Harry Styles cover ignites debates on gender performance

Harry Styles recently appeared on the cover of Vogue Magazine wearing a dress, igniting a debate about gender.

Photo by Lovclyhes on Wikimedia Commons

Harry Styles recently appeared on the cover of Vogue Magazine wearing a dress, igniting a debate about gender.

Tania Ortiz, Opinion Editor

When Harry Styles graced the cover of the December edition of Vogue, it made a lot of noise online. Not only was the British pop star the first ever solo male to be featured as a cover star on the fashion magazine, he did it while wearing a Gucci gown.

Styles wearing a gown was a stride towards the exploration of gender fluidity and non-binary dressing and making it more widely accepted. Instead of celebrating gender fluidity in a mainstream publication, conservative figures like Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro have voiced their disapproval of Harry Styles’ choice of clothing.

Owens took to Twitter giving her opinion on the cover writing, “There is no society that can survive without strong men … In the West, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that Marxism is taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack.”

The tweet caused an uproar among Harry Styles fans and those who identify as gender fluid, reigniting the conversation on what constitutes gender and what that particularly means.

Another prominent conservative figure, Ben Shapiro agreed with Owens saying that anyone who pretends there is not a “referendum on masculinity for men” is an idiot.

The concept of gender fluidity is not new. Theorist Judith Butler introduced the idea of gender performativity in 1990 stating the idea that gender is not something we are, rather something we do and opens the door for “cultural configurations of sex and gender [to] proliferate.” The body is not a secure foundation for gender expression.

There is a huge number of people who have come to accept the concept that gender is performative. Harry Styles is not the first person to bend the gender binaries with their fashion. Celebrities like Billy Porter and Jonathan Van Ness, to name a few, have been constantly breaking the societal expectations of what a specific gender is supposed to look like in the public eye.

I think the main problem is that conservative folks who believe men have to stick to “manly” clothing probably don’t understand that gender is performative and is on a spectrum.

The traditional idea that someone is either masculine or feminine is created partly by religion and partly by societal pressure. Many of us have grown up on the idea that the biological aspect of our bodies is consistent with our gender performance.

It isn’t bad to break away from those ideals and express yourself the way that you believe makes you feel more comfortable. Conservative folks are too focused on the idea that clothing items are gender-specific. Clothing is clothing. If a boy wants to wear a dress and paint their nails, they should have the right to do so. The same goes for girls too.

What we wear is our armor for everyday life. We choose to wear specific pieces of clothing to demonstrate who we are. It is the first thing people notice when meeting someone new. We should not have to stick to specific clothing because gender constructs force us to do so.