Full disclosure: I’m a long time Taylor Swift fan, even if she is a controversial fave. Still, my expectations of her ever becoming publicly political were always low—until, in the past month, she did it multiple times. First, she posted an unprecedented, v. surprising statement on Instagram that not only called on people to vote in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections, but also endorsed two Democrats. Then, she used her acceptance speech at the 2018 American Music Awards to encourage fans to vote, saying, “This award and every single award given out tonight were voted on by the people, and you know what else is voted on by the people? It is the midterm elections on November 6. Get out and vote. I love you guys.” Later, she posted about early voting and encouraged fans to do so (partially by offering them the chance to be featured on her Insta story if they did).
I say it’s “unprecedented” because, while she’s embraced the LGBTQ+ community for years (remember 2010’s music video for “Mean”?), and has become a feminist activist—who, last year, fiercely testified against a radio DJ who grabbed her butt during a 2013 photo opp—she’s never directly addressed her personal politics until now. And I get it.
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I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent. I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway. So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! 🗳😃🌈
From a macro level, Swift’s actions are late to the game, but on a personal level, seeing her speak out in 2018 mirrors my own journey towards political activism.
“In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now,” she wrote. These “coming of age” moments tend to happen upon realizing that the world is against you—not just because you’re young and inexperienced, but because of prejudices and barriers out of your control. Personally, it took me years before I finally declared myself a feminist because, up until that point, I didn’t know how to express my frustrations with gender dynamics. Only in my 20s did I accept that my suspicions about the intersectional discrimination my friends and I faced were real, that it wasn’t all just in my head, and also that my words had value beyond me. To see Swift acknowledge her own political awakening so publicly is exciting, even though yes, her white privilege and success allowed her to be slow to act.
To be fair though, Swift has been vocal in the past about the importance of voting. “The first thing I did this year on my 18th birthday was register to vote,” she told Redbook in 2008. “I was still in my pajamas and I got on my computer and registered. It was so cool and empowering. I felt this sense of responsibility that I’ve never felt before—I actually had a say in the political decisions of my country.”
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Something I wish I knew about when I was 18 and voting for the first time: ✨EARLY VOTING✨. It makes it so quick and easy to go and cast your vote before November 6. Early voting starts TODAY in Tennessee and goes to Nov 1 🇺🇸 You can check out your state’s early voting dates at the link in my bio
However, Swift’s subsequent comments on the subject were underwhelming at best. In 2008, she participated in Lifetime’s Every Woman Counts campaign, which sought to close the gender gap at the ballot box. When asked if she would make a good politician, Swift responded by immediately discounting herself: “I don’t know, I mean, I’m an 18-year-old girl.”
And in 2012, in an often-quoted interview in Time, she still did not believe there was value in going public with her politics. “I don’t talk about politics because it might influence other people,” she said, adding, “And I don’t think I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for.” (Never mind that she was about to release her fourth studio album at the time, and had an estimated personal net worth of $165 million.)
Maybe Swift’s hesitance to speak out had something to do with the fact that the world was less of a dumpster fire in 2012, and the consequences of *not* doing so weren’t as dire. Or maybe she was just racked with the same kind of self-doubt and inexperience that prevents many young women from thinking they can speak up. Many teens and early twentysomethings once saved their strongest opinions for, say, private Tumblr blogs, and intense discussions on identity and intersectionality are often still anonymous or at the very least, conducted in private. After all, when you’re still trying to understand how the world operates, you might hesitate to go public with a political stance—and often for the better. From going through my own Tumblr archives, for example, there are definitely some cringeworthy re-blogs that make me thankful I didn’t have a huge public platform when I was younger (like that time in 2011 when I re-blogged a post comparing Obama supporters to Marxists… uh—they’re definitely not the same thing).
Swift’s trajectory might be belated, but we’re all navigating today’s politics at different speeds and TBH, I’ll be glad if waiting for a more politically confident Swift means that she is now reaching more people who, like her, are in the process of their own political awakenings. And despite what Governor Mike Huckabee thinks, Swift’s earliest fans aren’t 13 anymore. We’re young adults and growing up was a *time*. With the next federal election less than a year away, you can bet your life that—like the new Taylor—we’re ready to make our voices heard.
😂😂😂 clearly you have no grasp on how being a fan works. They don't magically stop being a fan when the clock ticks over onto some magical birthday. She's been around quite some time now, her fans grew up. They can and do vote. 👍
— Me 🏳️🌈 SPNNash (@elflingqueen) October 8, 2018
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