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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Is Taylor Swift an activist? Debates around the singer evoke passionate opinions in FHC students

Entertainment Weekly
An image from Taylor Swift’s music video for “The Man,” depicting Taylor Swift as a man, being praised in the workplace.

Have you ever hated someone so much that you wish you could travel back to the Renaissance, have them locked into a pillory, and throw tomatoes at them?

For junior Sully Lower, this fantasy may sound appealing. 

“Taylor Swift is ‘tomato-able,’” Sully said. “I [could] throw tomatoes at her.”

In 2024, it seems as if moderate opinions regarding Taylor Swift are few and far between. This past year has brought Swift to the forefront of the media—if possible for an already globally famous pop star—and her seemingly ubiquitous presence evokes strong viewpoints, both favorable and unfavorable, among students at FHC.

Believing that Swift prioritizes the quantity of her music over the quality, for Sully, there isn’t much difference between most of her songs. 

“I think [Swift being famous for writing about her exes] is definitely a stereotype she can prove sometimes,” Sully said. “I feel like [her exes] are a lot of what her music can be about, but I also don’t really pay attention to [her] lyrics. I feel like a lot of [her music] is romance-based, which I get, but I feel like it could just be a lot more diverse.” 

In many of Swift’s songs, she sings about her past relationships, which has garnered her a fair amount of judgment from critics. Because a reasonable number are centered around past romantic experiences, some believe that the sole reason Swift has obtained her fame is because she sings about men. 

Senior Ellory Zietz, who believes Swift’s multi-genre music helps her connect with fans, discredits this verdict. 

“I think that if [Swift] wrote about her exes with worse lyrics, she wouldn’t be famous,” Ellory said. “It’s her talent that makes her famous, not her exes. Her albums that she didn’t write about exes are just as popular, if not more popular than her others.”

Swift is well known among fans for her intricate, relatable lyricism which resonates with many “Swifties.” She is commonly admired for utilizing metaphors in her lyrics, weaving extensive stories into her music, and constructing emotion-provoking bridges. 

Sophomore Lily McMartin, who believes Swift’s music receives more hate than it deserves, acknowledges that the pop star’s fame cannot be attributed solely to the relationships she has written about. 

“A lot of [her first songs] were about her exes,” Lily said, “so maybe that’s how she came about, but she’s changed her platform to writing about different things. I feel like she’s a really good role model, but, at the same time, I feel like people worship her at her feet when some of the things that she does aren’t that special.”

A fair amount of people attribute their distaste for the singer to the actions—or lack thereof—she has taken in activism. 

Having an extremely vast public reach, many believe that Swift should use her status to help further social movements and educate her fans about current issues. Although she has voiced her opinions on various political topics throughout her fame, there are a fair amount of causes that she has stayed silent on, leaving some spectators dissatisfied with her indifference. 

Junior Kaden Lajoie, who is relatively indifferent about the singer, feels Swift could actively use her platform to encourage more public change. 

“As a person with the reach that she has, she could [advocate for more causes],” Kaden said. “But, if she doesn’t want to lose her position [being] as big as she is, she can’t really afford to be anything but palatable.” 

Although she doesn’t speak out on every issue, Swift has been involved in helping to further LGBTQ+ rights. In 2019, Swift released the single, “You Need To Calm Down” from her album Lover, in which she sings her support for the community and self-expression. 

In addition, on the Chicago leg of Swift’s Era’s Tour, she encouraged her concert attendees to vote against legislation that harmed the community. 

“She is an activist, but I think she could do better,” Ellory said. “She does do a lot for the LGBTQ+ community; she definitely cares about them even though it’s not a community she’s a part of. She still works for their cause, [and] I think that’s important.”

Perhaps her most passionate cause, Swift has openly supported feminism, particularly in recent years. Even so, within the realm of feminism, Swift is often criticized for focusing her efforts on white women, without acknowledging the struggles of women who are members of minority groups.  

“[I think Swift is] kind of [an activist],” Kaden said. “She is a big figurehead of white feminism. [Her feminism] is more palatable and less expansive, [not necessarily for] disabled women or black women.”

Swift released her song “The Man,” one of the four singles from her Lover, in which she sings about sexism, particularly how the public views the success and power of women in comparison to men. The song has received critique for offering a basic approach to gender inequality, only accounting for the experiences of white women. 

Regardless of personal viewpoint on the track, it pulls from Swift’s personal experiences and is one of the few Swift has released that focuses on political themes.

“[I think Taylor Swift is an activist because] she does support feminism a lot, like with [her song] ‘The Man,’” Lily said. “But, I know there are a lot of social movements that she doesn’t have a stance on, like the [Israeli–Palestinian conflict], which does affect some [of her fans].”

Recently, Swift has faced ridicule for the impact her private jet rides have had on the environment. She is known to use her private planes to travel frequently, flying on flights as short as 30-40 minutes. In 2022, her estimated carbon emissions were around 1,800 times the average person’s, earning her a notorious “reputation” regarding her transportation habits. 

As a person with the reach that she has, she could [advocate for more causes]. But, if she doesn’t want to lose her position [being] as big as she is, she can’t really afford to be anything but palatable.

— Kaden Lajoie

Particularly due to her infamous carbon emissions, Sully acknowledges Swift’s broad influence, particularly on Gen Z and in feminism, but doesn’t consider Swift to necessarily be an activist. 

“I think [Swift is] the opposite of an activist when it comes to climate change and global warming,” Sully said. “[Her environmental impact is] one thing that I can’t get over and that I don’t support her on.”

Although Swift contributes a great deal to carbon pollution, she is by far not the only celebrity guilty; however, she does seem to receive the most blame. Many of the world’s richest figures, including Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Kim Kardashian, are speculated to produce many more kilograms of carbon emissions than Swift herself. 

“Sometimes [Swift receives more hate than she deserves], especially for her [carbon] emissions,” Kaden said. “She’s not even in the top [list of] celebrities who produce the most carbon emissions in a year. I do think that she has some valid reasons to be disliked; [her] carbon emissions are [still] bad, and her lack of using her voice, which is really extensive, is a little bit [concerning].”

Regardless of which perspective one takes on Swift’s actions, it is inevitable that impassioned and differing opinions about her will persist, as she is a prominent presence in the media. Her massive influence will continue to impact people whether she chooses to advocate for current causes or remains indifferent, and what she chooses to speak out on is ultimately up to her.

Reflecting the rest of society, FHC students, who hold Swift’s work and character at varying degrees of favorability, will likely never reach a common consensus about the singer. While some students believe the amount of condemnation Swift experiences is fitting, others see her as being faced with too much scrutiny. 

“[Swift] receives a lot more hate than she deserves for her music because music is music,” Sully said. “If it has a beat, it has notes, it has rhythm, it’s music. I don’t enjoy [her music], but she doesn’t deserve hate for it because a lot of people do listen to it and like it, so it has got to have some value. But, I think the hate she gets for her personality in general and how she approaches a lot of issues is pretty deserved considering her carbon footprint is massive.”

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About the Contributor
Elle Manning
Elle Manning, Staff Writer
Elle is a sophomore beginning her first year on The Central Trend. She loves to read novels, create extravagant Pinterest boards, and journal in her seemingly scarce free time. Her biggest passions include writing and fashion, and she hopes to one day be able to combine the two into a future career. She has been a cheerleader since fourth grade and continues to spend her time on the sidelines every football season. In the spring, she enjoys playing tennis, even though she is still learning. She is often found with Spotify open; she loves to listen to music from a variety of different genres and decades. Most recent musical fixation: Weyes Blood Dream school: Columbia University Favorite book: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt Favorite comfort films: All of The Twilight Saga (primarily the first two movies)

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