Vogue Magazine recently released their December 2020 issue, featuring British singer/songwriter Harry Styles. Breaking historical records, Styles is the first solo male to be on the cover of Vogue, and his photoshoot with them could not have been any more apt and powerful for the occasion.
On the cover, Styles is glammed up in an elegant dress paired with a blazer jacket. Other photos from the photoshoot feature the singer in dresses, skirts and oversized jackets in an open field with various props. His photoshoot flawlessly captured his beauty and potency in genderless fashion. Styles most definitely brought style to the public eye, as well as encouraging others to not feel restricted to the clothes, appearance or lifestyle associated with their assigned gender.
“Anytime you’re putting barriers up in your life, you’re limiting yourself,” read a featured quote by Styles on the cover of the magazine. This is not the first time Styles has expressed femininity in his clothing choices, for many of his suits and outfits worn on tour and at award shows are quite elegant, floral, sparkly and filled with beautiful personality, which are all seen as feminine to most, but it truly is just an appearance of androgyny.
Styles has received praise, love and appreciation from fans, celebrities, the public and the like. His self-expression through fashion has already inspired others to not be confined by a gender binary and not place gender on material items.
However, despite the love, any action like this always comes with controversy and backlash.
Styles, Vogue, and the feminization of men have always received criticism from the classic close minded trolls and haters. Styles's most recent photoshoot, however, caught the attention of many notorious United States conservative figures. This caused a fresh wave of controversy online as well-known politicians made harsh comments about what the singer's actions represented in their minds.
“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,” tweeted Candance Owens, known for her outspoken conservative and Republican activism. “It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.”
There was no need for American politicians to make this a political war that they needed to fight. Owens is critically unfavorable of anything that opposes her conservative values, as she displays in her poorly argued positions against feminism and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Men expressing masculinity, androgyny or femininity in their own terms has never been favorable amongst people still caught up in the toxic binaries of gender norms.
Conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro joined in on Owens’ hate fest, tweeting in opposition to display his own “manliness” and dominance: “This is perfectly obvious. 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.”
Later adding, “Pretending that men dressing like women does not feminize men is ridiculous, particularly coming from the same people who are celebrating Styles BECAUSE he is feminizing masculinity.”
Rightfully, many people and celebrities went back at Owens, Shapiro and others who bashed Styles and men of resemblance.
Styles is not the first man to openly dress and pose in feminine attire, and he certainly will not be the last. It seems as if the majority of people – supporters, attackers, the media – tend to forget about the culturally prominent men in just the music industry alone that paved the way for Styles to grasp his own style and feel comfortable in it.
Icons like Prince, Elton John, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury – just to name a few – have always expressed their personas through fashion. Wearing dresses or heels or glitter does not diminish the strength and manhood of a man.
Styles has done nothing wrong by expressing his true self through fashion, and frankly, this is not something new. It is quite sad and pathetic that many U.S. conservatives have nothing better to focus on than bully one man for being confident in how he dresses.
Being a “manly man” means expressing your truest self and your definition of upholding masculinity, not wearing just khakis, watching sports, working for the sake of power, and degrading those who find comfort in their gender expression.