The attack on gender expression isn’t over; Right-wing chastises Harry Styles over a dress
(@voguemagazine / Instagram)
Long-haired, androgynous Harry Styles is the first man on the cover of the US Vogue Magazine this month. And the cause is not shocking. Styles swathed in a Gucci blue ball gown and double-breasted tuxedo jacket is quite the puffy cloud and blue sky fantasy.
But, his experimentation is expected. Styles has frequently worn avant-garde fashion; he’s sported a glimmering black dress for the Guardian, floral prints and ruffles, printed satin flares, and lots of pearl necklaces and rings to go with his painted nails. His inspirations include David Bowie, Prince and Elton John - all men who adorned bold clothes. And although some say his fashion carries queer aesthetics, he said it is pure creation.
“I’m not just sprinkling in sexual ambiguity to be interesting,” he told the Guardian. “I want things to look a certain way. Not because it makes me look gay, or it makes me look straight, or it makes me look bisexual, but because I think it looks cool.”
However, Styles’ gauzy dress led to outcries from the right. Conservative radio host and Trump endorser Erick Erickson tweeted “Biden gets elected by promising a return to normal. Then the left goes all in on men in dresses.”
Erickson’s comment was among the tamer condemnations. Candace Owens, a right-wing extremist, went so far as to say Styles is not a manly man, and the feminization of men, along with the teaching of Marxism, is an attack.
Ben Shapiro, a conservative pundit, agreed and added: “Anyone who pretends that it is not a referendum on masculinity for men to don floofy dresses is treating you as a full-on idiot.”
When actor Elijah Wood, who played Frodo in the Lord of the Rings series, responded to Owens that masculinity does not make a man, she tweeted that the Lord of the Rings is one of her favorites. Ironically, the characters in the films fight in dresses and skirts. I guess her favorite characters are a menace to society, too. Sigh.
What’s funny is that the association of dresses and women is relatively new. According to Bustle, the gendered difference in trousers and skirts wasn’t formed until the 19th century. In medieval and Renaissance Europe, the tunic, or short skirt, was essential. They also were prevalent in Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Aztec military.
So, if these “traditional” norms have a short legacy, what makes them so defining? Why should men have to be limited to pants, when they can wear a flowing dress and freely express themselves?
Why would someone argue for choice and body autonomy, to not wear a mask for example, then denounce Styles’ own? The answer is beyond me, but the meaning of freedom to some people seems pretty reserved and hypocritical.
Clearly, not everyone’s for men wearing dresses. But some people just don’t care if a man wears a dress. Rights should not be confined to some old racist, sexist and homophobic case; they should be inclusive to all!
Clothes are an extension of one’s identity. Clothes have no gender!
Why can women, including Owens, wear suits but men can’t wear dresses? Once again, this seems like an affront to femininity and unsaid advocacy of patriarchy.
Femininity is not for only women, and masculinity is not an innate man trait. Both energies are within all beings, and both should be celebrated. Styles is embracing his natural femininity, something everyone is connected to whether he, she, or they.
And I say, if anything, Styles wearing a dress makes him a manly man! As the true definition of feminism, expression should be about autonomy. As long as cargo pants and T-shirts aren’t forced on a man’s body and he wants to appear masculine, great! But if a man, of any sexual orientation, dons a dress, he is powerful, too! Manliness should not be defined by a fragile and contrived guise, but rather by character. And wearing a frothy ball gown sure does require strength and courage.
With all of this being said, it’s important to also recognize that Styles is a cis white man. Imagine the furor toward a trans person of color doing the same. Western society, as Owens puts it, and the world needs change.
Hopefully, Styles in a dress is one more slip into equality and authenticity without judgment.
Katie Delk is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. Her simple pleasures include meditating, sitting beneath trees, writing poetry and blasting ’70s music. She cares immensely about the earth, powerful women and social justice. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org more info.