Androgyny is something that has always been part of culture. Since the beginning of time, gender expression has always been varied and expansive. However, as time went on, society forced particular roles onto certain genders. These sorts of gender roles have caused many to rebel against them, including artists and rock stars. Harry Styles seems to be the next one in line to rebel in this way.
On the cover of Vogue's latest issue, Styles is seen wearing a dress. Whether it's a move of rebellion is uncertain, but it certainly makes a statement. This also isn't the first time Styles has worn clothing not typical for men in modern-day America. However, as progressive as we've become, there's still a swarm of controversy that awaits a man who dares to step outside his assigned gender role.
The latest triggered conservative snowflake is Candace Owens. Owens garnered attention when she tweeted that "no society can survive without strong men." She went on to call it "an outright attack." Owens further spoke in an Instagram video, where she lamented the past gender roles assigned to us. She claimed to long for the days where men were the providers and defenders, while women were nurturers.
First of all, not every human being is the same. To assume that people are all alike because they share the same gender is ignorant, to say the least. With that in mind, it is inevitably going to place a lot of pressure on men. Expecting all men to fight in wars and be the only source of income for their family is asking too much for some. There are also women who don't want to be stuck in the kitchen cooking and doing housework all day. Lots of women want and deserve a more exciting life.
This is reality. There's a reason things have changed since the 50s. People shouldn't be categorized by their gender. Everyone is an individual. You can't expect all members of a group to think, feel, or act the same way. That is a fantasy and an unhealthy, unrealistic one at that.
There are many ways to be a man. Men can wear dresses and high heels. Men can wear makeup and paint their nails. This is something Owens herself should understand. After all, she is seen wearing pantsuits most of the time.
Owens might be nostalgic for a time she wasn't alive to experience. However, that period of time wasn't healthy for men as a collective whole. The highest rate of suicide in America is among men. I believe the issues men developed as a result of these gender roles are a big reason for this.
Men were taught that they had to be physically strong and fight in the army. They were taught they had to be providers and work all day to feed their kids. With this responsibility, men were also taught they couldn't show any negative emotion. They couldn't cry or expose their vulnerability. Anything that dared defy that notion of strength wasn't allowed in men.
This led to toxic masculinity, where a key component is to suppress one's emotions. That toxic masculinity still exists today and people like Owens are perpetuating it. This doesn't say all masculinity is toxic, however. It merely states that masculinity can be taken to a toxic place. This not only harms women and LGBTQ individuals but straight men themselves.
When it comes to strength, it comes in many forms and exists within many different types of people. I believe emotional strength is just as important as physical strength. Men need to allow themselves to cry openly and not hide their vulnerability. Otherwise, I believe whatever physical strength they may have will manifest in very harmful ways, either towards themselves or another person.
Owens said in her video that she wouldn't call on a man in a dress to fight in a war. Well, maybe she would be more comfortable with one of the many female soldiers who defend our country. And it's not just in the United States Military. In Israel, both male and female citizens are required to serve in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). There are many female soldiers who have used their strength to defend their country. And I'm certain many of them have worn dresses in their lifetime.
Another assumption made by conservatives who criticize male femininity is that women won't find it attractive. This is another point Owens tried to make when ranting about Harry Styles. First of all, all women are individuals. Therefore, they all have different tastes in men. I'm sure there are plenty of women who find Harry Styles and other feminine men attractive.
However, I also think it's worth noting that Styles may not have been wearing a dress with the intention of women finding it attractive. When women are sexually harassed or assaulted, they're often victim blamed with ignorant comments criticizing their clothing choices. These women respond by saying a short skirt or tight dress isn't an invitation and doesn't mean they "want it." They're dressing that way for themselves, not anybody else.
Maybe the same is true for Harry Styles. Maybe he's just dressing this way to express himself as an individual. Maybe he wanted to make a social statement about breaking down gender stereotypes. Believe it or not, not everything men do revolves around sex. Not all men are sex-obsessed animals who can't get enough.
And it's not just women like Owens who perpetuate this myth. Some men self-project their own selves onto other men and continue a toxic cycle of insulting stereotypes.
When Owens acted like this "feminization" of men was a fairly new phenomenon, many were quick to tweet her images of male rock stars over the years. These men, from Prince to David Bowie to Kurt Cobain, all wore dresses at some point. They rebelled against the sexist and homophobic attitudes of their time. Owens, however, responded by saying these men all had drug problems and were unstable. I fail to see what one has to do with the other. Not to mention the fact that addiction is a disease and shouldn't be shamed.
In addition to thinking it's a new phenomenon, Owens implied men are encouraged to dress this way. She seems to think that men aren't naturally feminine but influenced by their environment. I can tell you from my own experience this isn't true. I loved playing with Barbie dolls as a kid. I wore towels on my head to pretend I had long, curly hair like Mariah Carey.
My femininity wasn't encouraged or influenced by my environment. In fact, many people around me tried to sway me in the opposite direction. This was either the result of their own prejudice or their need to protect me from the outside world's judgment. Certain family members would've been much happier if I played little league instead of Barbies in my bedroom.
I knew firsthand the pain this sort of judgment caused long before I could articulate this sort of counter-argument. With the pain I've been through, I'm still here. That proves I'm a strong man, femininity and all. Despite what Candace Owens might think, strong men come in all forms and, along with strong women, we all do our part to keep civilization alive.
Ours is a civilization of diversity, acceptance, and equality. I don't know about you, but that's the civilization I want to be part of. I think that's a civilization everyone should strive for.