Harry Styles’ Vogue cover caught the attention of many this past week, as his stunning figure is seen in multiple shots of him in skirts and dresses, in front of simple, nature inspired backgrounds. Although this type of ‘gender-bending’ look has been seen for many years, celebrities were still shocked by Styles’ outfits.
The most notable celebrity reaction was from Candace Owens on Twitter who responded directly to the vogue post by tweeting, “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’s an outright attack. Bring back manly men.” Following up the previous tweet, she tweeted “Terms like ‘toxic masculinity’ were created by toxic women. Real women don’t do fake feminism. Sorry not sorry.”
Owens’ remarks on Harry Styles left twitter users stunned, as the phrase ‘bring back manly men’ was criticized and picked apart. Twitter users explained that the men who take on the most criticism and are berraded with the most negative comments, are those with enough strength and self confidence to wear what they want, feminine or otherwise.
This form of gender fluidity in clothing has been seen for decades, almost as long as gender roles have existed. The difference between then and now draws from more societal and political engagement, which drive a powerful force blending ‘female’ and ‘male’ together. Trans and gender non-conforming individuals support in this trend isn’t merely for just the fashion aspect, but as an aspect of their identity. These individuals are able to express how they feel on the inside, onto their outward appearance. Not only is this movement important to those people, but also just to those who like to wear feminie clothing.
Harry Styles is an excellent example of this, and he states his reasoning for wearing these clothes as, “There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never thought too much about what it means—it just becomes this extended part of creating something.” As a cis man, Harry is still able to create and enjoy feminine clothing, and maintains self confience when doing so. He is not broken by the remarks of Owens or others. He does not conform to ‘gender-roles’, but he instead makes it fun, removing the serious aspect of fashion by calling it merely, “playing with clothes.”
Owens’ remarks to “bring back manly men” were a failed attempt to insult Harry. Harry’s gender identity doesn’t have much to do with his clothing, and whether or not that contrasts from the general public, the main idea behind the gender fluidity movement is simple: The clothes you wear are your choice, and the manliest of men or the womenliest of women do not rely on stereotypes to steer them into a false sense of self. They wear what they want to, and they identify how they want to, and that does not invalidate any part of themself.
‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play. I’ll go in shops sometimes, and I just find myself looking at the women’s clothes thinking they’re amazing. It’s like anything—anytime you’re putting barriers up in your own life, you’re just limiting yourself. There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never really thought too much about what it means—it just becomes this extended part of creating something.”
In retrospect, the idea of “bringing back manly men” has never mattered. For decades, iconic men at the forefront of pop culture have subverted gender stereotypes in favor of rocking their own form of gender expression. Figures such as Prince and David Bowie are the poster people for androgyny and also happen to be some of the most recognizable names in modern culture; this begs the question as to why “bringing back manly men” is brought up when seeing a man express himself in a way that is not stereotypical if it has already been normalized for years.
Although Harry’s cover is just one droplet in a flood of others in this movement, both past, present, and future, his attitude towards gender and fashion is refreshing as he takes out the seriousness of it all. This playful mindset is something Owens’ lacks, causing her outrage to look slightly uncalled for and almost meaningless. The phrase “bring back manly men” is powerless, against one of the manliest men, who just so happens to wear a skirt.
Rachel Gerhardt is a 15 year old that attends Hudson High School. She became apart of Zenerations in August of 2020 and is currently a writer. She is interested in feminism, politics and activism and expresses this through her creative and informative writing.