Harry Styles: pop star’s historic gender-fluid Vogue photoshoot draws controversy

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Harry Styles: pop star's historic gender-fluid Vogue photoshoot draws controversy - We The World
Image courtesy of Vogue

Harry Styles became the first man ever to grace the cover page of the American Vogue, all by himself.

The ‘Watermelon Sugar’ singer posed wearing a flamboyant perry winkle Gucci gown paired with a navy tuxedo jacket from the same house, for the cover page shoot.

This was among the other amazing styles Styles rocked in the December issue highlighting gender-fluid couture the Gen-Z shoppers are increasingly preferring.

“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,” Styles said in the cover story on the American Vogue.

But a slew of comments by conservative pundits has drawn Harry’s achievement into a heated controversy, with fans of the pop star and supporters of gender-fluid fashion attacking the conservative comments.

Candace Owens — an American author with a remarkably rigid outlook apparently launched the duel after she argued since clothes define men (she said ‘steady feminization of our men’ referring to Harry’s dress) they better be ‘manly’ or else the entire human civilization will be at stake.

“There is no society that can survive without strong men,” Owens wrote in a tweet slamming Harry’s dressing sense, on November 15th. “Bring back manly men,” she ended the tweet with.

This was not all that she wrote about her definition of ‘manliness.’ In another tweet, she said: “Terms like “toxic masculinity”, were created by toxic females,” and that “real women don’t do fake feminism.”

One of her right-wing peers, Ben Shapiro appeared to have supported her stance. He wrote: “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.”

“The Left knows this, of course. The POINT of Styles doing this photoshoot is to feminize masculinity,” Shapiro argued in another tweet.

The gender question

Candace and Shapiro’s tweets were retweeted tens of thousands of times and garnered hundreds of thousands of likes and tonnes of comments, an overwhelming number of people speaking in support.

The argument — which in itself has its roots in a clash of two very different aspects of gender — is a reflection of the increasingly divisive matter that gender and sexuality are in the US., or the West as a whole.

Gender is progressing to emancipate itself from the normativity, and “construct” but at the same time, it has major backing from the conservatives to bog down on the age-old traditions and customs attached to it.

Harry Styles, who is enormously famous around the world has time and again shown support for the coming-of-age appreciation of gender as a fluid expression, just like fashion.

In his Vogue cover page interview, Styles shares how as a child he used to like fancy dresses. “…)you can never be overdressed,” says Styles.

“There’s no such thing. The people that I looked up to in music—Prince and David Bowie and Elvis and Freddie Mercury and Elton John—they’re such showmen. As a kid, it was completely mind-blowing. Now I’ll put on something that feels really flamboyant, and I don’t feel crazy wearing it.

“When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there are clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play. I’ll go to 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,” Harry was quoted as saying by Vogue.

The star has largely signaled to be a cisgender, but wholeheartedly supports the gender-fluid movement and at times have even drawn himself into doubts about his sexuality over his incredibly neutral say on the same.

The conservative question

Conservatives, like Candace among other, on the other hand, are members of the systematic patriarchy — a traditional hierarchy that that places man and ‘masculinity’ on the pinnacle of human expression and existence, while demeans anything that deters from the track.

Her quip with Marxism in her Twitter rant is once again a reflection of the fear of losing this very structure of which she is a very participant.

“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 is an outright attack,” Candace wrote.

‘Biological essentialism’ is deeply intertwined with ‘systematic patriarchy’ that propagates biological function as a greater force than culture and individual choice — two factors that essentially separates humans from biological being.

For instance, what Candace referred to as a ‘steady feminization of men’ is nothing but accepting the array of fashion without attachments to gender. Fashion is just one aspect. But to a conservative, a man wearing frilly and skirty attire is a deviation from the purported masculinity.

Masculinity is attached to traits like dominance, toughness, power, and virility, while innately men might not necessarily inherit any of these. The opposite is attached to the female binary — submissiveness, softness, poise, and virginity.

And when people pronounce the non-conformity to the same traits, trolls and controversies like these are the result.

Marxism is the idea that promotes a classless society and establishes a framework of communism to practice.

But conservatives like Candace have internalized the systematic divide between genders, their nature, and expectations, to such an extent that those who participate in it, knowingly and unknowingly believe this is the norm, this is nature.

Style’s Vogue cover is not the first time he flaunted flamboyant, and traditionally ‘feminine’ attires on cover pages and major events.

Styles wore a black dress by the Japanese brand Commes Des Garçons on the cover of the Guardian Weekend. His queer aesthetics drew questions at that time as well, and addressing them, he said:

“I’m not just sprinkling in sexual ambiguity to be interesting,” he said. “I want things to look a certain way. Not because it makes me look gay, or it makes me look straight, or it makes me look bisexual, but because I think it looks cool.”

The former member of the One Direction boy-band also turned heads when he wore an extremely flamboyant ruffled nipple-showing blouse at the 2017 Met Gala, paired with pearl earrings, silver rings, and black nail polish.

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