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In a cover story for the September issue of Vogue, published online Thursday, Taylor Swift opened up about her decision to vocally support the LGBTQ community, her drama with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian and sexism in the music industry .
Swift, who had long remained silent on political issues has recently become an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights. She kicked off Pride Month by introducing a petition in support of the Equality Act. Later in June she released the second single off her seventh studio album, Lover, called “You Need to Calm Down.” The anti-hate anthem was accompanied by a music video that featured cameos from a number of LGBTQ stars.
While Swift has hinted about her support of the LGBTQ community throughout her career, she revealed that she wanted to become more vocal when her friend Todrick Hall asked how she would respond to having a gay son. “The fact that he had to ask me … shocked me and made me realize that I had not made my position clear enough or loud enough,” she told the publication. “‘If my son was gay, he’d be gay. I don’t understand the question.'”
“If he was thinking that, I can’t imagine what my fans in the LGBTQ community might be thinking,” she continued. “It was kind of devastating to realize that I hadn’t been publicly clear about that.”
She said that now felt like the right time for her to be vocal about her support of the community. “Rights are being stripped from basically everyone who isn’t a straight white cisgender male,” she said. “I didn’t realize until recently that I could advocate for a community that I’m not a part of. It’s hard to know how to do that without being so fearful of making a mistake that you just freeze. Because my mistakes are very loud. When I make a mistake, it echoes through the canyons of the world. It’s clickbait, and it’s a part of my life story, and it’s a part of my career arc.”
The story also touched on Swift’s public feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West. In July 2016, Kardashian West called Swift a “snake” on Twitter and released a video of the singer discussing West’s song “Famous” in which he referred to her as a “bitch” and talked about possibly having sex with her. The video led to social media users bullying Swift and declaring that she was “canceled.”
“A mass public shaming, with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote canceled, is a very isolating experience,” she said, reflecting on the months-long period of bullying. “I don’t think there are that many people who can actually understand what it’s like to have millions of people hate you very loudly.” She added, “When you say someone is canceled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being. You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, ‘Kill yourself.'”
The experience led Swift to “restructure” her life, which inspired her 2017 album Reputation. “I knew immediately I needed to make music about it because I knew it was the only way I could survive it,” she said. “It was the only way I could preserve my mental health and also tell the story of what it’s like to go through something so humiliating.”
Three years after the feud, Swift said that she has tried to find positive aspects of the situation. “It’s so strange trying to be self-aware when you’ve been cast as this always smiling, always happy ‘America’s sweetheart’ thing, and then having that taken away and realizing that it’s actually a great thing that it was taken away, because that’s extremely limiting,” she said. “We’re not going to go straight to gratitude with it. Ever. But we’re going to find positive aspects to it.”
The singer, who was notably silent during the 2016 presidential election, revealed how the backlash from the feud heavily impacted her decision to not publicly support Hillary Clinton.
“Unfortunately in the 2016 election you had a political opponent who was weaponizing the idea of the celebrity endorsement. He was going around saying, ‘I’m a man of the people. I’m for you. I care about you,'” she said about Donald Trump. “I just knew I wasn’t going to help.”
“The summer before that election, all people were saying was ‘She’s calculated. She’s manipulative. She’s not what she seems. She’s a snake. She’s a liar.’ These are the same exact insults people were hurling at Hillary,” she continued. “Would I be an endorsement or would I be a liability? ‘Look, snakes of a feather flock together. Look, the two lying women.‘ The two nasty women. Literally millions of people were telling me to disappear. So I disappeared. In many senses.”
Swift also spoke about sexism in the music industry, which she wasn’t aware of in the early years of her career. “I would hear people talk about sexism in the music industry, and I’d be like, ‘I don’t see it. I don’t understand.’ Then I realized that was because I was a kid,” she said. “Men in the industry saw me as a kid. I was a lanky, scrawny, overexcited young girl who reminded them more of their little niece or their daughter than a successful woman in business or a colleague. The second I became a woman, in people’s perception, was when I started seeing it.”
“It’s fine to infantilize a girl’s success and say, ‘How cute that she’s having some hit songs,'” she said. “As soon as I started playing stadiums — when I started to look like a woman — that wasn’t as cool anymore.”
The singer added that men in the music industry began to treat her differently after the release of her 2012 album Red because it featured more mature songs. Critics also became vocal about her songwriting.
“I wanted to say to people, ‘You realize writing songs is an art and a craft and not, like, an easy thing to do? Or to do well?’ People would act like it was a weapon I was using,” she said. “First of all, that’s not how it works. Second of all, find me a time when they say that about a male artist: ‘Be careful, girl, he’ll use his experience with you to get — God forbid — inspiration to make art.'”
Swift also teased two new songs off Lover, including one called “The Man,” which “plays with the idea of perception.” The song is about how she believes her career would be different if she wasn’t a woman. “If I had made all the same choices, all the same mistakes, all the same accomplishments, how would it read?” she sang in the song. “I’d be a fearless leader. I’d be an alpha type. When everyone believes ya: What’s that like?”
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