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Sam Smith: Let's call the uproar what it is. Thinly veiled transphobia and fatphobia

Sam Smith: Let's call the uproar what it is. Thinly veiled transphobia and fatphobia

Matilda Davies
Matilda Davies
TL;DR: The music video for Sam Smith’s new single ‘I’m Not Here To Make Friends’ incited outrage, celebration, criticism, and applause. It also started a vital conversation.

Sam Smith dropped their fourth studio album Gloria last week, and it's already tipped to hit number one in the charts - Billboard

But the conversation in the media wasn’t about the music - it was focused on the official video for ‘I'm Not Here To Make Friends’.

Sam Smith's video caused furore: What happened?

The video - which showcased the artist’s new burlesque-inspired style - faced a backlash online.

Right-wing media outlets like The Spectator and The Telegraph disparaged and misgendered Smith because of the video’s raunchy dancing and revealing outfits.

On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, former GB News presenter and UKIP MP Alex Phillips likened the video to porn, calling it “a symptom” of the “swipe left, swipe right generation” that in their words causes failed relationships and sexual assaults - The Independent

QueerAF alum Shivani Dave retorted, highlighting the intrinsic link between sexual expression and pop music.

They concluded: “The difference is that Sam Smith was assigned male at birth.” - Good Morning Britain

It also sparked a conversation about age restrictions on online content and whether the video was appropriate for children to watch - LBC

After days of online discourse, Smith appeared to address the issue in a tweet that simply said: “Never too much” - Paper

Backlash to 'I'm Not Here To Make Friends': Analysis

It was the video that launched a thousand think pieces.

Most drew attention to a clear double standard: Smith’s video was no more provocative or revealing than other pop stars’ videos, but the backlash was far greater because they are not straight or thin.

Harry Styles is praised for gender-bending fashion. Britney Spears, Beyonce and Shakira all have equally sexually explicit videos.

But Smith’s intersectionality makes them a target for insidious yet common forms of abuse: homophobia, transphobia, and fatphobia.

The conversation is “bigotry dressed up as debate”, as one writer put it - New Statesman

Jameela Jamil pointed out: “People were OK with Sam Smith having curves when they were singing about being sad and lonely. But happy, confident and thriving Sam Smith is sending people over the edge.” - Stylist

Sam Smith is an incredible role model. They have battled with body dysmorphia, been on a journey to find their identity and accept themself, and are now finally glorying in how fabulous they are.

Smith’s video is no different from decades of sexy pop videos. Let’s call the uproar what it is: thinly veiled transphobia and fatphobia.

Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay queer disabled - A note from me:

Sometimes the mainstream media's disdain for trans lives is pretty transparent.

We're transparent too. Transparent in our commitment to bringing you the truth about what's happening for LGBTQIA+ people in this country. Transparent in our work to support LGBTQIA+ people to tell their own stories - like with our Queer Gaze scheme.

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