Stand Up and Speak Out Like Taylor Swift


If you’re up on social media at all, you have probably heard that Taylor Swift addressed an open letter to Apple execs to call them out on not paying artists, writers, and producers during the 3-month free trial Apple will be offering every user with their new service, Apple Music.

Her letter was polite and respectful but firm and clear. And it received a positive response. Apple announced that they would be changing their policy and addressing the issue she set before them.

There have been many responses to Swift’s open letter, mostly positive and praising the singer for her courage in standing up to such a powerful company. Others, not so much.

Nowadays, it seems rare to find a celebrity or person in power who will actually stand up and say something is unfair or wrong. I don’t mean ranting about something that seems unfair or complaining about something they don’t like. I mean respectfully addressing someone who is in the wrong and doing one’s best to effect actual change.

This is frustrating for the rest of us, because we don’t really have the ability or clout to effect real change or even raise awareness on an issue. It’s hard to build momentum and a movement for a subject you’re passionate about. It can happen, but it is incredibly difficult and takes actual blood, sweat, and tears.

It’s like Mia’s speech in The Princess Diaries: “[I]f I cared about the other seven billion out there, instead of just me, that’s probably a much better use of my time. See, if I were Princess of Genovia, then my thoughts and the thoughts of people smarter than me would be much better heard, and just maybe those thoughts could be turned into actions.”

Most of us are like Mia’s best friend, Lily. We have all of these things we care about, but we have such a limited audience that we can’t make a discernible impact on those issues. How amazing would it be to have a friend that could make your concerns, thoughts, and ideas heard?

Swift did that for her social circles. She certainly didn’t have to; she says it in her open letter: “This is not about me. Thankfully, I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows.” This issue does not affect her profoundly, as it does so many others. But she placed the words and concerns of others in a public forum and set herself behind those with a less well-heard voice, showing support for her fellow artists and others in her industry.

As a woman in a position of considerable power, she seems to be using her power and influence in a positive way, which seems to be severely lacking among today’s celebrities and other people of influence. This is refreshing to me because I believe many politicians and movie stars and musicians waste their ability to impact the world for good. They have this amazing potential to make a positive change in the world—even, dare I say it, a responsibility to do so. It’s wonderfully encouraging to see people like Taylor Swift stand up and make a positive impact on her industry, taking the opportunity to be a positive role model for others.

Most of Swift’s critics seem frustrated that she’s not spearheading their movement or the issues of their industry. To those people: think for a moment. What do you care about? How many issues or movements do you support or speak about? Certainly not every single one. You are a singular individual with specific tastes, passions, and interests. It is not physically possible for one person to care about and address every single issue in today’s world. Not only would that be overwhelming, nothing would ever get done because everyone’s focus would be too scattered and unfocused.

Just as we each have our passions and interests, so do celebrities and other influential people. They cannot champion every issue out there. They are people, just like the rest of us.

The other critics seem to be simply ranting about her “self-centered-ness” and her alleged belief that the world hangs on her every word. Granted, I’m only one person and I have never met her; but, the way I see it, she is exceptionally supportive of the people in her industry and genuinely cares about her fans. If you keep up with her on social media at all, you can tell that much. She regularly tweets encouragement to up-and-coming artists and friends in the industry and responds to fans on her various social media feeds. She doesn’t have to do that. She could pass that off to an assistant or just say “hey” to her fans in speeches and interviews. Instead, she’s the kind of person who sends Secret Santa gifts and invests her time and energy in other artists.

Again, I don’t know her, but she doesn’t have to do these things. She doesn’t have to spend any of her time doing these things, especially now with her mega-stardom and massive success. She seems to be paying forward all of the kindness that was shown to her when she first came on the scene.

Obviously, I don’t agree with these criticisms. And honestly, I’m starting to get fairly frustrated with the critics that tear people like her down for actually doing something, rather than just sitting back and letting other people suffer. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking that the music industry is dog-eat-dog, and most of them seem to only care about the fame. Well, those people are passionate about their music and want to make a living doing what they love. It’s a career like any other.

Just to be real for a moment, we need more people like Swift who are willing to stand up when they don’t have to, people who are willing to risk a lot to make a positive change for others. Thus, instead of tearing them down, we should build that rare breed up and make integrity and solidarity the norm.

Imagine the difference that would make on today’s media, if we had more Swifts, Emma Watsons, Malala Yousefzais, Chris Evanses, and Chris Pratts. People who do what they do because they love it and hold on to positive values. People who don’t do anything and everything to get ahead, but do their best to be a positive example. People who use their influence to attempt positive change not only in their respective fields, but also, the world.