Queerphobia & Fatphobia: The Reality for Artists in the Music Industry’s Queer Space

WRITTEN BY Caoimhe Mahon

September 22, 2023

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Queerphobia & Fatphobia: The Reality for Artists in the Music Industry’s Queer Space

by | Sep 22, 2023 | Arts & Culture

Caoimhe Mahon

22 Sep, 2023

Troye Sivan’s new single ‘Rush’ has become one of my favorite summer anthems with its upbeat rhythm and striking visuals. The lyrics partnered with the music video come together to create a sexy, fun and liberating piece of musical queer art.

From the inception of the music video there is no mistaking the meaning behind this song as an exposed rear is slapped in an erotically playful manner as if to introduce the ‘unapologetic’ lyrics of Troye Sivan that follow.
Beautiful, chiseled individuals dance, their bodies melting together during intimate exchanges throughout the entirety of the music video. Thus placing this musical number firmly in the mix of excellent queer music released in recent months.
In fact, many fans took to social media to express their admiration for Sivan’s new single describing it as an “effortlessly cool queer video,” which people were “obsessed” with. The popularity continued on TikTok with many posting videos of themselves copying the original choreography.

Sivan has created a sweaty and provocative platform for queerness through this single. The concrete setting, sportswear, beers and clips of wrestling men depict queerness through a lens contextualized by normative forms of masculinity thus showing how the two can not only co-exist but integrate.
However, amidst the praise for the single alongside the adoration for Sivan both controversy and condemnation still make themselves heard. The video has been scrutinized with many commenting on the lack of body diversity and representation in the video. One TikTok user posted on their account stating that the video displayed a “complete and utter lack of body representation” which was “actually disgusting.” They went on to say how they felt that the singer (Sivan) could have done better when it came to the content he was releasing out in the world.

The debate has opened up the discussion of ‘twink’ culture in the music industry and poses a number of questions around equality and inclusivity for those who lie outside a specific societal norm or expectation.
Sivan is not the only queer singer whose work has made headlines after stirring up mixed emotions.

Throughout the course of this year singer Sam Smith has come under the spotlight after openly reclaiming their sexuality and empowering themselves through fashion and music.
Much of the controversy around Sam Smith came after the release of the single “Unholy’, which featured German singer Kim Petras, and intensified after the pair performed at the 2023 Grammy Awards in February of this year.
The singer and their performance seemingly, from this point, began to engulf the headlines of both mainstream and social media with many deeming the performance as being “satanic.”Whilst many conversations centered around ‘demonic’ themes they were only the starting point for the verbal abuse that was unleashed toward the singer.
Aside from those deeming the performance as indicative of ‘devil worship’ came those who condemned the seemingly new found sexual liberation of Smith. This too has only intensified in recent months particularly following the images that were released after Smith shot for the cover of Perfect Magazine.

The comments that surfaced around the cover shoot images were clearly both queerphobic and fatphobic, rejecting everything the singer tried to promote in their new single ‘I’m not here to make friends’ a song about self-confidence, self-love and a celebration of queerness. The joyous music video, created to accompany the single, shows Smith disembarking a helicopter in a lavish pink gown before dancing in a corset, diamanté gloves and nipple tassels.

The upbeat, dance single is a departure from previous music released from the singer, which often were more ballad-like in form and concentrated around themes of painful love and loss. The juxtaposition of the two genres appear to have stirred up emotions in audiences with some viewing the singer’s reclaim of their sexuality rather as being a ‘nasty’ consequence of fame.

Compare this situation to that of ‘Rush’ singer Troye Sivan and a number of comparisons and contrasts can be made. When straight, slender female singers dance around in their underwear and grind against heterosexual males who are also slim and muscular in appearance there seems to be more of an acceptance when things are portrayed within a heteronormative context. (Of course, there have been issues centering this theme too and its relationship with feminism). However, when the same act is portrayed, this time through a queer lens, issues tend to arise as indicated thus far for both Troye and Smith suggestive of societal queerphobia.
In terms of body image, yes, there is a lack of representation of varied body images in Sivan’s video, which should be acknowledged and considered as of course, inclusivity and representation is vital if society is to progress forward.

The singer addressed the complaints in an interview where he stated, “I definitely hear the critique,” “To be honest, it just wasn’t a thought we had — we obviously weren’t saying, ‘We want to have one specific type of person in the video.’ We just made the video, and there wasn’t a ton of thought put behind that.”

However, with the music of Smith the complaints appear to be on the other end of the spectrum with clear indications of fatphobia.By comparing and contrasting the two singers the hypocrisy of some is clear. Sivan spoke of the feelings stirred up when a social media user commented, “Eat something, you stupid twinks.’

On the other hand, in relation to Smith, one social media user posted a fatphobic comment saying, “You have Sam Smith. Let Troye be for the hot gays” another went further to say that Troye produced something ‘the gays actually wanted.
Both singers have faced abuse at the hands of social media trolls but also from mainstream media alike.
However, the combined fat-phobic and queerphobic slander directed at Smith would suggest that sexiness, and a celebration of queer sexuality is accepted only if it fits a certain aesthetic mold.

Sivan and Smith alike are creating a queer space within the music industry and paving the way for queer artists to come; however, as a society we must do better. There is no room for queerphobia and/or fatphobia if society is to progress forward. The idea of an ideal, accepted image needs to be removed and hypocrisy dissolved if we are to truly absorb and appreciate the queer art of both the musicians equally without ideas of normativity creating bias to promote one exclusive agenda.

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