Pop Stars & Politics: Why Taylor Swift’s Instagram Post Matters

Taylor Swift (photo by Marc E)

By now—whether or not you’re a fan—you’ve probably heard that singer Taylor Swift has come out of her so-called apolitical shell on Instagram and also encouraged fans to vote during her American Music Awards acceptance speech. Whether or not you agree with her, you’ve probably heard from the many people who loved and hated her post.

Celebrities speaking out about their political opinions isn’t new and will never end. Let’s accept that and stop overdramatizing it. Like everyone on social media, Swift is welcome to post her opinions. Here’s why I respect her post:

•  She struggled with her decision to voice her opinion. The pop star acknowledges that “in the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions.” Many assumed she was conservative—due to her country music background and “Aryan goddess” look— and pressured her to denounce Trump in 2016. It takes guts to publicly go against people’s assumptions knowing that “haters gonna hate.” That could mean changing political views, coming out about your sexual preference, questioning your gender identity, announcing you’re an atheist, admitting you don’t want to have kids, acknowledging you need help, and so on. We can all relate to the challenge of expressing ourselves, even if we don’t all have 112 million followers.

•  She spoke to her values. Referring to them as “MY Tennessee values,” Swift described the issues she considers when voting for candidates:

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.

These views shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed her over the years. I’d also add that it’s important for all voters to know what they stand for and what they want from their representatives. (Here are some secular values you may want to consider when you vote.)

•  She named areas where she disagrees with Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) without name-calling, threatening violence, or attacking her character:

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.

Respectful disagreement should be used more on social media—and in person—especially by public figures. The online antics of Ted Nugent, Kathy Griffin, Roseanne Barr, and Donald Trump are good examples of how not to approach those with differing opinions. Those spitting vitriol on social media with #BoycottTaylorSwift should instead follow her example.

One critic raised concern that Swift’s post didn’t dig deep enough into why Blackburn voted against equal pay legislation and the reauthorization of VAWA, and will drive “anti-LGBT people further into their entrenched positions through extreme rhetoric.” Yes, there is a lot more she could have written about the candidates and the issues, but this was an Instagram post, not an op-ed. And how, exactly, is stating you support equal rights for LGBTQ folks “extreme rhetoric”?

•  She encouraged others to consider their own values and educate themselves on the right candidate for them:

Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. We may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100 percent on every issue, but we have to vote anyway.

This is what democracy looks like. Though democracy is more than just elections. We also need to work in between elections to ensure that government officials are fully equipped to serve their constituents and that constituents are well-educated on how to voice their concerns and make confident choices.

•  She motivated young potential voters by complimenting them and directing them to register to vote at vote.org. Swift concluded her post saying, “So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned eighteen in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count.” She expressed admiration for the next generation of voters who have hopefully been inspired to get involved in the upcoming midterm elections.

Conversely, when asked about his thoughts on the post, Trump said, “I’m sure Taylor Swift doesn’t know anything about her [Blackburn]. And let’s say that I like Taylor’s music about 25 percent less now.” He automatically dismissed Swift’s opinion without reading it, assumed she was uninformed, and dissed her music which has nothing to do with her political stance.

Nearly 400,000 fans read Taylor Swift’s message on the day it was posted. Within twenty-four hours of the post, vote.org received 65,000 new registrations. We don’t know their ages, party affiliation, or if they will show up at the ballot box on November 6, but that hasn’t stopped people from making assumptions and choosing to celebrate or blame Swift’s actions. Whether or not you post your political opinions on social media, make sure you vote. It’s the best way to be heard this election season.