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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

For years Taylor Swift has been categorized as boy crazy and self-absorbed. On the other hand, she has an extremely loyal fanbase that ages from 5 to 95. Regardless of whether you like her or not, it’s becoming harder and harder to argue that she hasn’t had a huge impact on the 21st century thus far. Her music, her friends, and her relationships have all been in the spotlight, but recently the press is taking note of her political motives as well. Through her music and her social media, Taylor Swift has brought to light the inequalities that women and the LGBTQ+ community are subjected to. With the election coming up in only a few weeks, each statement she posts only brings more light to these issues – and our legislators who refuse to acknowledge them. 

For the first 12 years of her career, Taylor Swift kept her political opinions to herself. When asked about the upcoming election in 2012, Swift said “I’m a twenty-two-year-old girl, people don’t want to hear what I have to say about politics”. Her documentary, Miss Americana, which came out this past spring, explains how during her “up and coming” phase, as so many advisors told her to stay quiet as to not upset people and tarnish her fan base. Taylor reflects on being told, “A nice girl doesn’t force their opinions on other people, a nice girl smiles and stays quiet”. This perception of being a “nice girl” is one of the thousands of societal norms we’ve created that deter women from showing their worth. As she matured and gained experience, Taylor realized the “nice girl” ideology had to be replaced with a stronger, braver version of herself. 

In 2013, Swift was sexually assaulted by David Mueller, an older, male fan at a concert meet and greet. She reported this incident and he got fired from his radio DJ job. He then went on to sue her for “defamation” for millions of dollars. Enraged by his audacity, she countersued him for a mere $1. In 2017, this case was brought to court and Swift won. She spoke about this experience during a concert saying, “You don’t feel a sense of any victory when you win because the process is so dehumanizing”. This court case wasn’t only a gratifying moment for Swift, but for women everywhere. Swift said, “I just think about all the people who weren’t believed or are afraid to stand up because they think they won’t be believed”. Nearly one in five women in the United States are sexually abused or raped. By publicly admitting her experience, fans are reminded that celebrities are not excluded from these statistics. This trial was a huge motivator for Swift to become more vocal with her values. The Man”, a song off of the album Lover, is a clear representation of this. The song describes how different the world would be for women if they were treated as men are. Issues like pay inequality, power in the workplace, and athletic inequality are all featured in the music video. Swift directed, produced, and acted in this video as every. single. character. Better yet, at the 2020 MTV awards this year, she won Best Direction for “The Man” music video and became the first solo female artist to ever win that award. 

Music Video Screenshot: Taylor Swift giving her male counterpart advice

The main catalyst for Swift’s political involvement came in 2018 during the midterm elections. Around this time, the senators in Tennesse, where Swift lives, were up for reelection. A particularly conservative candidate, Marsha Blackburn, was campaigning herself with the slogan “upholding Tennessee Christian values”. Throughout the history of her political career, Blackburn has voted to not renew the Violence Against Women Act, as well as voted against equal pay for women, abortion, and the rights for LGBTQ+ couples to eat in a restaurant. Swift publicly denounced these absurd beliefs and encouraged Tennesseeans to vote, and support one of the two democratic candidates running. In the 24 hours after this statement was posted to Swift’s Instagram, the United States gained 51,308 new registered voters. That was more than the entire month of August 2018. Swift’s strong beliefs and powerful influence significantly increased the number of Americans who can exercise their right to vote, justifying that she is much more than just a singer. 

The other marginalized group that Taylor Swift has advocated for recently is the LGBTQ+ community. A hit single also off of her album “Lover”, stated Swift’s perspective on gay rights loud and clear. “You Need To Calm Down” is bright and catchy, like a lot of her songs, but it also recognizes the discrimination that the LGBTQ+ community experiences. Lyrics like “I ain’t tryna mess with your self-expression” and “shade never made anybody less gay” illustrate her support of LGBTQ+. Although possibly the most controversial lyric of this song is “Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out/But you say it in a Tweet, that’s a cop-out/And I’m just like, ‘Hey, are you okay?'”. In this line, she specifically references Donald Trump and his tendencies to speak immaturely on Twitter. When asked if he had heard Swift’s new song, his response: “Let’s just say I like her music 25% less now”. “You Need To Calm Down” went on to win Video of the Year and Video for Good at the 2019 MTV awards. To cast this music video, Swift hired dozens of queer celebrities such as Todrick Hall, Adam Lambert, and Laverne Cox, many of which are friends of hers. The music video concludes with a link to a petition for the Equality Act, which in the words of Swift states, “Let’s show our pride by demanding that, on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally”. The petition was created by Swift to draw national attention. Even 16 months and 814,000 signatures later, Trump is yet to acknowledge the act. Although it may seem like a small victory, Taylor Swift, a female director and performer, created a video composed of queer celebrities, while singing about the stupidity of homophobic people, and it won video of the year. That’s pretty revolutionary. 

Marsha Blackburn went on to win a seat in the Senate in November of 2018. She became the first female senator in Tennessee, despite her values that oppose equality for women. This past year, Taylor Swift released a single, “Only The Young“, encouraging our generation to register and vote, vote, vote. With the 2020 Presidental Election only a few weeks away, it’s important now more than ever before for our generation to step up and use our voice.

In the wise words of Ms. Swift, “I want to love glitter and also stand up for the double standards that exist in our society. I want to wear pink and tell you how I feel about politics, and I don’t think those things have to cancel each other out”. My point is, you don’t have to love Taylor Swift or her music, that’s a personal preference. You don’t have to admire her songwriting skills, her timeless fluidity between musical genres, or her warm, personable character. But when you consider her advocacy for marginalized groups and her dedication to a brighter future, it’s difficult to argue that she isn’t pretty damn amazing. 

Jessica Shay

U Mass Amherst '23

Jessica Shay is a junior at UMass Amherst and this is her third semester writing for HerCampus. She loves working with kids and plans to become a teacher. When she's not in class, you can find her reading, baking, or teaching spin classes at the Rec Center.
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