I’m A Blak Woman Who Loves Taylor Swift — But It’s Complicated

Taylor Swift is one of the most prolific pop superstars of our generation. Her impact on modern pop music is undeniable — she’s a songwriting powerhouse with a catalogue that boasts 10 full-length albums and writing credits for countless other artists. It’s hardly surprising that her music often feels inescapable. 
I first stumbled upon Swift’s music in her Fearless era. It was 2008 and she had beautiful loose blonde curls that sat perfectly over her shoulders. She still had an air of ‘girl next door’ about her and even had songs on the Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack. Meanwhile, I was a very typical teen girl who simply loved Taylor Swift. I’d write her lyrics on my hands, perform her songs for music assignments with my best friends and put my hair into side braids, just like the ones she wore. 
It was magical and wonderful to find music that spoke directly to my naïve, teenage girl heart. One of the cutest memories I have from that time is reading the YouTube comments for her unreleased song “I’d Lie” and seeing girls change the lyrics to match whoever it was they had a crush on. 
Being a Swiftie was fun and harmless. I never questioned it or felt uncomfortable by anything she did (or didn’t) do — until midway through the 1989 era. 
Me, at the 1989 tour, with a double sided sign that's showing off the side for Vance Joy (who opened for Swift).
During this time, Swift claimed to view the world through a feminist lens, but her feminism often left out more people than it included. She was perpetually flanked by her “girl squad” at every event she attended, and in 2014, she even performed "Style" at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, entering the catwalk holding hands with her best friend at the time, Karlie Kloss. More often than not, the women who appeared in public were very similar to Taylor: white, thin, cis, able-bodied and conventionally attractive.
As a Black woman who is not conventionally attractive or thin, I was annoyed to only ever see her surrounded by a group of white women, who all looked the same. But it felt pointless to expect better from Swift, who often openly remarked that she learned about feminism from Lena Dunham, who is polarising (to say the least), with some of the worst takes in history, and famously alienated women of colour with her hit HBO show, Girls.
Around the same time, Nicki Minaj's “Anaconda” video was snubbed by the MTV Video Music Awards in the Best Video category, leading her to tweet, “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year”. Unfortunately, in an infuriating display of white feminism, Swift inserted herself into the situation, to argue that it was “unlike” Minaj to pit women against each other, adding, “Maybe one of the men took your slot..”.
This annoyed me so much that I took a break from listening to Swift’s music for a few years. I joke to friends that we have a fraught friendship, referencing the way I love her music but not some of her actions. To be honest, even her inclusion on the cover of TIME’s Person of the Year Issue in 2017 had me feeling uneasy (and I wasn’t the only one). The issue was dedicated to “The Silence Breakers” — a collective of mostly women who had spoken out against men who had assaulted them. By this definition, Swift (who successfully sued a man for assault in 2017) did belong on the cover, however, the Me Too movement was started by a Black woman named Tarana Burke, and I felt that there were other women who had dedicated their lives to this work who belonged in her place. Women who fought loudly and proudly, every day — not just when it impacted them personally.
My relationship with Swift has been up and down ever since. This particular hiatus from listening to her music ended somewhere between her releasing Folklore and the many "Taylor's Version" album re-records. I was lured back, and I realised that I had missed it. There was so much to catch up on and two beautiful albums filled with the exact storytelling I had loved Swift for when I was a teenage girl. 
“The Man” became a song I loved while I was still on my break from Swift, and I nearly cried the first time I listened to the second verse of “Only the Young”. I was happy to see her finally use her music to call out the issues she saw occurring in the world. Our friendship was back on track.
However, it didn’t last long. In 2022, it was revealed that Taylor was ranked as the number one celebrity with the most private jet usage. According to The Guardian, her emissions were more than 1,000 times higher than the average person and though Swift’s camp denied she was responsible for every flight the plane took, it’s still her jet and was just another example of where her priorities were different from mine. It was a bummer to learn that she didn’t seem to care at all about the planet and the other people living on it. 
Then, my relationship with Swift hit a new low this year, and you can probably guess why. 
When Swift and her long-time boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, broke up recently, she rebounded with The 1975 frontman, Matty Healy. And while The 1975 can turn out a bop, Healy has a very well-documented track record of seeming, well, awful. In January, he appeared to do the Nazi salute on stage; he made fun of Black female rapper, Ice Spice, on a podcast with his friends; and on the same podcast, he joked about being into the “Ghetto Gaggers” porn site, which features videos that are violent and exploitative of Black women and other women of colour. 
I wasn’t the only Swift fan who was upset, which was comforting. The Swifties unionised, and in a letter titled “Speak Up Now”, they asked Taylor to address the controversy, urging her to end her relationship with Healy. The Taylor Swift subreddit had a meltdown nearly every day as the situation got progressively worse. The common mentality among many fans was that “either he’s better than we think he is, or she’s worse than we think she is”. Many said they were leaning towards the latter and have since questioned whether it has left a permanent stain on her reputation.
Sure, Taylor and her team have come out to say she and Healy were "always casual" and that they’re no longer together at all. But it doesn’t change that she dealt with the demise of her long-term relationship by rebounding so publicly with a man who seems to have such little regard for anyone who isn’t white. 
In her Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, Swift made it a point to show herself as an activist, speaking out against the former President, Donald Trump, and his hate of LGBTQIA+ communities. So it’s surprising now to see her be silent as homophobia and transphobia are on the rise. There’s no point in having a fun song with a bunch of queer people as cameos if you're silent when people’s lives are threatened with hatred and outdated laws. 
I want to enjoy Taylor Swift's music, and trade friendship bracelets at the upcoming Eras tour. I still listen to her songs as I mourn my long-term relationship and think of my high school best friend when I hear "The Best Day". But when her actions and inactions are not aligned with mine, or, in my view, supportive of me as a Blak person. It’s difficult. It just feels like a long-term friendship that I need to mourn and move on from.
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