Is Taylor Swift’s New Anti-Bullying Video Simply “Gay-washing” For Pink Dollars?

Standing up for homos is becoming the cool thing to do. Taylor Swift champions this move gay-ward with a scene from her new video Mean. In it, she shows a Chris Colfer lookalike getting harassed by an entire football team and sings, “You, pickin’ on the weaker man… / Someday, I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me / And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.” It’s a catchy song and a great message, but is she emblematic of a larger trend where companies and artists voice support for queers, but stop short offering anything other than talk?

Don’t misunderstand us: We’re using Ms. Swift simply as a jumping off point for this discussion. In all likelihood, Ms. Swift may have simply recognized her gay fans and the need for anti-bullying outreach and included the GLEE-esque scene in her video because it’s a worthwhile thing to do. But it’s naive to think that every company purporting to support gay equality does so without some hope of financial gain. It’s undeniably great that companies now acknowledge queer customers instead of ignoring or insulting them in fear of boycott, but that doesn’t mean each business claiming to support gay rights actually does.

Take Target for instance. They claim to support LGBT consumers even though they prohibit LGBT bloggers from covering their events, sue gay marriage organizations for canvassing in front of their stores, failed in their short-loved plan to fund pro-gay groups via Lady Gaga sales, and haven’t changed their corporate giving policies in regards to funding anti-gay candidates.

Target’s horribly bungled PR represents an extreme case, but the HRC still initially gave them a 100% corporate equality index rating leading LGBTs to think spending their money there would help further queer-friendly business when they were apparently mislead. But also consider Nicki Minaj’s recent lyric about homos being “soft” or Britney Spears’ decision to play one of her concerts in The Castro. Ms. Minaj disavows homophobia by saying that rappers who using anti-gay slurs are just playing characters, Ms. Spears has twittered in support of gay rights but how much have they or other “gay friendly” artists actually done to help make acceptance a socio-political reality.

When you consider how many companies have made “It Gets Better” videos and how many artists and athletes will continue to come out in support of gay rights, it’s important to welcome their support but to also keep an eye on what concrete things they do to promote gay-rights. They might just be trying to gain gay bucks as opposed to offering anything other than speech.

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  • Matt

    Gays need to get a grip.

    Target is a COMPANY with equal rights for their LGTB employees. ALL companies look after their interest first, as it should be – gays need good working places too.

    Silly gays have no problem when Lady Gaga uses them to get cheap publicity and make money, they continue to kiss her phony ass – why shouldn’t they do the same for Taylor Swift?

  • dellisonly

    Managed to get through thirty seconds of the video. A) That is not how you play a banjo, Ms Swift. B) While I appreciate support from the hetero’s not when it comes like this.

    Breaking down the hate means embracing what makes us the same not pointing out the differences between stereotypes. Giant FAIL.

  • James

    This piece is great. Pop cultural pandering that turns queer folks and queer issues into commodities are not symbols of progression and demonstrative of the illusion that media representation automatically equals political power!

    It’s just like 50 Cent’s recently made comments about how being anti-gay is bad for business (, don’t let the media placate you and turn you into products merely bought and sold and distracted from social and political disenfranchisement!

  • Sceth

    Capital is the only reason why people matter – look at all those charities that struggle. They cater to people who don’t matter. The most effective African initiatives, for example, are the ones rooted in cultivating economic value, and make people worth something. If the gays matter to The Market then they matter everywhere, and this is as good a sign as it gets.

  • Red Meat

    Its the music industry, every other employee is gay.

  • Loz11

    You do realise you are stereotyping a boy who reads a fashion magazine as gay, right ? There is nothing there to say he is gay.Just because he is interested in fashion instead of soccor does not make him gay. And just because Target, who works closely with Taylor, don’t support gays doesn’t mean Taylor is the same, heck, she is friends with Ellen and constantly appearing on her shows. Shame on you for stereotyping, and shame on you for being mean. Just saying!

  • Mike in Asheville

    Big surprise?!

    Companies are in the business of making money…but making money and being supportive of gay/lesbian issues are not mutually exclusive.

    The more exposure of gays, lesbians, bi’s, trans issues the better. Right now we are experiencing an almost snowball effect with the growing support among the general public. Just 5 years ago, national support for same-sex marriage was in the mid-30s%; now its over 50%.

    Thanks to all who make a difference, even if making some money for making that difference.

  • scott ny'er

    good video. I like. It makes an otherwise meh song into something more powerful. I’m digging it.

  • Palms

    Wake me up when she comes out against bearding.

  • Shannon1981

    I don’t know what her motives are. I hate her music and pay little attention to her. As far as the anti bullying vid goes…don’t like the stereotyping. Not every gay man is a nelly queen and not ever lesbian works on cars and whatnot. I get so sick of that. The second I tell someone I’m gay, they start asking about cars. WTF? I don’t know a thing about cars, but they should be pleasantly relieved that I hate cooking and cleaning as well.

  • Daez

    TS kicks ass. You all stuck on LGs titties. She doesn’t give a damn about you either other than selling her Madonna rip off crap while looking like an idiot.

    So, go and bash Taylor, but at least she hasn’t tried to make her fortune on the backs of gays that she gives a rip about.

  • rusk

    @Shannon1981: and this homo subscribes to Vogue, Car & Driver, Motor Trend, and Popular Science!!

  • Shannon1981

    @rusk: I am a genderqueer female bodied human who loves female bodied humans. I am not girly or domestic, but I am hardly a man LOL. And I hate car work and dirt as far as things like that go. people are so into stereotypes they can’t see that few of us fit into either category. BTW, I love Vogue. And celeb trash sites. and Men’s health. So…go figure.

  • Shannon1981

    And Daniel, Matt, and others…not to plug here. I love this place much too much to do that. But,folks, if u click my name…I run a blog DEVOTED to stopping the bullying. I was outed and 14 and bullied by family and so called friends alike into 6 suicide attempts.

    Sorry, but something has to be done. I applaud anyone, regardless of motive…but I gotta wonder about Taylor Swift. She suddenly is a Get Equal type? Not buying it.

    Nonetheless, thanks Taylor for the vid. Get some education and get to know some real gay people though, before you make any more videos. We aren’t all like the people on Queer as Folk, the L Word,etc.

  • MP

    Um, she didn’t say the word ‘gay’ or say why he was being picked on. So, it is you who is stereotyping! It’s not her fault that is how you interpreted it…

  • Shannon1981

    @MP: She didn’t need to say it. She used stereotypes to get a point across. Sorry…but…an effeminate man getting picked on by sports types in this society = GAY.

  • [email protected]

    So what if she used an effeminate man as an example? It’s just as abhorrent to pick on people for atypical gender expression as it is to pick on people for being gay.

  • josh

    How can people act like Lady Gaga doesn’t do anything for gays? She actually did political activism for the repeal of DADT and got many of her fans to do the same.

    She also donates money to homeless shelters for LGBT youth.

    Heck, just being a big star who encourages love and support for gays goes a long way in changing cultural attitudes.

    Taylor Swift doing this is also important because a lot of her fans are right wing rural people.

  • Vevar

    OMG FUCKING GOD!!!!!!! u queens need to fucking open your eyes!!!!! we’re getting support who cares if it’s half assed… she is exposing gays .. yes i know it’s a stereotype but it is representative of a lot of gays (not all yes i know) !!!! and gaga has done a lot for the LGBT community… she quit her deal with target because she didn’t like that they supported anti- gay organization … bet u didn’t know that…. she was active in the rally for DADT and she constantly donates to homeless LGBT charities … BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW THAT

  • Shannon1981

    @Vevar: I know about GaGa’s pro gay activities, and, when she pulled her deal, got arrested right here in podunk SC for protesting for marriage equality outside target, along with the 5 other protesters who didn’t get scared and bail when the manager came out and told us to leave because we were harassing their ‘guests.’ Every little bit helps, regardless of motives. Gladly spent 2 nights in jail for our rights.

  • Eric

    @Matt: First off Lady gaga was courting and loving gays before she got famous. Just as Cyndi Lauper and Madonna did before her. Taylor Swift is a talentless thin skinned skank who is totally trying to get gay fans by this pink wash. She should be thanking Kanye West for the rest of the talentless career she has left. Carrie Underwood is a country singer Taylor is nasal sounding trash.

  • Eric

    @Daez: Yes she is trying to make money off gays and no one likes her. She’s a talentless skank. I don’t care what she does and I’m tired of hearing about her.

  • Armand

    When will the LGBT community stop selling themselves to artists to be used? Why must we always be portrayed as the victims?

    I ask these questions because I’m tired of these “musicians” who scream and shout rights for us gahyz but do nothing to alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. For example, homosexuals’ maltreatment in Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran.

    For what it’s worth I like listening to Taylor Swift while chugging a bottle of expensive mineral water and some Prozac.

  • GreatGatsby2011

    I personally don’t care what a person’s motives are for helping the gay community (except for the double agent, working for the enemy, espionage kind of motive, that’s not cool). But if a person has ulterior motives unrelated to the gay community (i.e. getting richer), it’s fine by me. That’s just capitolism, after all. The way I think of it is this. People (especially young people) soak up media like a sponge and, these days, media is being blasted at them almost every waking hour of the day (I’m waiting for the day someone figures out how to advertise in your dreams, then I’ll get to hear about the benefits Gold Bond Medicated Foot Powder while I sleep.). So, with all this media being thrown at them I’d much rather them hear messages that being gay (even a stereotypical gay) is okay as opposed to the gay slurs and intolerance which some media outlets enjoy using (probably because these messages make more money in other demographics. Money, she make-a da world go round!).

    I choose to hope that these celebrities are supporting the gay community because they believe in what we stand for and want to help. But if any of them are using us to make a quick buck and incidentally get a message out that homosexuality isn’t this dark scary thing lurking in the alleys… (shrug). No big. I can only hope that, through using us and interacting with our community, they may learn something that, if the tide of public opinion turns from our cause, will cause them to turn down that offer to make a video for the National Organization for Marriage, even though they offer a lot of money.

    Some people may think that naive but…. (shrug).

  • Kev C

    She should write a song disparaging faggots. Then get Elton John’s seal of approval so she’d be accepted by gays and straights as genuine, win a Grammy, maybe even get invited to the Whitehouse.

  • 12345deviant

    @Vevar: You’re right, no matter the intention of the support,we desperately need it to gain equality. Every little bit can go a long way.

  • Matthew Rettenmund

    @Kev C: I agree…there is no comparison between sniffing at a widely recognized public figure who’s saying something positive about gay people (which IS doing something; all it takes to have some impact is voicing support when you’re a public figure of her stature) and questioning a company’s back-handed support vs. its very real attacks.

    Every time an artist speaks positively about gay issues or incorporates them into her (invariably, it’s a her), too many in the gay community look down their nose at it. “That’s pandering!” Pandering??? It’s not pandering, it’s giving us what we want and what most of us aren’t too full of ourselves to realize that we, as a group, still need.

  • jason

    What you need to remember is that, at the marketing level, the music industry is EXTREMELY homophobic towards the concept of male-male sexuality. I can’t emphasize enough the word EXTREMELY. In fact, this particular type of homophobia in the music business is on a par with that which characterizes the Religious Right.

    Don’t fall for the notion that music is open-minded. At the marketing level, I do not know of one commercially successful openly gay or bi male below 50 years of age who is allowed to promote himself as such. When I say “commercially successful”, I mean as in having top 5 singles and albums.

    Interestingly, females in the music biz are allowed to sing songs like “I Kissed A Girl” and suddenly every liberal in the media is fawning over them. If a man did it, these same liberals would be shocked or not interested.

    It’s a illustration of why liberals have failed us. It’s also an illustration of why gay people need to abandon liberalism.

  • jason

    I’ll just add that I see the music industry as having developed the same double standard as the porn industry, for instance. In porn, women are encouraged to say they’re bisexual. Men usually aren’t. In the music business, same thing: female singers who say they are bisexual are glamorized, men who say they are bisexual are usually shunned or kept in the background.

    There has never been a male Madonna, for instance. Madonna used female bisexuality to market herself all those years ago. Years have gone by and still no male version.

    See the double standard? It’s a double standard based on homophobia which women themselves exploit in the same way they exploit the clothing double standard.

  • Cam

    @Matt: said…

    “Gays need to get a grip.

    Target is a COMPANY with equal rights for their LGTB employees. ALL companies look after their interest first, as it should be – gays need good working places too.”

    Ahhhhh, the phony Target Troll.

    Give it a rest, Target can have all the workplace policies it wants, but when their donations end up in the hands of politicians that are not only against gay rights, but are tied to groups that actively think gays should be arrested and killed, your defending them on here is beyong bigotry.

    If a friend helps me rake the leaves in my backyard, but then steals my checkbook and house key and robs me when I’m out of town, am I supposed to NOT be mad at them because they helped me rake leaves? (Eye Roll)

  • McMike

    I don’t know what’s more pathetic, Queerty once again bitching about someone it should be praising or some closet case troll who is too dense to realize if he’s the first one to make a posting then his obsession with gay sex is just too apparent. btw, I’ve just gained a huge amount of respect for Taylor Swift but it’s complete bullshite some in the LGBT community want to attack her for her $$$ making instead of thanking her for discussing the issue.

  • Michael

    um…what’s with the “chris colfer lookalike” comment? he looks NOTHING like chris colfer. just because he’s wearing a totally fabulous outfit doesn’t mean he looks like the totally fabulous kurt hummel. talk about gay-baiting. calling two people lookalikes when they don’t just because they’re both gay, or perceived as gay, is just as bad as so-called “gay-washing.”

    check yourselves, guys.

  • alan brickman

    Doing it for the dollars…..just like Ryan Price and Andy Cohen…

  • chrissie riot

    So here’s the thing that I don’t like about the song, politicking and money potential aside:

    I hate the idea that you shouldn’t bully me because some day I’m going to be bigger/smarter/richer/more famous than you. That’s incorrect. You shouldn’t bully me because I’m a human, just as flawed and fabulous as you are.

    What happens if the potentially queer boy in a small town never makes it to a big city to be a fashion designer? Or the nerdy girl never makes it to college or the girl in the blue never gets to Broadway (I’m assuming that she represents TS)? Does that mean they’re losers and still deserve to be bullied?

    I call bullshit.

  • Freddie

    Why all this cynicism?? Why do we constantly have to be bitter and look a gift horse in the mouth? Let’s just appreciate when something nice is done for fuck’s sake. I think it’s fantastic what Taylor’s doing, especially considering that her fans aren’t just 14-year old pop lovers but actually include country fans as well. Sending this kind of message to them can only be a good thing. Calm down, guys, and change your tampons.

  • chrissie riot

    @Freddie: way to equate womanhood with crankiness.

  • Freddie

    @chrissie riot: way to miss the point i was trying to make.

  • Brad

    As someone who is often skeptical of people jumping on the lastest cause bandwagon, I wondered if this was the case with Swift’s video… after a little research, I feel pretty assured this isn’t the case at all. Apparently, the song wasn’t written to specifically speak out against gay bullying, or even teen bullying at all, but was written about a music critic and former supporter who starting bashing the singer on a regular and somewhat unfair basis (not just musical ability, but lyrics, looks, etc.) – the song, she said, was something that she felt her fans, many of whom are teens could relate too, but isn’t specifically about the epidemic of teen or gay bullying, but seems more to be a ‘stay strong’ anthem for all. If the only person featured in the video had been the ‘gay’ teen (kind of a leap by viewers, in my opinion; though he could be gay Swift could have just been making a point about jocks picking on a guy with not traditionally masculine interests), I might feel like this was more of a gimmic, but she also features a working girl picked on by classmates, an even younger girl with no one to sit with at lunch and even herself, sitting tied up on train tracks by her critics. So while I’m not necessarily a great fan of hers, I’m relieved to find there’s more substance to the song than making ‘pink dollars’ for Swift, and that she uses some of her star power to shine on the weaker man, be it a fashion interested boy or hardworking, college saving girl.

  • Anya

    @Brad: so glad to hear someone actually looked into this cause i really love taylor and her new take on country music. proud of the fact that she doesn’t just write songs for our ‘pink bucks’ but also actually cares about people that others ignore, including but not limited to gays. we love you tay!

  • joey

    Considering the fact that Taylor swift is still a country music artist and large fan bases of country music are mostly homophobic , i think taylor swift did a brave thing.

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