On Friday, American fashion magazine Vogue made history by introducing the British pop singer (and former heartbeat One Direction) Harry Stiles As the first male cover star ever.
The cover instantly sparked passionate conversations about masculinity and gender dress: Styles wears a voluminous pure blue gown paired with a black tuxedo jacket (both by Gucci).
The image felt to represent an increasing exploration of gender fluidity and non-binary clothing that takes place, and a popularity among Millennials and generation Z Vogue shoppers are targeted. However, prominent conservatives – from Candice Owens to Ben Shapiro – have expressed their rejection of wearing dresses. “Prepare the manly men,” Owens wrote on her Twitter page on Friday evening.
“No society can survive without strong men,” said Owens, a right-wing media force. “The East knows this. In the West, the constant feminization of our men while teaching Marxism to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack.” [sic]
Ben Shapiro, a conservative analyst, seemed to agree with Owens’ attacks. He shared her tweet and added, “Anyone pretending that this is not a referendum on masculinity for men to wear floating dresses is treating you like a complete idiot.”
These comments fit with how contentious and divisive debates about gender expression in the United States have become, even as a hugely popular musician such as Styles, who identifies as gender, participates in progressive developments.
This isn’t the first time Styles has manipulated fashion in daring ways. The singer wore a black dress by Japanese brand Commes Des Garçons on a cover Weekend Guardian He defended queer aesthetics for his visual work. He said, “I don’t spray sexual mystery to be fun.” “I want things to look a certain way. Not because it makes me look gay, or makes me look straight, or makes me look bisexual, but because I think it looks cool.”
Colleagues were Hollywood stars Quick to reach Styles’ defense. Olivia Wilde, who is currently directing a movie called Styles, responded to Owens’ tweets, saying, “You’re pathetic.” The Good Place actress tweeted, “Manly is what she wants him to be.”
Meanwhile, others have argued that Cover Styles may not be Enough To increase acceptance towards expression and non-binary identities. The Daily Beast declared in a headline that “the Harry Styles Vogue cover may be historic, but it isn’t radical.” If this were the hype for a white CIS man wearing a Vogue dress, it’s hard to imagine what a model from a marginalized background – say, a trans woman of color (whose cover hasn’t yet featured Vogue) – would do to a face.
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