Okay, so Taylor Swift just dropped ‘You Need to Calm Down’ and the world is going nuts.
Firstly, as someone who couldn’t stand ‘Me!’, I’m delighted to say that this song is actually fun. It had some great lines, it was cute and catchy, and in typical Taylor Swift fashion it featured heaps of cool celebs. I loved how snarky it was, and I think we can all agree that the line “shade never made anybody less gay” was great. Add the fact that most of the stars were queer icons, and you’ve got me. We love some diversity and inclusion.
So, What’s The Problem?
Here’s the thing – while this was a great way to show her support for LGBTQI+ rights and to use her platform for some positive politics (finally), I think it forgot who is actually preventing the Equality Act.
Now, I know there’s already heaps of criticism against Taylor Swift basically profiting off pride culture. Vox has a great piece analysing Taylor’s relationship with business and the gay community. The world is already talking about her monetising pride month, so I’ll leave that for another day.
What I do want to talk about is how ‘You Need To Calm Down’ portrays homophobes.
In the video, homophobic protesters are shown as toothless, crazed red-necks who can’t spell and look pretty ugly and povo. There’s even signs that say “homoseksuals” and “morans” because irony: it’s you, homophobes, that are the dummies here.
Now, I know you’re thinking “So what? Who cares if she make homophobes look bad? Why are you sympathising with homophobes and defending them?”
But, no. That’s not what this is about. It’s about the implication that our homophobic enemies are irrelevant hicks on the edges of society, when in reality those aren’t the people legislating against the LGBTQI+ community.
Homophobes aren’t just uneducated poor people in rural areas (and honestly, fuck the classist stereotype of poor people being bigots), but are also our leaders in parliament, in big corporations and in all kinds of positions of power. It’s those people in crisp suits, expensive cars, and often unpleasant views on LGBTQI+ issues, that are at the top, and they’re the ones with the most influence.
Now, I’m not saying don’t roast homophobic protesters. Please do. A good ol’ Aussie BBQ of roasts against haters is great. But, to pretend that homophobes are limited to irrelevant losers on the edge of society is straight up dangerous, because it erases the ones that actually have societal impact.
Did she really need the lazy classist stereotype? Last time I checked, there were plenty of pretty polished people spewing intolerance too. https://t.co/3ncKCCmtXa
— Sarah Sobieraj (@sobieraj) 17 June 2019
Don’t Forget Who Really Holds The Cards Against Equality
I can think of plenty of anti-gay people who went to elite schools, are swimming in $$$ and now hold the big guns in parliament, or are at the top of a corporation, or whatever other prestigious position you wanna think of.
I mean, all you have to do is remember Tony Abbott and ScoMo to know that actually the most dangerous people to LGBTQ+ political movements aren’t nasty poor protesters, but those that incite and enable them. Remember when Tony Abott delayed marriage quality by pushing the plebiscite and encouraging people to vote no? Same.
“I say to you if you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no.” – TONY ABBOTT, 2017.
The point is, reducing homophobic groups to icky poor people is not only actually classist AF towards poor people, but pretends that it’s a smaller issue than it is. In reality, these spooky Christian homophobes in the video are actually the big guys making our laws in real life, and we shouldn’t forget that. Homophobes are so much more dangerous than random protesters – they’re entrenched in our government, in our big companies, in all aspects of society. Pretending that they aren’t is dangerous because it makes us complacent and forget how big a fight this really is.
But hey, Taylor Swift’s Equality Act petition now has hundreds of thousands of signatures, and donations to LGBTQI+ donations spiked, so this video is really making a good impact. Plus there’s plenty of people feeling seen and represented like they never have before, and they deserve that. It’s still wonderful that we have a video out here promoting LGBTQ+ rights. And it’s even better that it’s from someone so famous. I’m glad she’s out here spreading some positivity and trying to foster change.
I mean we can be snarky all we want, but think about the millions of little LGBTQ kids out there watching Taylor’s video and also learning to be snarky.
— Chris Kelly (@imchriskelly) 17 June 2019
And look, I totally get what Taylor Swift was trying to say in ‘You Need To Calm down’. She wanted to make homophobic protesters look dumb and irrelevant to undermine and delegitimise them. I get it. It’s funny, it empowers the LGBTQI+ community, and it’s just a satisfying roast. But honestly, we really need to be clear on who it is we need to target as a movement if we want equality, and it def isn’t rando poor people.
Sources: @TaylorSwiftVevo, Twitter @iamchrisskelly, @sobieraj, GIPHY.