Taylor Swift wrapped the US leg of the reputation stadium tour on Saturday night. She next plays seven dates in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, closing out the album cycle by mid-November. On Sunday, a day after playing to American audiences, Taylor posted this message on Instagram – it’s as clear and direct as she’s ever been about social issues and where she stands:
First things first, today is the voter registration deadline in several states. Click here for information about voting and registering. Also this:
As for the Taylor Swift effect:
Taylor Swift's Instagram Post Has Caused A Massive Spike In Voter Registration https://t.co/yZ8yr7md29— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) October 9, 2018
Naturally, her fans are leaving snake emojis all over Marsha Blackburn’s social media accounts. But do all those emojis translate to votes? Trolling Marsha Blackburn on Instagram doesn’t accomplish much if she’s elected. As Taylor alludes to in her message, many of her fans have grown up with her over the decade she’s been super-famous. The 13-year-old who sang along to "Love Story" is now a 23-year-old who may need to access Planned Parenthood. The power that Taylor can potentially mobilise with her influence and her reach is formidable. Which is why there are some people who want to know…what took so long? And why now?
Does it matter?
I don’t know that I have an answer to this today. Because I’d rather see what comes next. I want to see how Taylor builds on this moment. As she wrote in her message, “due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years”, she’s changed her position on taking a public position and is now showing us what that might look like. If she can increase voter registration with just one Instagram post, what more can she do if she does more? Will we see her doing more?
Fans of Taylor have pointed out that speaking up comes with consequences. That she is well within her right not to want to invite the kind of attack and horrible abuse that others have experienced when using their platforms to advance change and defend human rights, that she doesn’t HAVE to be outspoken if she doesn’t want to be. Her detractors will counter that she often benefits more than she sacrifices, and that even now, her open declaration of beliefs comes at an advantageous time and, really, she’s Taylor Swift, how vulnerable is she?
That’s an interesting question. Because Donald Trump was asked about her Instagram post. And his response was… by his standards….pretty mild:
“Let’s say that I like Taylor’s music about 25% less now, OK?”
25%? That’s it? Which means he still likes it 75%?!
This coming from someone who often calls people stupid and dogs, and whatever farm animals he can identify from picture books, who makes sport out of trashing women – it’s almost a compliment. Part of that has to do with the fact that this president prefers pretty young whiteness. But it might also be a testament to, as Duana likes to say, the capital she’s accumulated. Capital is meant to be spent. If I was advising Taylor, I’d point to this entry level capital expenditure and say that perhaps it won’t hurt to keep spending it. I’d also tell her to stop calling it “political”. As she says herself, she supports “human rights”, believing in “the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG”. That “systemic racism…towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent”. These are basic values that have been rebranded as politics – which diminishes the integrity of human rights to begin with. It’s one of the ways that rights get taken away: by calling them something different, they can be bargained over – and rights should never be up for negotiation.
If you are a believer in Taylor Swift then, maybe one of the keys here, in unpacking this story, is to not say she’s “getting political” but to say that she’s continuing to show her humanity.
Will we see that from her tonight? She’s scheduled to open the American Music Awards. It will be her first appearance at the AMAs in three years. She’s also nominated for Artist of the Year. She’s not going unless she’s winning, right?
Attached - Taylor performing in Texas on the weekend.