To critics, who feel convinced that Taylor Swift is queer baiting… well, “you need to calm down.” Rather than try to tell her audience something, she has said something. She supports LGBTQ+ rights, and she’s against discrimination. In fact, at the end of her You Need To Calm Down video, she explicitly attached a link to a petition for the Equality Act. Ultimately, she gives a diplomatic and reasonable voice to straight and gay people alike.
T-Swift changes pronouns in her lyrics. That’s not to say that she explicitly uses gender-neutral pronouns. Rather, she effectively changes pronouns to shift the point of view. In varying the pronouns, she inherently includes anyone, who would stand up against discrimination.
For example, she starts the song in first person perspective by using the pronoun “I.” First, she says, “you are somebody that I don’t know, but you’re taking shots at me […].” Therefore, it’s clear that the narrator is directly receiving the brunt of someone’s frustration. Likewise, it’s clear that the narrator has read the abuse over twitter. Rather than sending a reactive response, the narrator asks the author of the tweet if he or she is okay and demonstrates tact.
In first person, Taylor Swift relates the experience of a person, who is gay. In fact, she speaks as someone who is gay. Arguably, she’s not pandering to a gay audience or pushing a gay agenda. Instead, she shows listeners the experience of someone, who is gay and has encountered unwarranted aggression regarding his or her sexuality. Moreover, the narrator does not perpetuate an “us” vs. “them” mentality because she expresses compassion and understanding for the other human being, who seems distraught.
At the same time, she does not condone bullying. For example, she says, “can you just not?” in a poignant, distinct voice because the way she phrased the sentence musically. The full lyric is “can you just not step on my gown?” In the second chorus of the song, she says the same line. However, she changes pronouns. She says, “can you just not step on his gown?” This particular line alludes to Billy Porter wearing a gown to the Oscars. He even appears in Swift’s music video to accompany the line.
In the second section of Taylor Swift’s song You Need To Calm Down, she changes voices. Suddenly, she’s speaking as a straight person. “You are somebody that we don’t know, but you’re comin’ at my friends like a missile.” The significant aspect of this section lies in that Taylor Swift does not exclude the people, who are expressing angst over gay rights. She suggests that people vote, rather than spend time and energy on insults because “shade never made anybody less gay.”
She’s clearly not supporting the prospect of citizens voting against gay rights. She’s merely pointing out that she’s not against free speech. At the same time, she’s against hateful rhetoric aimed at gay people. While critics may point out that Taylor Swift added to polarization by stereotyping and mocking protestors for spelling the word homosexuality incorrectly, it’s important to note that Taylor suggests that hate towards people who are queer is unfounded and lacks merit.
In the music video, Ryan Reynolds paints the Stonewall Inn, which is the location of the initial riot which inspired later Pride festivals. Simultaneously, the people in the music video throw cake at each other in a fashion that resembles not only a colorful Pride festival, but the Indian festival Holi or the Spanish festival La Tomatina. In other words, she demonstrates that there are gay people all over the world, who want the same dignity, respect and rights as any other human being. It’s apropos that the people in the video throw cake, based on that fact that some bakery owners have refused to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples.
In Swift’s music video, Olympian Adam Rippon serves snow cones. His appearance in the video suggests that gay people contribute to society. Taylor Swift invited the cast of Queer Eye, which is a show where 5 queer men help people from any background. Ultimately, Taylor Swift asks that every listener to treat people with dignity, and she invites people to vote for equal rights. She’s not queer baiting. She’s including people.