If you thought the bizarre “debate” over a man’s right to wear a dress was finally over, think again. In December, the ongoing saga of the People vs. Candace Owens grabbed headlines after the conservative commentator egged on Harry Styles. The pop star had responded to her disapproval of his Vogue cover with an Instagram clapback in which he wore a powder blue blouse while eating a banana with the caption: “Bring back manly men.” Owens’ response to his cheeky post? “Shots fired” — suggesting we haven’t heard the end of her opinions on the matter.
For a quick recap: Owens called Vogue’s December 2020 photo shoot with Styles an example of the “steady feminization of our men” and demanded that western society “bring back manly men.” Since then, the raging online debate has boiled over into a surreal liberal vs. conservative argument that pits two conflicting ideas of gender norms against one another. But for many, it’s left us scratching our heads wondering, why now? After all, Styles’ photo shoot is by no means the first time a male artist has publicly appeared in “traditionally feminine” clothing. Somewhere, David Bowie and Prince (I.C.O.N.S. of gender fluidity) are rolling their eyes in exasperation. Queer Eye‘s Jonathan Van Ness now almost exclusively wears gowns and skirts on red carpets – ditto Pose‘s Billy Porter. Remember back in 1999 when Brad Pitt – all ripped after filming Fight Club – donned four or five different dresses in a photo shoot for Rolling Stone? How quickly people like Owens forget.
So, what gives? Does Owens and her ilk find it more threatening for a man to wear a dress because, as far as we know, Styles identifies as straight? Does being part of the LGBTQ+ community make it (ever-so-slightly) more “acceptable” to them? There’s no trying to make sense of that kind of rationale, so instead of dwelling on negativity, we’re gonna go ahead and celebrate these uber-sexy gender-bending celebs who challenge gender norms.