Months ago, after the Pulse massacre in Orlando, I questioned whether or not celebrities have an obligation to use their platforms towards political ends. In the end, I decided that celebrities did have an obligation.
Throughout the election, Taylor Swift remained largely silent. (She was silent during the Orlando massacre, but who’s keeping track?). Keeping silent during the election is not a crime—many celebrities did not say either way who they were supporting. Others were extremely vocal about it.
Taylor did not attend the Jan. 21 Women’s March, choosing instead to give a single Tweet about it. I’m sure that there are thousands of reasons why she didn’t go to the march. Some could be legitimate—she’s a massive star and might have had a previous obligation. She might have been sick. However, there are equally strong reasons why she could’ve gone. She’s not on tour because she hasn’t had an album out since 2014. She could’ve taken Emergen-C.
But perhaps the strongest reason why Taylor Swift should’ve gone to the Women’s March is that she has rebuilt her entire brand on the back of feminism. From her girl-squad to her own words about feminism, Taylor Swift tied herself to feminism. It’s how she kept herself relevant.
So for someone who made money off feminism—which she did, through music videos and appearances and clicks—to not support the Women’s March beyond a paltry tweet shows that to her, it was always about the money and the aesthetics.
Some of us do not get to choose when we are affected by politics. As an out, queer journalist, my existence has been delegitimized and stigmatized and questioned forever. For me, the Women’s March is an attempt to stand in solidarity with my sisters, my mother, my friends, and to show that the people targeted by Donald Trump and his presidency will not go gently into the night. We will fight.
Feminism is a brand intrinsically tied to the political. So when Taylor Swift labeled herself a feminist, she bought into the politics of it all. So for her to not be political now, when so much is at stake, proves that she wanted the look and benefits of appearing as a feminism without putting in any of the work.
No, she’s not obligated to do anything—this is America. But she owed something to her fans, to her critics, to the world—when she took our money under the pretense of lifting women up and standing for women’s rights, she entered into an agreement with her audience. That she would stand for women, and stand up for them. That she wasn’t able to do that is sickening, saddening and disheartening. Because it proves where her heart was the whole time.
And it wasn’t with us.