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I have been a fan of Harry Styles since I was 10 years old. Like most teenage girls, I had a somewhat intense One Direction phase back in middle school. But as I grew older and began to grow out of their music, Harry Styles grew alongside me, and he remains my favorite artist to this day.

When I say Harry Styles is changing the world, it’s not because he is a pretty white boy with curly hair and tattoos (although it is appreciated). Transitioning from being a part of one of the most massive boy bands in the world to being a solo artist writing and producing their music is difficult. Styles has gone above and beyond expectations from his fans and fellow musicians, and his music shows it. But it’s not just the songs he sings or the way he writes; it’s his subtle yet practical approach to aiding societal progression. 

Styles is shifting the narrative surrounding toxic masculinity, an unfortunate but prominent feature in societies worldwide. Known for his colorful and eccentric outfits, Styles has become an icon for modern fashion. Most recently, Styles was the first solo male to be on the front cover of Vogue, which is a fantastic feat. But this wasn’t what shook the world; it was that he was wearing a long, ruffly dress.

Now, criticism toward celebrities for attempting to break the status quo is nothing new. People harassed Freddie Mercury for wearing the elaborate and colorful clothes he liked. Others ridiculed David Bowie for expressing himself through his wardrobe. Gender norms have controlled the world for so long that to not conform to them seems radical.

Immediately following Vogue’s publication of Styles, critics took to the internet in outrage. Candace Owens, a well-known author and commentator went straight to Twitter with this message:

“There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. 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. Bring back manly men.”

This tweet is why more than ever, we need someone like Harry Styles. Male femininity is not shameful; it’s a part of a person’s identity, and whether you like it or not, you need to respect it. Clothing is clothing, and your gender shouldn’t dictate what you can and can’t wear. To grace the cover of one of the world’s largest magazine corporations in a gender-role-breaking outfit is a tremendous deal. The focus should not have been on Styles’ manliness; instead, his successes and achievements should have been.

Styles is not the first to challenge society’s views towards masculinity. Drag queens have been doing so for decades with little recognition. Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny has made a massive impact on Latinx culture surrounding what it means to be a man through his wardrobe. Combine the acts of Harry Styles with other celebrities, and you have an even broader push towards erasing negative stereotypes. 

We can discuss how we should abolish gender conformity and its societal expectation; it’s the actions that follow that are the most vital. Styles isn’t the only celebrity promoting nonconformity, but he certainly is an important one. He is diving headfirst into advocacy for changing gender role dialogue, and I don’t foresee him slowing down any time soon. 

Harry Styles has become a voice for all those who feel uncomfortable in their skin, and I hope that more celebrities will be inspired and follow suit. As Styles so likes to profess: Treat People With Kindness. 

Ally is a sophomore communication major at SUNY Geneseo. When not writing articles, Ally enjoys hanging out with friends, playing volleyball, and being, as her name implies, an "ally."
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