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Harry Styles's Vogue cover challenges gender stereotypes

For the December issue of Vogue, Harry Styles is front and center. Styles is pictured wearing gender non-conforming outfits by brands like JW Anderson and Gucci.  – Photo by Vogue Magazine / Instagram

Unless you’ve been actively avoiding the internet, I’m sure you know that Harry Styles, an English singer and songwriter, was recently photographed for Vogue, making him the first solo man to ever be featured on the cover. A lot of people have been praising his look, while others have been tearing him apart in the online discussion about gender roles. 

For the December edition of Vogue, Styles posed in different outfits with many showing off his love for colorful and unique clothing. It’s hard to pick a favorite since every shot is beautiful and Styles has such a great sense of style, but some critics are saying he’s “taken it too far” or “crossed a line.”

Specifically, a lot of people have been saying that he isn’t being “manly” by wearing a dress. I feel like this brings up an important conversation about what it truly means to be “a man,” and the idea that gender stereotypes should restrict men from wearing clothes like dresses.

I’m wondering: What is this “line” people are so worried Styles has crossed? Why is there a definite idea about what masculinity and femininity should be? If someone enjoys playing with fashion, why does that threaten people? 

Many are saying that he's killing the game by going on a major magazine wearing "feminine" clothes either pictured with a skirt or a dress. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) (D-N.Y.) addressed the Vogue cover on her Instagram story and said that she loved his look. She said that some people are angry because it requires them to examine gender roles, and she says said they should look at why that is.

I definitely agree with what AOC had to say. Styles is being himself and is wearing what he wants to and the fact that it upsets so many people is disappointing.

On the other hand, some have bashed the 26-year-old singer for his cover. Candace Owens, an American conservative, tweeted “bring back manly men” in reaction to how she believes Styles is slowly “feminizing” men. Many have come to defend the singer, yet the reaction by people like Owens proves that gender stereotypes are still deeply ingrained in society.

I love this Vogue photoshoot and think it breaks expectations and rejects toxic masculinity, but I also think that there are some important things to acknowledge. One thing I see a lot, not specifically in reference to Styles but generally, is how men are praised for the bare minimum.

I don’t think we should say men are “kings who end toxic masculinity” when they do something as simple as wearing pink but wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue is breaking a lot of standards that many people have for men and shows others that there is no real way to “be a man.” 

I am a huge fan of Styles' creativity and style, but it should also be pointed out that many people of color, especially LGBTQ+ people of color, have been doing this for years with little to no recognition. They started gender-nonconforming fashion trends and deserve their own covers too.

I’m living for Styles’s photoshoot. I think everybody should feel free to wear whatever they want to and what they feel best in, no matter what others have to say about it.

This Vogue edition is a step forward as long as we acknowledge those who have fought –and continue to fight – to popularize gender-nonconforming fashion.

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