Days before the release of her latest album, reputation, Taylor Swift’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to the author of an article that explicitly compared Swift to Adolf Hitler. While Swift’s attorneys claimed the article was defamatory, the ACLU sided with the writer, Meghan Herning, citing her constitutional right to free speech in its defense. Although the piece drew unsubstantiated conclusions regarding Swift’s undisclosed political affiliations, the article falls within the traditional confines of the First Amendment.
Published by the blog PopFront, Herning discussed Swift’s lack of public political advocacy: “So Taylor’s [political] silence is not innocent, it is calculated. And if that is not true, she needs to state her beliefs out loud for the world—no matter what fan base she might lose, because in America 2017, silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.”
However, with this assertion in mind, one cannot help but recognize that, just as Herning has the right to voice her opinion, Swift has the right to keep her beliefs to herself. Assuming the she or any celebrity owes the public insight into their private life or political preferences seems ludicrous. Being in the public eye comes with an innate level of transparency, but to expect such famous artists to forego any semblance of privacy simply isn’t fair to those whose professional success comes with constant scrutiny.
Ever since the 2016 presidential election, feminists have repeatedly called upon Swift to use her platform and denounce Donald Trump, as her influence could easily sway her widespread audience. Like Herning, critics constantly attempt to bully the platinum pop sensation into making a statement by claiming that silence signals support for the oppressor, but said threats have yet to shake Swift’s resolve.
Why should Swift feel obligated to speak out if she doesn’t wish to align herself with one side of the debate or the other? You wouldn’t approach complete strangers on the street and demand that they reveal their political affiliations. Why should celebrities be expected to do just that?
It’s not hard to understand why someone such as Swift might opt to remain neutral during this time of upheaval. While critics assume her reasons are selfish—that she doesn’t want to alienate her fan base for fear of reduced album and ticket sales—it’s more likely that Swift has purposely refrained from expressing her personal opinions for her fans’ benefit, not hers.
Thanks to today’s tumultuous political climate, even the entertainment industry, an industry many turn to as an escape, provides constant commentary on matters pertaining to the government. By staying on the outskirts of such debates, however, Swift continues to provide her fans with the very sanctuary they seek. Fans openly acknowledge how Swift’s music helps them cope with life’s struggles. If she were to allow her beliefs to infiltrate this refuge, those who turn to her tunes for solace and joy will have lost their one safe space.
Claiming celebrities owe fans insight into their belief system sounds reminiscent of those men who believe women owe them sex for buying them dinner. These matters aren’t transactional. There’s no fine print. Stars don’t even owe fans the pleasure of their talents. Just as everyone deserves to be heard, these individuals have the right to be left alone. Don’t call them; they’ll call you.
(This post originally appeared on Storia.)