

Swift may have acknowledged the recent harmful legislation against the LGBTQ+ community, but she hasn’t applied the level of activism she had brought to similar issues in 2019. Speaking out is important, but this new legislation not only targets but results in the death of queer individuals; more action needs to be made. In light of anti-abortion legislation, Olivia Rodrigo is handing out Plan B, condoms and resources for abortion care. She has been vocal as well as proactive. I don’t want to compare the two artists, but if Swift cares about being, “on the right side of history,” she could extend her activism past 2020.

What really troubles me is that Swift is still lauded as an activist, even though her activism has been shallow and somehow declining as years go on.

Palestine is facing a genocide and there is not a single comment from Swift, despite being a billionaire with global influence. Right now, America faces another election year that puts minorities at extreme risk, yet there is no sign of the previous effort she made towards mobilizing fans for the ballot box. Just because Swift doesn’t use her platform with bad intentions doesn’t mean her recent silence and hypocrisy should be excused by fans. Swift may just be one celebrity example, but she has a powerful following that has shown to care about what she says.

Fans shouldn’t just praise artists for past actions and claims but continue to be critical and hold celebrities like Swift accountable.

Hailey Furilla can be reached at [email protected].

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