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Harry Styles Challenged Gender Roles by Wearing a Dress on the Cover of Vogue. Here’s Why That’s Significant

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

As many of you might have heard Harry Styles was making some people really angry -- by wearing a dress. Vogue featured its first man on the cover ever and chose Harry Styles to challenge gender roles, in terms of fashion. He wears several outfits traditionally more feminine and the pièce de résistance is the cover where he is wearing a gown. The goal was to show that clothes are just clothes and gender is a social construct. People should be allowed to wear whatever they want. Harry states in his interview, “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 it should, yet some conservatives had something to say about this. One notably being Candace Owens.

Her tweet included the phrase “Bring back manly men.” Twitter went crazy with people defending Harry, and people defending their right to wear whatever they would like. Some even went as far to make fun of her husband who looks more feminine. Others exposed her hypocrisy since she is often wearing pants suits, which are traditionally more masculine. She then made a video to explain herself more clearly.

In a now-expired Instagram story, Owens talks about men sending her videos in dresses then she goes to explain that a future war will happen, and we won't have any manly men to fight it, and men wearing dresses is just the start of this plan by China to feminize our men. I actually believe in some conspiracy theories, but this one is just too far out because it makes no sense.

A man wearing a dress does not erase his masculinity. The idea of "gendered clothing" is a social construct. Traditional societal constructs of gender have been centered around binaries that separate the genders; however, gender is ever-changing because it's man made. A couple of centuries ago, a woman with wearing pants would've caused outrages, yet, today, women in pants is a normal daily occurrence. Also, because gender is a social construct, there are different norms across different societies and cultures. There are cultures where things considered more "feminine" in America are actually super masculine in others. One of the most well-known instances of this is in Scotland and Ireland where men wear kilts, which are considered traditionally masculine. 

An article of clothing does not dictate the gender or identity of an individual. People like Candace Owens, who perpetuate conservative ideology, subscribe to gender roles and believe that performing gender roles are inherent to one's gender identity. They may consider being gay to be a "choice." From that point of view, they see men who dress in more feminine clothing as being gay, or being more like a woman. When, in reality, being gay is not a choice, and how a person dresses has no correlation to their sexuality or gender identity. 

Here is a second opinion from a friend of mine: "I think the belief of 'women clothes' and 'men clothes' is a very old idea. The only reason why there is 'women's clothes' and 'men's clothes' is because society has deemed it as such. Men are expected to act brave, emotionless, and stern. Women are expected to act pretty, frivolous, and dependent. I believe this reflects in clothing. Women are expected to wear skirts and dresses in light colors. Men are supposed to wear pants and suits in monotone colors.The image of Harry Styles, one of the most loved musicians in the world, wearing a frilly white dress goes against everything society has known. Women of all ages find this man very attractive yet he wears 'feminine clothes.'"

Sometimes, people are resistant to change. They believe men wearing dresses makes them feminine, and they believe that is wrong. The problem of Candace Owens having a problem with men in dresses is because it reinforces a double standard. She believes men shouldn't wear dresses but wears suits, which are considered "male clothes." Make it make sense, Candace. The idea of men having to be strong, emotionless beings that women have to be dependent on is regressive. As we evolve as a society, it's time that we are more open minded and less judgemental against those who just want to try new things and experiment with self-expression. But Candace Owens is a bully who believes in belittling boys who like to play dress up.

“Bring back manly men” is a hurtful statement, but Harry Styles was able to use turn it around and use it to empower men and their fashion decisions. “Manly” doesn't have to align with traditional, and outdated, expectations of masculinity. It can just mean being brave. I respect Harry Styles for being “manly” enough to break gender stereotypes and empowering other men and young boys to do so as well. 

We may be biased here since we are both stans of Harry, but I don't think our judgement is clouded. I think people are clouded in their backwards thinking and need to understand that a man in a dress does no grave harm. Being a fan of Harry for nine years, I never expected him to clap back, but I am glad he did. He usually keeps to himself and never gets into drama. But this time, he posted a picture of him on Instagram eating a banana captioned "bring back manly men."


A post shared by @harrystyles


I was happy to see this. It was perfect. Eating a banana, where many men won’t because of its phallic shape. And using Candace's words against her. It just emphasizes that you can’t  and shouldn't impose your beliefs and biases on other people. It's crazy that some men will not be seen eating a banana because of its shape. It just shows you how much they are not comfortable in their sexuality, and that is the real problem here. 


Elyce Afrifa

Conn Coll '22

I was born and raised in Bronx, NY. I attended Herbert H Lehman High School where she participated in an acting club. I currently attend Connecticut College in New London, CT where I plans to major in biology and minor in theater. I am also on the Women's Rugby Team and apart of Wig and Candle the acting club here. I also am a big fan of many TV shows, Shameless, The Flash and Big Brother to name a few.
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