I knew what I was getting myself into when I wrote about how I no longer support Taylor Swift. With over 69 million followers on Twitter and arguably one of the most loyal fan followings in the history of the music industry, Taylor Swift has a lot of supporters who are ready to defend her at a moment's notice. I should know, because I used to be one of them.
As much as I used to love Taylor and listen to her day and night, it's been hard for me to watch her this past year. Many think the Nicki Minaj spat was nothing more than silly Hollywood beef, but it was actually a key moment in the White Feminism trend we witnessed in 2015. (For those who need a refresher, White Feminism refers to the fight for women's rights that excludes many minority groups, such as the LGBTQ community, women of color, women with disabilities, pretty much anyone who don't fall into the white, heterosexual, cis group of women that are at the forefront of society today.) The feud, her recent release of culturally-appropriating "Wildest Dreams" music video, and everything in between added up to the point where I could no longer shake it off.
Trust me, I considered not writing this piece, and instead just not supporting her music anymore. But as I laid out in "5 Important Reasons I Can't Love Taylor Swift Anymore," T-Swift is one of the biggest stars out there today, and she has a profound public presence. That means our society is constantly being influenced by her every move. My intention in sharing my thoughts was not to bash her, but rather to ask people to think twice about what our biggest role models truly stand for.
You wouldn't believe how many Taylor-dedicated Twitter accounts there are out there. So. Many. And they were all mad at me.
People in my life tried to warn me. One of my friends said, "Girl, if you didn't have tougher skin before, you'll have it after this." My mom looked at me silently with wide eyes and asked if it was possible to make my Twitter account private. (This, after I've written extensively about everything from white privilege to why I'll never wear a bra again.)
I appreciated the concern, but this wasn't my first rodeo. I had written stuff before that was controversial enough to trigger trolling, and I'd seen my Twitter handle connected with Asian racial slurs before. I was ready for whatever was to come, because deep down, I knew I wasn't a hater who was secretly jealous of Taylor's success. I'm a person of color who genuinely cares about race and feminist issues, and isn't afraid to speak up about the uncomfortable stuff.
About 80 percent of the responses I got after the piece went live were exactly what I was expecting. There were a lot of faithful Swifties who borrowed lyrics from her hit songs to call me stupid, or telling me to "shake it off" (with a few curse words thrown in there, of course). You wouldn't believe how many Taylor-dedicated Twitter accounts there are out there. So. Many. And they were all mad at me.
To the last one, I would like to say, I accept your apology.
Many people also went after my feminism, after I critiqued Taylor's squad:
A lot of people also defended Taylor's "squad" by enlisting an outdated argument. One Swiftie interrogated, "All of her squad is white? Zendaya?!" Unfortunately, just because a person hangs out with or dates one or two people of color in their lifetime doesn't completely erase the race issue at hand. I thought this was common sense so I didn't specifically write about it, but I suppose there are still some people who need convincing.
A 2011 study actually proved that having a few black friends doesn't affect a white person's outlook on racism. In fact, research shows that a white person who brags about their black buddies has the same negative perceptions about race as their nextdoor neighbor who doesn't spend any time socially with people of color. So while it's wonderful that Zendaya, Selena, and Taylor are friends, those few friendships don't change the fact that there is still White Feminism at play here. Those of us who don't fit neatly into the standard, white beauty box have no shot at being in Taylor's "squad," and it doesn't seem like we're a concern of hers in her fight for women's rights. That was the point I was making.
Of course, I can't know for sure, but all the women who attacked my feminism appeared in their profile pictures to be white women.
Speaking of race, a lot of people had a lot to say.
Others accused me of "reverse racism" and insisted that I was seeking "colored attention." There were countless more, many of which I don't want to show here because they are vile hate speech, others that I don't ever want to think of again.
Even though I'd thought I was prepared, I honestly couldn't believe how backwards these responses were. I consulted several friends of color about it, and they all said pretty much the same thing, with sadness in their voice and a shrug: "Get used to it."
Still, these comments (and there were hundreds) didn't keep me up at night. They didn't even put a damper on my day; I had a few gut-wrenching laughs over them with friends and family. Actually, the trolling only reassured me that I hadn't done or said anything to be ashamed of.
And while there was a deluge of hate, there were also an overwhelming number of supportive, thankful responses. People of all races and demographics came out of the woodwork to share this piece on their social media accounts and open a useful dialogue about why this matters so much. This tweet in particular touched me:
In the midst of all my Twitter notifications and midnight epiphanies, things got, um, weird with a few Internet folks, to say the least. One guy tweeted me nearly 10 times over the course of two days, regardless of the fact that I didn't respond. At one point, he even said he'd broken his ankle because I was "the dumbest person" he had ever met. (He has since deleted that particular tweet; it was originally posted around 3 a.m., so I guess he regretted it mid-hangover the next day.)
Another guy kept sending me mean messages, including, "You are a cruel person. YOU SUCK." Strangely enough, he also followed me on Twitter. Then he had this to say:
I think he meant friends? But I suppose I'll never really know.
Images: Gina Florio