In 2017, Swift is still absenting herself from the cultural conversation while simultaneously trying to center herself in it.
Posted on November 10, 2017, at 2:00 p.m.
BuzzFeed News Reporter
Taylor Swift’s reputation is a complicated mess. …
Move over a little from there and you’ll find Swift’s image itself — willowy, blonde, and aggressively white. Perhaps, in an awkward corner close by, are the white supremacist fans who’ve claimed her as a figurehead. In any blank space, you’ll find her political silence and her idiosyncratic ways of communicating with the public. …
… But can Swift’s way of doing things keep up with the mounting pressures of a culture whose priorities have shifted? …
Then, in July 2015, the nominations for Video of the Year for the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards were announced. Swift was nominated, for the music video for “Bad Blood.” Nicki Minaj, who was not nominated for the daring, if not provocative, video for “Anaconda,” tweeted an accusation that the VMAs were more likely to celebrate “other” girls for their accomplishments — “women with very slim bodies.” Swift jumped into the conversation, literally making it about her: “I’ve done nothing but love & Support you,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot..” Minaj responded with confusion: “Didn’t say a word about u.”
…. As Swift was dealing with all the public drama surrounding her name, other cultural conversations were speeding along. In the US, Swift’s battle with Kardashian faded into the background as the country was swallowed whole by an election that brought conversations about sexism and white supremacy to the forefront of everyday politics.
It’s a bleach stain that’s never really left Swift’s persona.
… But it was too late: Swift had already linked herself to an ever-growing conversation about the damage racism can do — especially when that damage presents itself as white innocence and/or oblivion. It’s a bleach stain that’s never really left Swift’s persona, and one that took on an even more intense tenor after the 2016 election.
… has been drowned out by her lack of public endorsement for any candidate in the 2016 election. Oh, and that persistent perception (or running joke?) that she voted for Donald Trump.
Swift’s relative silence on politics may have worked for the majority of her career so far. But by the time the 1989 era came to a close, a lot of Swift’s standby strategies had already proven themselves outdated. And as a sizable portion of the US entered panic mode politically, the perceived stakes of anyone’s silence seemed to grow exponentially…
… But through the lens of a culture, especially a popular culture that involves progressives actively battling white supremacy, Swift is intrinsically linked to whiteness and privilege. And in 2017, she is still absenting herself from the cultural conversation while simultaneously trying to center herself in it.
It’s okay to be white.