An extensive essay delving into the speculation about Taylor Swift’s sexuality has ignited a wave of online backlash, prompting calls for its removal. The 5,000-word guest column, featured in the opinion pages of the New York Times, posits that the viral singer may be subtly signaling her queerness to her fans despite her public identification as straight. Penned by Anna Marks, the author outlines numerous instances in which she believes Swift may have hinted at her orientation through her music and public engagements.
One of Swift’s associates, speaking anonymously, said that she hoped that the article would remind journalists of the “important ethical lines they must not cross” when reporting on sensitive aspects of a celebrity’s private life. The associate called the piece “invasive, untrue and inappropriate,” which raises questions about the Times’ standards for protecting celebrities’ privacy rights and avoiding reckless rumors.
Marks also criticized the media’s tendency to rehash stories about celebrities’ personal lives, especially those related to their dating life. She suggested that this is a form of “queer baiting,” which is used to lure LGBTQ people into watching TV or movies by teasing them with the possibility that they will see canonical queer relationships. She specifically mentioned Chely Wright, a queer country musician who has described the inner turmoil of staying closeted for years.
Several critics of the piece noted that it is not only offensive to Swift but also to the LGBTQ community, which she has supported in the past. They also noted that it feels like a salacious, gossip-fueled attempt to generate attention. Some also pointed out that the Times needed to follow its guidelines for determining what is appropriate for its editorial pages.
Other critics pointed out that the article violates Swift’s reasonable right to privacy regarding intimate details of her personal life. Even though her life plays out in her lyrics, fans understand that she values keeping some aspects of her private life off limits to speculation.
Some critics argued that the article crossed into the realm of libel. According to some, it is a serious allegation that could be grounds for legal action.
The New York Times has yet to respond publicly to the criticism of the op-ed, but its editors should note what many observers say is an overwhelming outpouring of anger and resentment.
Ultimately, its publication is the only thing more significant than the op-ed itself. The Times needs to set more clearly defined boundaries about what is acceptable when it comes to reporting on a celebrity’s private life, and it should take steps to prevent its writers from crossing those lines. This includes requiring all sources to sign off on articles before they are published. A more persistent policy on celebrity journalism is long overdue.