On Sunday, Taylor Swift broke her longstanding silence on political issues. The Grammy Award–winning singer took to Instagram to share her thoughts on the country's political climate, social issues that are important to her, and most revealingly, whom she plans to vote for in her home state of Tennesee's November midterm elections.
"I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives," the singer wrote.
Swift also shared why she's not voting for Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn, who currently serves as a congresswoman in Tennessee’s seventh district.
"As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn," Swift said. "Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry."
For the majority of Swift's career, she's remained mum on politics. In recent years, the 28-year-old has been vocal about her “self-professed feminist awakening,” with her last album, 1989, lauded by some listeners as the musical culmination of these ideas. Swift has also been vocal about her sexual assault by a former radio DJ, whom she subsequently took to court. On the far opposite end of the spectrum, Swift has also been regarded as an "Aryan Goddess” by alt-right neo-Nazis. In 2017, her team threatened to sue a progressive blog rather than denounce white supremacy.
Nonetheless, after Swift's politically charged Instagram post went live, many commended the singer for finally speaking out.
Others were critical of her timing in making the statement. Swift's post came a day after Brett Kavanaugh become Supreme Court Justice, after weeks of sexual assault allegations. Coincidentally, her Democratic choice for U.S. Senate, Bredesen, said last week he would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh. She's also remained silent through the globally recognized Women's March, President Donald Trump’s controversial rhetoric, and countless other sociopolitical issues.
Naturally, the discussion of Swift’s Instagram post led to a conversation about the Dixie Chicks, a wildly popular country music group who famously spoke out against President George Bush post 9/11.
In 2003, the Dixie Chicks were at the height of their career after their country albums Wide Open Spaces, Fly, and Home made them America’s top-selling female group of all time. When frontwoman Natalie Maines addressed a London audience during a promotional tour about her thoughts on the impending Iraq War, the group faced a huge backlash.
“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all,” Maines told the London audience in regards to Bush's decision to go to war. “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
As Rolling Stone reported, the reaction from the Dixie Chick's core base would forever change the course of their career.
"A-list bands like Pearl Jam had been criticizing President George W. Bush for years, but contemporary country groups were expected to tow the (Republican) party line," Andrew Leahy wrote. "With two quick sentences, Maines permanently separated the Dixie Chicks from the very audience that had supported them for years… American audiences responded by boycotting the Chicks’ shows, bulldozing their CDs, banning their songs from country radio and, in the most extreme cases, threatening to shoot Maines onstage."
Without question, Swift using her platform of 112 million followers on Instagram to speak about immediate issues concerning disenfranchised communities will affect how some fans vote in their local midterm elections. She's also doing a service to women by highlighting policy like the Violence Against Women Act. But, unlike the Dixie Chicks who risked their privilege as white, conservative faves to show true allyship during a contentious time in the country, Swift's untimely statements leave some of us with one question: What's the cost of speaking out when you have so little to lose?