Image: Paolo Villanueva / Wikimedia Commons

From a Love Story to Bad Blood: for her sake and ours, it is time Taylor Swift is held accountable.

Allow me to preface this with a subtle disclaimer. I am a big fan of Taylor Swift’s music. From the coming-of-age fusion of country and pop music in Speak Now, to the effortlessly iconic 1989, and the masterfully introspective folklore, Swift has provided the soundtrack to some of the most important moments in my life, and I will always be thankful to her for that.

Misogynistic criticism

Swift has often found herself the target of many people online (I mean, she did write the entire Reputation album about it), but the criticism seems to have ramped up in recent weeks. A significant amount of the hate that Swift receives, I believe, is deeply rooted in society’s misogynistic views of a successful woman. For example, her highly publicised relationship with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs has led to baseless and sexist accusations that the NFL is somehow ‘rigged’ to allow the Chiefs to win the Superbowl.

Whilst a lot of the criticism that Swift receives is pointless and misogynistic, this should not excuse her from accountability

More than that, there has been a large amount of online hate with broadcasters talking about and publicising Swift’s attendance at the Chief’s games. I do not doubt in my mind that this hate would not be nearly as significant if a male celebrity was attending a game. Don’t believe me? Eminem attended the playoff game between the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers and was pictured holding up two middle fingers to the 49er’s fans following their victory over his beloved team. Surely, he was criticised and forced to apologise? Of course not, because it is just a game, and even celebrities are allowed to show passion for their team. However, when Swift was seen chest-bumping her friends after Kelce scored a touchdown against the Chicago Bears, she was subjected to a litany of hate and abuse online.

The queen of carbon

Whilst a lot of the criticism that Swift receives is pointless and misogynistic, this should not excuse her from accountability. Much recent scrutiny has focused on her excessive carbon emissions due to the use of her two private jets, which are often used to fulfil the obligations of her Eras Tour and to see Kelce play in the NFL. Swift was the highest polluting celebrity of 2022 (emitting 8,293 tonnes of CO2, over 1,180 times the average person’s annual emissions), and evidence suggests that she is near the top of the 2023 list as well.

Whatever you may think of her music, it is undeniable that she can enact real change

Now, Swift has not publicly addressed her emissions or jet usage, but it was recently revealed that she has sold one of her jets in an effort to curb her carbon footprint. A spokesperson has also revealed that Swift also purchases carbon credits in a bid to neutralise the emissions of her Eras Tour. However, the sale of her jet was marred by the fact that she had taken legal action against a college student who tracked her jet usage and published the flight records to X. In addition to this, the efficacy of carbon credits in actually offsetting emissions has long been debated, with recent findings revealing that 78% of projects that use these credits could be ‘largely categorised as junk’.

From a PR perspective, it generally doesn’t look good when a billionaire is threatening to sue a college student just because he uses publicly available Federal Aviation Administration data to track one’s flights. Swift is one of the most influential celebrities in the world and has previously used her platform to compel fans to register to vote, with registering a record 35,000 new registrations following an Instagram post from the singer.

Her global outreach and visibility are unprecedented, and whatever you may think of her music, it is undeniable that she can enact real change. If Swift were to publicly address her emissions and pledge her genuine support for carbon-reduction programmes, it would be a safe bet to assume that many ‘Swifties’ would work to reduce their carbon emissions as well.

Swift’s influence is so great that her inaction on a variety of issues is perceived as action

However, Swift isn’t the only one using a private jet, yet seems to receive the most criticism. I think there is a growing consensus that it is ‘fashionable’ to criticise Swift due to her fame and popularity, and whilst I genuinely believe that she should be held accountable, I would like to see the same energy towards celebrities such as Kylie Jenner (who once took a 12-minute flight on her jet that would have taken her 39 minutes by road), Jay-Z, Kim Kardashian, Drake, and Floyd Mayweather, who all also emerge near the top of the biggest celebrity emitters.

A way forward?

Whilst Swift is not the only celebrity using a private jet, we should not become complacent in our critiques of her actions. It is crucial that Swift and indeed, all celebrities, are not viewed as golden and untouchable. In the words of Charles Dickens in his cautionary tale about the evils of wealth and greed A Christmas Carol they are ‘fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys’.

Swift’s influence is so great that her inaction on a variety of issues is perceived as action. Her silence on issues such as her emissions and the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Gaza is louder than any jet engine. She may see a dip in her profits if she were to stop using private jets to travel to shows, or were to call out the Israeli regime, but, in the context of her estimated $1.1 billion net worth, surely this is worth it in the long run?

The reason why I, and so many people like me, are drawn to Swift is not because she uses a cool plane to travel around in, it’s because of her undeniable talent as a songwriter. Holding her accountable for her silence on these important issues will not impede her ability to write and produce songs. It seems cliché to say, but if you were to remove all the glitz and glamour from her lifestyle, she could still write great music. It is surely not too much for us to expect that a singer with a well-renowned reputation for being a feminist and socially progressive could take action that benefits both the planet, and some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Her profits may take a hit, that is true. But you can’t take your money with you. It is your legacy as a good person that really matters in the long-run. I believe that, for her sake and ours, Swift needs to be doing more.

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