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Masculinity does not make someone a man. 


Read that sentence again. Maybe one more time. Here, I’ll help you in case you did not actually go back and reread it: Masculinity does not make someone a man. As my father says, masculinity can be the ultimate downfall of being a man. Men’s emotional expression, fashion choices, and social dynamics are stifled everyday for fear of being considered feminine. 


Men have so much more to contribute to society than masculinity. Masculinity does not make you a man, just like femininity does not define womanhood. 


The recent backlash that singer Harry Styles  got for wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue magazine is outrageous. First of all, Vogue is a forward thinking, avant garde, high-fashion magazine so anyone who is surprised that a man would appear in a dress in Vogue is kidding themselves. Second, pop and rock stars are well-known for purposefully breaking down barriers, especially spineless socially constructed barriers like the notion that men should not wear dresses. 


Rock & Roll created safe spaces for members of the LGBT community, made possible with rock stars like David Bowie. Rock & Roll played a role in uniting people of all racial backgrounds in the 1950s and 1960s and gets its roots from Rhythm and Blues and Gospel, which are traditionally Black genres of music. Rock artists have been working toward breaking down gender barriers for decades, so it is shocking that people are still so surprised.

David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World album was released in 1970. Bowie was not only a beloved gay rockstar, but also made an effort to destigmatize men wearing dresses by wearing one on the cover of his third album.

The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger wore a dress in 1969 at the band’s Hyde Park concert. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain (pictured below) did the same at a concert in Brazil. 

No one should be surprised that the world of fashion and social expectations for men are changing. Beauty standards and things we consider to be gendered or “binary” today are fleeting. Persian cavalrymen were the first documented to wear high heels back as far as the tenth century. Since then, men such as King Louis XIV wore heels as signs of status and more recently heels have become associated with femininity— nothing, especially gendered fashion, is set in stone. 


Association with femininity, especially as a man, should not be considered a bad thing. Striving to see ourselves based on who we want to be on the inside should be the standard. We are not made valid by presenting in a feminine or masculine way, but by how we view ourselves. 


Conservative political commentator Candace Owens was wrong when she said, “Bring back manly men,” in response to Harry Styles’ Vogue cover. A masculine man is not more of a man than a feminine man, nor should a masculine man be valued more than a man who is less masculine. Women were held to the expectation that pants were only for men up until the last century, but that expectation is now obsolete. Men do not deserve to have only one social standard to live up to, nor should they be restricted in their self expression for fear of being invalidated as a man. 


Let men wear dresses.

Originally from Columbia, Missouri, she is a undergraduate student at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. She is currently studying English and Political Science and hoping to become a published author of fiction in the near future. In her free time she enjoys creative writing, knitting, listening to music, and spending time with her dogs, Ollie and Oshie!
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