- Taylor Swift fans have been exhibiting obsessive behavior, camping outside her home and studio.
- Swifties have previously been known to harass queer fans and music critics in their idol’s name.
- Phoebe Bridgers has criticized her own fans for overstepping. Swift should feel free to do the same.
Taylor Swift’s fans are renowned for their loyalty and dedication.
Known colloquially as “Swifties,” they sell out stadiums in minutes; spend weeks creating intricate outfits that pay tribute to her albums; comb through her lyrics to find Easter eggs and secret messages.
The backlash was so loud and so fervent that the Department of Justice launched an antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster’s parent company. The power of Swifties became clearer than ever.
Indeed, the sheer passion of Swift’s fans has helped make her the biggest pop star in the world — but that doesn’t grant them absolute access to her life and personal space.
Recently, Swift obsessives have been exhibiting overzealous — and frankly concerning — behavior. Videos have circulated online that show swarms of people camping outside her home in New York City and Electric Lady Studios, where she’s been spotted working in between tour dates. Other clips show fans chasing her car down the street.
It’s one thing to wait for hours in the pouring rain to watch Swift deliver a spectacular concert. That’s her job. It’s another, more sinister thing to wait for hours on the sidewalk, just to film her car entering her home garage. That’s her life.
Swift has been candid about fending off stalkers throughout her career, making this behavior particularly egregious for anyone who claims to care about her well-being.
“My fear of violence has continued into my personal life,” she wrote for Elle in 2019. “I carry QuikClot army-grade bandage dressing, which is for gunshot or stab wounds. Websites and tabloids have taken it upon themselves to post every home address I’ve ever had online. You get enough stalkers trying to break into your house and you kind of start prepping for bad things.”
This is not to say that Swift’s most fervent fans are all stalkers, but it’s easy to see how this behavior could be triggering for someone who’s been stalked. And as Swift said in her “Miss Americana” documentary in 2020, “There’s a difference between ‘I really connect with your lyrics’ and ‘I’m going to break in.'” Some Swifties clearly need to be reminded of where that line is.
This is also not the first time Swifties have overstepped. Some fans have been known to harass members of the LGBTQ community for analyzing Swift’s songs through a queer lens. Others have sent insults and death threats to music critics for less-than-glowing reviews of Swift’s music.
Of course, this behavior isn’t unique to Swifties. But Swift’s lack of admonition is uniquely strange. She has marketed herself as someone who’s not afraid to speak up to defend her values, someone who has explicitly condemned homophobes and bullies in her music.
Swift has also said she’s proud of her affectionate relationship with fans. She has invited Swifties to her Nashville home for album listening parties; sent personalized notes to celebrate milestones; donated money for college tuitions; protected concertgoers from aggressive security guards.
Unfortunately, a healthy relationship cannot be sustained with affection alone, be it interpersonal or parasocial.
At the risk of sounding like a wannabe therapist, constructive feedback is essential for growth — and when someone you love disrespects your boundaries, it’s not constructive to say silent.
This is something that Phoebe Bridgers, Swift’s friend and collaborator, knows all too well.
Although Bridgers experiences fame on a vastly different level than Swift, she has also been subjected to abuse and entitlement at the hands of “people with my picture as their Twitter picture.”
In a March interview with Them, Bridgers said she was “bullied” in the midst of a speculative frenzy about her dating life — while she was on the way to her father’s funeral.
“I’ve had people take more than I’m giving, and I’m giving a lot,” Bridgers recently told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m pretty fucking transparent, because I would value that in someone whose music I liked when I was a kid. Seeing any representation of any feeling and anything true was awesome to me. To be punished for that is so dark.”
“There’s a higher chance that you’ll meet a fan that you hate than a fan that you love,” she added. “You’re way more likely to be confronted with someone who just violated your privacy.”
If these quotes rub you the wrong way, you may be the problem.
Connecting to a person’s music does not give you the right to violate her privacy, and Bridgers isn’t afraid to draw that line. I wish more musicians would follow suit.
Ahead of Bridgers’ final performance at the Eras Tour on Sunday, I hope Swift is able to absorb some of her bravery and wisdom. It’s OK to criticize people for bad behavior — and the fans who stick around are the ones worth keeping.