Why Are We Still Fazed By Men In Dresses? : The Harry Styles’ Vogue Cover Controversy
The young and handsome 26-year-old singer Harry Styles appeared on Vogue’s December cover wearing a flowy white Gucci dress and blowing up a pastel blue balloon, which was nothing out of the ordinary for the eccentric artist, yet it caused quite a bit of controversy. Why is it that we are still bothered by men wearing dresses in the 21st century?
The concept of men wearing dresses has been around practically since people started wearing clothes. Think of the Ancient Greeks and Romans who were known for their long, woolen garments. Even infants wore dresses back in the 16th century and nobody had associated it with gender! So why do we do it now? Why do we perceive dresses and skirts as a “girls only” garment? Especially since we are so lenient with women wearing pants. They have been scolded for wearing them before (in 1930’s women could be fined or taken to jail for wearing pants in inappropriate circumstances), but we have left that kind of behavior in the past where it belongs. So why can’t we do the same for men?
Well, one of the most predominant answers could be found in toxic masculinity, which is the term describing a forced adherence to a set of gender roles, expectations and behaviors men are expected to embody, such as: strength, assertiveness, athleticism, competitiveness, aggressiveness, lack of fine feelings etc. When men are anything other than what society deems appropriate, their masculinity becomes threatened; they are seen as lesser, emasculated, weak, unworthy. When women behave in a more traditionally masculine way, they are perceived as being “edgy”, “fashion-forward”, “rebellious” and even “cute” sometimes. Certainly, presenting differently than what is expected of their gender opens a whole new avenue of criticism, but their appearance is generally more accepted. Men are the ones who unchangeably shock even the youngest followers, not necessarily in a negative way, but because male femininity is not a daily occurrence.
Society has definitely made terrific progress with celebrities such as Billy Porter, Jaden Smith, Jonathan Van Ness all wearing dresses at some point in their careers. We are also seeing plenty of men wearing makeup, painting their nails and wearing high heels. Still, it is more common for homosexual men to present themselves more freely, as they are the ones who are expected to be feminine anyway. Heterosexual men are a bit more reluctant due to societal pressures. It seems that only the most confident and perhaps high-fashion men are interested in experimenting with their fashion choices, one of whom is the icon himself, Harry Styles.
It has only been a few days and Harry has already been under fire by several conservatives. Candice Owens, a conservative author, who said: “There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. In the west, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that Marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.”
However, what Mrs. Owens has failed to realize is the fact that being a man has nothing to do with the way one presents, but more so with how he acts, cares for others and himself, his generosity and kind heart, none of which can judged based on physical appearance.
Thankfully, Harry was not threatened by Owens’ discriminatory tweet and decided to “fight” back by posting a picture of him in a powder blue suit, looking to the side and eating a banana on his Instagram with a caption: “Bring back manly men.”, clearly mocking Owens’ tweet.
Who knows towards direction this event will lead, but it seems as thought we are moving towards a more progressive and accepting society, giving there are far more supporters of male femininity than there are critics. And with people like Harry, who never fall into the pressures of conforming to societal standards, but instead choose to stand up for themselves and speak their authentic truth, I would say we are on the right path. Bravo Harry!
Sources: “Men Should Wear Dresses 👗” -
“Is Masculinity Actually…Toxic? | Feminism 101”-
“Harry Styles’ Dress On The Cover Of Vogue Is A Sign Of The Times”