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Like Harry Styles? You Should Like These People, Too

Harry Styles has seemingly taken the world by storm in 2020, with his daring and androgynous style being featured on publications like Vogue and Variety magazines. Styles’s attitude toward gender-conforming when it comes to clothing has sparked interest, and in some cases, criticism in the entertainment world, but I have a different perspective. If Harry Styles is being recognized and praised for breaking gender stereotypes and societal norms through his eclectic and forward-thinking fashion sense, it is nothing less than a disservice to the generations of people of color that have been embracing this idea of fashion for years.

    When it comes to fashion icons of color such as Miss Jay Alexander, Tyler, the Creator, Jaden Smith, and Billy Porter, it is glaringly apparent that the idea of adrogyny in fashion is not new or novel, rather that it has been present for years in minority and queer commnities, with little to no positive recognition. Historically, when people of color welcome androgyny and femininity in their personal style, most are met with disdain, disgust, and even harassment. BIPOC are also less likely to receive commendation and attention on the same level as that of Styles, a cis, straight white male. Additionally, Styles has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon among members of Gen-Z, many of whom praise him for his originality and courage to break down barriers in the entertainment industry. That being said, acknowledging only the contributions of Styles without acknowledging the countless BIPOC that came before him is the definition of white feminism. 

    So, what is white feminism? Centered around the experiences and struggles of white women only, white feminism effectively discounts the experiences of BIPOC, as well as members of the LGBTQIA community. In short, white feminism focuses on ways that white women can advance in society to become equal to their male counterparts (the wage gap, equal employment opportunities, etc.), without acknowledging the experiences that womxn of color in the same position would face (racial discrimination, systemic pushback, etc.). And how does this relate to Harry Styles? By blindly supporting and sharing Styles’s recognition without acknowledging or educating yourself on the BIPOC that attempted to break the same boundaries, but could not, you contribute to an overall problem of performative activism and allyship. Styles, a man in a position of power and influence, should be using his platform and influence to highlight the many that came before him, as any white ally should. By failing to do so, Styles is not only capitalizing on the tendency of the media to highlight white voices instead of Black and brown ones, but is also relying on the sense of white feminism and white saviorship that got him in his position in the first place. 

    In conclusion, the tendency to blindly support Harry Styles’s individuality without acknowledging and appreciating the many queer, BIPOC that came before him is feeing into the overall cycle of white feminism in society, and the negligence of the media to portray Black and brown celebrities in the same light as him. However, there are many ways to combat this systemic issue, and it starts with research! Attached below are some BIPOC celebrities that have been breaking fashion norms for decades, please indulge:

  • Frank Ocean

  • Jaden Smith

  • Tyler, the Creator

  • Billy Porter

  • Miss Jay Alexander

  • Prince

  • A$AP Rocky

Hi! My name is Lauren Howard, I'm 19, and I'm from Palos Verdes, CA. I'm currently a Sophomore at the University of Oregon, and I'm double majoring in Political Science and Advertising. In my free time, I enjoy watching Netflix, thrifting, hanging out with my sorority sisters, or vibing to one of my many Spotify playlists. A passionate storyteller and opinionated to a T, I'm excited to delve into some of my favorite topics, and learn from everyone here!
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