Band Aids Don’t Fix Bullet Holes: A Letter To America’s Sweetheart
Dear Taylor Swift,
It feels like just yesterday when “Teardrops On My Guitar” was blasting from my desktop computer while I did math homework, when I listened to “White Horse” while thinking about my fourth grade crush, when I listened to “22” while daydreaming of being older and cooler, and when I listened to “You Belong With Me” while sleeping through a long road trip. For a chunk of my childhood, your music was the background noise in my life — even if I didn’t exactly show off my secret love of early 2000s country.
It also feels like just yesterday when I was fourteen, phone in hand, scrolling through articles and writing pieces about culture, social justice, and civic action. The obvious issues with our country were suddenly very apparent to me, and I chose to act in a way only a fourteen-year-old could: tweet, retweet, share, like, and tell friends. I was a freshman in high school and a passionate feminist, taking glares and snarky comments from boys and girls alike. I persisted nonetheless, because standing up for what I believed in mattered a tiny bit more than my reputation.
At the same time of this dynamic moment in my life, 1989 came out. Was I mad that the country sound was completely gone? A little. However, you soon announced your feminism and spoke of 1989 as a women’s anthem: “Blank Space” embraced a woman’s revenge on an ex-lover and her “serial-dating,” while “Bad Blood” exemplified the girl group “squad goals” ideal. I remember thinking, "Hell yeah," because my childhood idol was growing and learning with me — and it felt amazing!
Flash forward a few months, and you are on my Twitter timeline for other reasons. First, most evidently, hordes of people hated you for having “so many” failed relationships — which was really wrong and honestly gross. Second, a smaller population of people began to call you out for “white feminism.” I was confused. Were they being stereotypical by labeling you, a white woman, as a white feminist? But then I realized what it meant: it meant you were a feminist that fought for cisgender, mostly white, straight, and able-bodied women.
Evidently, that confused me and I disagreed with the sentiment immediately. Yet with the release of the “Shake It Off” and “Wildest Dreams” music videos, I began to feel wary. “Shake It Off,” while a somewhat catchy song, was sour with racial appropriation and the objectification of black women. And who even knows what the “Wildest Dreams” music video was, and why it was that way! Nowhere in the song’s lyrics do I hear “Africa as a backdrop,” “1950s Hollywood,” “colonial-era aesthetics for no apparent reason,” or “specifically choosing to not share any African storyline, let alone cast any African person.” I realize the profits of the video were donated to an African Wildlife Conservation organization, but still. Why did the video have to be about…that?
Finally, to top off the cake that was 2014-to-2015 you, you dismissed Nicki Minaj’s valid sentiments about the disadvantages of being a black woman in the industry when she lost the Video Music Award for Best Music Video of the Year as “pitting women against each other.” Why couldn’t you just let her say what she had to? You did win the award in the end.
So, I chose to ignore you completely. I figured there was no point in actively calling you out, but there was absolutely no benefit in promoting you either. I focused my energy into other things, and eventually 2016 rolled around. Anger, frustration, and disappointment plagued me — and over half of the nation — when our current president was elected. But I was not surprised when I heard your silence. I heard your silence on the issues that were affecting black Americans, Latin Americans, immigrants, refugees, the LGBTQ community, and anyone who wasn’t white. When I realized the art of your selective activism, I felt betrayed by someone I once looked up to. And, I knew that even if you were to speak up, I would still see you as someone who ultimately chose her own reputation over standing up for what’s right, or let alone standing up for anything.
It feels like just yesterday when my Twitter, Instagram feed, Facebook, and Snapchat feeds were overloaded with the headline, “Taylor Swift Finally Ends Her Political Silence.”
Wait. That was just yesterday. And honestly, I wish it wasn’t.
Lots of Love,
A Former Fan