argument top image

Is Taylor Swift a gay icon?
Back to question

Release date of “You Need to Calm Down” music video commodifies Pride Month

Taylor Swift has been silent on issues of social injustice up until 2018. Once LGBTQ+ issues are part of mainstream conversation, she likely released “You Need to Calm Down” during Pride 2019 in order to maximize revenue.

The Argument

According to Vox, it took Taylor Swift quite a while to speak out on injustices that her peers had been vocal about for some time. As Vox highlights: While Lady Gaga and Katy Perry used their platforms years earlier, Swift seemed to wait until LGBTQ+ issues became part of popular conversation in recent years; or in other words, in fashion. Vox cites Swift’s article for Elle Magazine, explaining that she’d only recently found the courage to speak out. Yet, while her song is clearly an anthem celebrating and fiercely defending LGBTQ+ human rights, Swift is an incredibly famous artist that must stay relevant. Vox reminds readers that her image has changed before, but when her edgy look paired with her Reputation album did not sell like previous endeavors, she switched right back to a clean-cut vibe.[1] It seems that if an artist is going to release a video during Pride month, the space they are choosing to claim should be genuine, and valuable. There is debate over whether or not Swift succeeded here. The enemy in Swift’s music video is a group of unsophisticated anti-gay protestors, but this imagery seems to be missing the point, as discrimination is so pervasive culturally that there is no “look” for it; this also excuses everyone else who is at least performatively supportive.[2] Pride is not about parties and it surely is not designed to provide a space for folks outside of the LGBTQ+ community to don their fun rainbow capes and then call it a day. Pride is a month meant to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots, but has increasingly been commodified. According to Vox, multiple sources have explained that while Swift might have intended for this song to be supportive, she also used Pride as a space for her own troubles. The line, “We see you over there on the internet, comparing all the girls who are killing it” paired with a shot of her famous friends in drag as top performing artists like Ariana Grande, actually draws a connection between LGBTQ+ discrimination (the subject of this song) and the criticism she faces as a pop artist who has not yet identified as anything other than straight. Vox reminds readers – these are not the same.[1]

Counter arguments

In Taylor Swift’s article for Elle, she explains thirty things that she has learned before the age of thirty. Some are bold and others are seemingly simple but perhaps even braver. In number twenty-eight, she confides in readers that she has only found “her voice in terms of politics." She also cites up above her upbringing to be a “polite” girl and her struggles with trying to remain kind at all times. It seems however, that now, Swift is less interested in a carefully curated image and more interested in investigating authenticity.[3] Vox also highlights Taylor Swift’s unique position as an American sweetheart who started out in country music. Her managers, attempting to protect her, warned against speaking out politically, so she would not have to “suffer the fate of the Dixie Chicks” whose careers were compromised due to their public disapproval of former President George W. Bush. However, when 2018 rolled around, Swift broke her silence and supported two Democratic candidates for congress. She no longer wanted to shout “Happy Pride Month” at her concerts as if Pride were a fun party and there was not rampant violence against the LGBTQ+ community in the United States.[4] According to Vox, Lorenzo Marquez tweeted in support of Taylor Swift’s music video for “You Need to Calm Down” because he would have appreciated such a huge platform expressing this kind of support when he was a child. There is no denying that Swift has massive societal sway and at the end of her music video, she chose to advertise a petition she started in support of the US Senate’s Equality Act.[1]



Rejecting the premises

Further Reading

An article on Vox Media titled "Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” wants to be a queer anthem. It also wants to sell you something."


This page was last edited on Friday, 10 Jul 2020 at 00:30 UTC

Explore related arguments