Social Media Firestorm Regarding Male Feminization

Digital+drawing+of+Harry+Styles+on+the+cover+of+Vogue+Magazine%E2%80%99s+December+issue.+Drawn+by+Mjos+Studio+Design%2C+November+2020.

Digital drawing of Harry Styles on the cover of Vogue Magazine’s December issue. Drawn by Mjos Studio Design, November 2020.

Jocelyn Gonzalez and Julia Poffenberger

     On Saturday, Nov. 14, people throughout social media popularized Candace Owens’ claims against male feminization. Owens is a right-wing author, commentator and political activist.

     Harry Styles, previous member of boyband One Direction, is a popular English singer and songwriter. In Vogue Magazine’s December issue, Styles is the first non-woman to appear solo on the cover of American Vogue.

     In response to this issue featuring multiple shots of Styles in skirts and dresses, Owens writes through Twitter, “There is no society that can survive without strong men…. Bring back manly men.” 

     Over the next few days her claims from Twitter were seen around different social media platforms, some responses outraged while others fully supportive of her claims. 

     Styles, on Playtime with Harry Styles by Hamish Bowels for Vogue, says, “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.”

     As a cisgender man, meaning his personal gender identity corresponds with that of his birth gender, Styles still enjoys feminine clothing and maintains confidence while doing so. He does not conform to ‘gender roles’, but instead removes the serious aspect of fashion by simply calling it ‘playing with clothes’.

     Toxic masculinity is a term used to describe a set of attitudes where men behave stereotypically and is a concept of manliness that exalts strength, stoicism and dominance. It is said to be harmful to society due to the psychological problems it can bring such as stress, depression and body image issues, while also not allowing some men to express themselves in ways they would like by reason of the pressure of social norms.

     Many people of importance in society used their platform to convey their opinions toward the topic. 

     Ashe, another popular singer, posted on her Instagram, “It’s absurd to me that people are arguing about what someone else wants to wear. It’s 2020. I’ll wear the suit, Harry can wear the dress, and we’ll call it a day.”

     A contrasting viewpoint is Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator, who responded to Owens’ tweets by saying, “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.”

     Styles is not the first to be shown in a gender fluid look, nor is he the last. Male feminization and crossdressing have been present for decades, including men on the front lines of pop culture such as David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Kurt Cobain, and Prince. 

     In his interview with Vogue, Styles says, “Now I’ll put on something that feels really flamboyant, and I don’t feel crazy wearing it. I think if you get something that you feel amazing in, it’s like a superhero outfit.”