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On the final night of Taylor Swift’s MetLife shows this weekend, 80,000 Swifties screamed in the swamps of New Jersey for over three hours. They wore outfits from every era — tinsel fringe dresses, serpent arm cuffs, and heart-shaped sunglasses. I saw countless faces in cowboy hats similar to the emoji — only these cowboys were sobbing uncontrollably while eating foot-long hotdogs. And the bracelets! They were all wearing beaded bracelets coded in Swiftian lyrics, trading them in the parking lot like Deadheads swapping grilled cheeses. (Take my advice: do not try to pay for the bracelets. They will look at you like you’re from outer space.)
It’s hard to believe that while this magical Eras tour is happening — and while Swift is somehow reaching previously-unimaginable heights of popularity, surpassing even the ludicrous highs of 2015 — she is also experiencing a backlash from some corners of the Swiftie community over her supposed new boyfriend, the 1975’s Matty Healy.
Their sentiments were best summed up in an open letter on Twitter using the hashtag #SpeakUpNow (named after Swift’s upcoming re-recording of her 2010 album), which states that Healy’s many controversies “deeply trouble” them. “From engaging in racist remarks, making offensive jokes, and admitting to watching degrading pornography in which people of color are being humiliated and assaulted, his actions contribute to the perpetuation of hate, stereotypes, and objectification, which targets and hurts some people from the Jewish, Black, Chinese, Hawaiian, Inuit, LGBTQ+ communities, as well as women.”
The statement refers to the derogatory comments Healy laughed about regarding the rapper Ice Spice on The Adam Friedland Show podcast in February and the questionable apology he delivered onstage last month. Fans raised eyebrows when Swift recruited the rapper for her “Karma” remix last week, and on Monday, Healy finally addressed the controversy in a New Yorker profile that only exacerbated the issue. He explained that the whole thing “doesn’t actually matter” and that the backlash he received was merely virtue signaling: “It’s just people going, ‘Oh, there’s a bad thing over there, let me get as close to it as possible so you can see how good I am,’” he said. “And I kind of want them to do that, because they’re demonstrating something so base level.”
If you didn’t catch this quote aggregated on the internet about 137 times (you probably had better things to do than scroll Twitter and hustle children for their handmade bracelets), you aren’t missing much. This is all part of Healy’s artistry: an intricate, tangled web of bits intended to rile you up and piss you off. This is the guy who eats raw meat onstage, gives Nazi salutes, and delivers intelligent observations like, “I’m obsessed with my dick for some reason.” Stupid Shit is his brand. Are we really supposed to take anything he says seriously?
I’m not here to answer that, but I am here to tell you that none of it is Taylor’s problem. For the last 17 years, we’ve held this woman responsible for the actions of men she chooses to spend time with, and it’s time to stop. It would be fair to criticize her for walking out of Electric Lady with the ghost of Pol Pot or wondering why her dad and Matt Lauer are grooving out to her performance of “22.” But this is just a hot sleazeball who wants Oasis back together (I don’t know about you, but I’ve dated a lot of guys who fit that description), and it’s up to Taylor to spend her time as she pleases.
“While individuals have the right to make their own choices and form relationships, we believe that it is essential for those in the public eye to take a stand against discrimination and hold themselves and their associates accountable,” the open letter reads. But that’s just the thing: We don’t treat Taylor like an individual. We treat her like a deity, one who must re-record “Snow on the Beach” because the original didn’t have enough Lana, and who needs to get political again since it’s been three years and 119 days since she did so in Miss Americana, and that’s far too long.
On Saturday, the #SpeakUpNow Twitter account blasted Taylor for her onstage banter before performing “The Man.” “You’re kind of making me feel like I can do anything I wanted, and people might think it was cool,” she tells the crowd. “I guess what I’m saying is, you’re making me feel like I’m the man.” Sure, it’s an intro cheesier than a Grateful Dead sandwich, but the irony is there. If Swift were a man, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.