Bending Gender Norms: Toxic Masculinity Is Outdated

A high school student in Texas was suspended for wearing the very same nail polish worn by his female counterparts. When asked to remove it, student Trevor Wilkinson refused, putting his foot down about the vitality of expressing himself freely, stating “It's 2020 and we should be progressing, not taking steps back.” But this isn't an isolated incident — thousands of Gen-Z individuals are tackling preconceived ideals regarding self-expression. Just as any social movement necessitates, they have stood proudly against opposition and have proven to be unwavering pioneers of redefining society’s gender norms.

Despite inciting uproar in conservative communities, Harry Styles unapologetically chose to wear a Gucci dress on the cover of Vogue’s December edition. He explained, “To not wear [something] because it’s females’ clothing, you shut out a whole world of great clothes.” Ultra-conservative Candace Owens protested this perspective, claiming that she wanted to “bring back manly men.” She took to Twitter, saying that “There is no society that can survive without strong men.” However, this argument raises questions about the root of her disapproval. Is the masculinity of “strong men” so fragile that it can be demolished by a photo of a man in a dress?

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen men in the public eye sway away from the societal vision of what we’re taught men are supposed to look like. In fact, makeup is seen worn by men to demonstrate their status as early as 4000 BC in Egypt. In early 18th century England, it was commonplace to see men paint on beauty marks, or even powder their faces to achieve a pale complexion.  

However, this began to change during the Victorian era, when makeup was labeled an “abomination” by the church. As religious values and teachings began to dominate cultural worldviews, widespread associations were made between fashion and vanity in men with “ungodliness.” Mainstream definitions of masculinity narrowed, and by the 20th century, makeup was viewed as socially acceptable for women alone.   time for change Pexels In modern times, the public attitude towards makeup is beginning to evolve once again. Dennis Rodman, a former professional basketball player, called these norms into question by attending events wearing a full face of colorful makeup, dressing in stereotypically feminine clothing, and even his decision in 1996 to marry himself in a full-blown bridal gown. Regardless of the criticism he faced, Rodman never swayed away from being his authentic self, something that expands his legacy far beyond his athleticism.

Throughout history, we’ve turned to these cultural trailblazers to call attention to necessary modifications in our societal perspective. This defiant outlook on the fluidity of gender expression has struck such a chord with certain communities, perhaps because it challenges our definition of masculinity altogether. We’re raised in a world that indoctrinates us with predetermined concepts of who we’re supposed to be, but maybe it’s time we start defining that for ourselves.